The history of baccarat can get a little complicated because there are 3 main variations of the game, which are Chemin de Fer, Banque and Punto Banco.
Legend has it that the game of baccarat was first created by an Italian gambler named Felix Falguierein in the middle ages and was first played with the deck of Tarot cards. Even though “baccarat” is a French word, it is derived from the Italian word “baccara”, which means “zero”. This explains why baccarat is the losing hand.
The game is believed to have been introduced to France from Italy in 1490 by the soldiers of Charles VIII during his reign of France (he ruled 1483-1498). This French version of baccarat was the initial variation of baccarat called "chemin de fer" (meaning "railroad") and was the template for modern baccarat.
In France, baccarat became accepted by the aristocrat class and was very popular among the French nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was played secretly in private houses because it was illegal at first. Later, the game was declared legal and its popularity grew when casinos were built all over France.
Because of its similarity to Faro, the French variation of baccarat ("Chemin de fer") became popular in England where some played for fun and others played for money. The rules of the game were changed and the game became known as "European baccarat". The European version of baccarat is known today as Baccarat-en-Banque.
Later on the game was passed along to South Africa, then South America, and then on to North America in the early 20th century. The game was initially unpopular. It is believed that the rules of baccarat were too similar to the already-popular game of blackjack. Baccarat was later introduced in the Nevada casinos in the late 1950's as a merger of both the European version and the French version. In foreign countries, this new, American version became known as "Punto-Banco", a name the game adopted while it was played in Cuba and before it became popular in America.
Mini-baccarat was later introduced so that the people in the main casino area could have access to the game. Mini-Baccarat can be found in most American casinos and the rules of mini-baccarat are identical to normal American game. The only difference is that the game is played on a small blackjack-sized table and the dealer, and not the players, always handles the cards.
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