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Baccarat in England and Points West

Baccarat moves to England and then on to America

The Evolution of the Game of Baccarat


After baccarat had established itself in France, under the name Chemin de Fer, it was on to England, where baccarat once again created a sensation among those who ran among society's elite. There was a certain aura of elegance that surrounded the game, somewhat like roulette would later become and a little different than that which is attributed to craps.

When baccarat got to England, the feeling was that the game might work better if it was contested between players and the house, rather than between players, in the way poker was. What developed as a result was "European Baccarat," which was set up so that the casino could be the banker by allotting a certain amount for each game, to be used for covering bets until it is used up, and that there would be a dealer who was in the employ of the casino. Players could elect to take another card from the deck if they wanted (not unlike what we see in blackjack). These became very important changes, of course, but it was not revolutionary in the way that certain rules changes have been to the other casino games, because it was not adopted everywhere. In France, for example, the player banks in many games to this day.

Where the English version of "European Baccarat" did indeed have its influence was in the version that eventually settled in America. According to historians, it had originally come to the U.S. in 1912 or thereabouts, and when it did, it was known by the original name of "bacara." In the casinos that were in existence at the time, it was gradually blending into the landscape, but it proved to be usurped by blackjack, which was seen as an easier, more accessible version of a fast-paced card game.

You see, that is where the cultural differences between Europe and America came into focus. Baccarat, which was positioned as a game for the rich, scared off common folks and actually never quite got a big foothold with high-rollers here. However, it did enjoy some success in Mar de Plata, Argentina, and then found its way to the Cuban casinos, enjoying great popularity before they were shut down by Fidel Castro. It was in Cuba that the version of baccarat that is known as "Punto Banco" or "North American Baccarat" was developed. In this variation, the casino banked the game at all times and the player had no decisions to make in the game, except who to bet on - the player, banker or a tie.

That is what is played in American casinos today. Who did it get here? Well, after the closing of the Cuban casinos, baccarat was introduced to the Las Vegas Strip in 1958. An old casino executive named Tommy Renzoni is generally credited with bringing baccarat into the "legitimate" Las Vegas casinos, and according to which story you hear, it was either the Dunes or Sands. It has acquired a certain level of popularity, though admittedly nothing on the order of that which is enjoyed by blackjack, craps or other insurgents, like Pai-Gow Poker or video poker.

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