Origins Of Baccarat

Baccarat – or baccarat – is a casino card game that was made famous by the movie Dr. No, the first James Bond installment.

The first reference to the game of baccarat comes from the work of the poet Joseph Méry, L’arbitre des jeux , published in 1947. In this book, the author presents this new game in its simplest form and tells us that it is comes from the south of France. In this version, the figures then counted for ten.

Joseph Méry, who was from Marseilles, makes the following etymological remark: bacarrat (literally “B square”) is a Provencal term meaning in French “bécarre”, or “reduced to zero”. Thus, “To do baccarat” is to go bankrupt. The southern origin of baccarat (t) is therefore particularly plausible. Another very similar game could nevertheless have preceded it: Macau, where the number to reach is also nine. This card game which appeared around 1775 in Europe and then spread rapidly. But this one is played with a single initial card and not two. Macao has disappeared since the 19th century.

The game of baccarat is spreading rapidly and is not yet considered a game of chance by the courts. Thus in Bordeaux, a court declares that it has nothing to reproach a Cercle de la philologie which openly practices baccarat (here, with a t). Judgment overturned by the Court of Cassation and which declared in 1855 that baccarat is a game of chance and that the players fall under the blow of the law. Nevertheless, this will not prevent the development of this game via the progress of hydrotherapy and the casinos that the spa towns build from the 1860s. Very private circles are organized where a bourgeoisie enriched under the Second Empire plays baccarat which takes its current form.

When casinos, which in the meantime have become authentic gambling dens, will be legalized in 1907, baccarat will become one of its attractions.

Thomas Rashid

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