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The History of the Rules of 4 Casino Card Games

Card games like poker and blackjack are wildly popular today, but they're not a modern invention. Poker is over a thousand years old, and blackjack and other card games have been practiced for centuries. Of course, rules and names have changed, and some variations of how to play have been created throughout history. Learn more about the origins of some popular casino card games and how their rules have evolved.

Baccarat was created in 1400 in medieval Italy and is named for an important rule: The 10s and face cards are worth zero (or “baccara” in Italian). The game moved from Italy to France and became a hit with King Charles VII, from which we get the name “baccarat,” or the French spelling of “zero.” Eventually, this became the common name for the game worldwide. Baccarat is so popular that it even inspired Ian Fleming in his creation of James Bond.

Originally, baccarat was played with four dealers handing out cards to the players. Each player took a turn as “banker,” and all other players placed bets against that person and against the house

A major change occurred when baccarat was introduced to the New World during America's colonization. In Cuba, for example, the game was played with bets made against the house only. Individual players no longer took turns as “banker.” This form was called “Punto Banco” in Cuba, but the adjusted rules eventually became known as “American Baccarat.” The game was introduced to Las Vegas casinos in the 1950s, but due to the high minimum bets required, it was mostly a game for aristocrats and high rollers.

Today, the dealer, house, and the banker are the same person. Bets are generally only placed against the house. Baccarat is no longer a game exclusively for society's privileged class. The rise of online casinos has led to low betting minimums for baccarat, meaning it's now a game that all can play.

Image via Flickr by pokerphotos
Poker is one of the oldest card games still played today. “The Cheating Game” was a popular version of modern poker played on Mississippi riverboats in the 1830s. The rules for this game came from the French “Pochen,” but it's believed that the earliest form of a game resembling poker was played in 969 A.D.

The most widely-known and played version of poker today is Texas Hold'em. However, several other types exist, including 5 Card Draw (the most popular rendition of poker played in the Civil War era), Stud Poker, Draw Poker, 7 Card Stud, Omaha, and Razz. Despite so much nuance, one rule exists in all types of poker ever played: bluffing to deceive an opponent despite holding poor cards. Before the 1700s, a version of modern poker was played in Spain using three-card hands. The French “Poque” and games played in America in the 1830s used a 52-card deck and five-card hands.

Blackjack has been played for over 300 years, and it came from French casinos. The game was originally called “Vingt-et-Un,” which translates to “twenty-one,” as a nod to the objective of the game: to either beat the dealer by scoring 21 points on the player's first two cards or to reach a higher score than the dealer without exceeding 21 points. When French colonists traveled to America in the 1700s, they brought the game with them and introduced it abroad.

The rules for modern Blackjack solidified in the 1700s and haven't changed much since. The only major adjustment was to its name; in the 1930s, Nevada casinos offered 10-to-1 odds for being dealt a Jack of spades or clubs (the two black suits) and an ace of spades, thus leading to the name “Blackjack.” Today, Blackjack is a casino favorite for almost one out of every five visitors.  

Faro is yet another card game that traces its roots to 17th and 18th century England and France. The name “Pharaon” was first recorded in 1688, named after a Pharaoh character who appeared on one of the cards in the French deck, but Faro adapted its rules from the card game “Bassetta.”.

Despite Faro's vast popularity throughout the Civil War era, it's an uncommon game today, perhaps because the player enjoyed better odds for winning Faro than any other type of card game available. Faro is played using a 52-card pack plus the 13 cards of one suit from another deck. The rules are incredibly simple: Essentially, players bet on which cards the dealer will draw.

Our favorite card games have tons of history behind them, and with the evolution of online gambling, we're sure to see more changes and new games become popular in the future. The next time you go all-in during a hand of poker or split a pair in blackjack, know that you're playing by rules that have been perfected over centuries.
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