In the U.S., slots, roulette, and blackjack are the most popular casino games online. However, baccarat is not far behind. Particularly in Las Vegas, its popularity continues to grow, with recent figures suggesting that it’s now Sin City’s second-largest money maker.
So, what’s the story with baccarat’s growth in popularity? This post explores that question — in particular the crucial role of one actor in that story: James Bond.
Origins of Baccarat
Although the exact origins of the game are unknown, baccarat is thought to have emerged in Italy sometime during the 1400s. Its name likely comes from the Italian word “baccara,” which means “zero,” since that’s the value of all face cards and 10s.
Baccarat probably moved across to France around the time of the Franco-Italian War, where it became the game of choice among the country’s nobility. This is where it developed its association with luxury and sophistication.
Style and Substance
While baccarat is an entertaining game in its own right, it holds a different kind of appeal for many. The very name conjures up images of opulent Monte Carlo casinos, with huge chandeliers and elegantly dressed players quaffing champagne; tuxedo-clad high-rollers casually tossing around chips without a care in the world.
Given baccarat’s ever-present reputation as a high-end game for those with wealth and status, how could it ever become so popular with the masses?
Baccarat’s Popularity and the Bond Effect
One reason why baccarat is still a popular casino game today is undoubtedly the James Bond effect. A character of immense style and sophistication himself, Bond slots seamlessly into the extravagant world of high-stakes casino gambling.
The Bond movies were, and still are, immensely popular. This popularity is one catalyst behind bringing this seemingly inaccessible world of high-roller elegance into movie theaters and homes.
Although 007 can often be found in the casino, perhaps the coolest James Bond baccarat scene of them all is in “Dr. No.” This 1962 release introduced the extremely popular Sean Connery to the role and in this particular scene, Bond is seen constantly doubling his stake, after winning with a 7, a natural 8, and a natural 9.
Upon hearing from his visibly irritated opponent that he’s “lucky,” he introduces himself with the timeless line: “Bond, James Bond.” After agreeing to increase the limit and being shown a natural 8, he proceeds to reveal a 9, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Bond cashes out his plaques, arranges a date with the lady, and smoothly exits, tipping the doorman on the way out. Even the most cynical viewer would have to agree that this is a pretty slick scene and the whole thing just oozes cool. It’s not hard to see why people’s interest in the game rose after the movie’s release.
GoldenEye and Casino Royale
Connery may have initially brought baccarat to a wider audience but plenty of other James Bond baccarat scenes have built upon that platform. For instance, both “GoldenEye” (1995) and “Casino Royale” (2006) feature memorable scenes in which 007 plays his favorite game.
These two titles consistently appear near the top of polls about the best Bond movies ever made. It seems that as long as Bond remains popular with cinema audiences, the game of baccarat will remain in the public’s consciousness.
The version of baccarat James Bond played was chemin de fer, which literally means “iron road,” or “railway” in French. One player is designated the banker and this role moves around the table, with each player eventually taking a turn.
The banker places a bet which can be matched by any other player. If nobody agrees, they can each make a bet in turn until it’s matched. Spectators around the table can also help to make up the required bet size should all players fail to meet the amount. It’s also possible for a player to raise the initial bet, in which case the banker may agree to the increase.
Since chemin de fer is somewhat complicated, Las Vegas casinos developed a simplified version known as punto banco. Whether you play baccarat online or in a land-based venue, this is the variant you’re most likely to come across. Even mini baccarat tables are based on the rules of punto banco, just with fewer players at the table.
Here, the house does all of the work. Two hands are dealt: banker and player. These names are purely for illustrative purposes, to distinguish between the two sets of cards. Anyone wishing to bet, simply places their wager on either hand and whichever is highest, wins. It’s also possible to bet on a tie, that is, when both hand totals are identical.
Although this form of baccarat is less sophisticated, it’s quicker and easier to play; another key step in the growth of the game’s popularity.
Enjoy Baccarat Like Bond
If you want to enjoy Bond’s favorite game, you don’t even need to set foot in a casino these days. Online baccarat is also popular, primarily due to its fast-paced nature and simple rules.
Unlike poker or blackjack, there’s no need to use any complex baccarat strategies or card counting techniques. However, there are still a couple of things to pay attention to.
Understand the Odds
Most important of all, you need to understand the rules before placing any bets. In addition to that it’s also important to note that some wagers are better for you than others.
Alongside the standard banker, player and tie options, modern versions of the game usually feature a number of baccarat side bets. As a general rule, though, you shouldn’t bet on anything aside from player or banker.
The former has a house edge of just 1.24%. Winning bets have payout odds of ±100, making this one of the best wagers in the entire casino. On the other hand, while the edge on banker bets is even lower at 1.06%, the house takes a 5% commission on winning bets, meaning its odds sit at only -105.
Whether you play poker, roulette or variety games, managing your money is a vital part of gambling. Baccarat is certainly no exception. Set aside a fixed amount of cash that’s reserved for casino activities instead of using money that would be better spent elsewhere.
Divide this bankroll up into betting units and don’t vary the size of these wagers. This will help you to absorb losing streaks and avoid the temptation of increasing the stakes to chase losses.
Finally, make sure you set a clear limit on when you’ll walk away. This applies to both winning and losing amounts.
Be Like Bond at BetMGM
There’s no doubt that 007 played a role in growing the game of baccarat in the U.S. to where it is today. The epitome of style and sophistication, Bond shone a light on the world of high-stakes baccarat, offering a glimpse of how the other half lives.
Why not join him and experience a taste of the classiest casino games around? Register at BetMGM today.