The Most Famous Baccarat Legends of All Time

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Winning baccarat hand on a wooden paddle on a red felt table.
BetMGM Jun 12, 2024, 9:39 AM

Is baccarat your favorite online casino game? We don’t blame you! Along with hours of enthralling entertainment, people typically associate this classic table game with wealth, glamor and sophistication. This has less to do with the game itself (it’s really easy to learn) and more with some of the people who are renowned for playing it. One of these people is the fictional James Bond, also known as Agent 007, who can be seen playing baccarat in films such as Dr. No, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and GoldenEye

But the true legends of baccarat are no fantasy. The real-life individuals on our list have mastered and elevated the game. Join us as we shine a spotlight on the most famous (and infamous) baccarat players of all time. Once you’re inspired, we’ll show you how to play the game with BetMGM. 

What is the baccarat casino game?

It’s believed that baccarat has its origins in Italy, dating back to the 1400s. The game  was originally called “baccara” or “zero.” Thanks to the convenience of playing online, baccarat is now enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. For example, did you know that close to 90% of all casino action in Macau can be attributed to baccarat alone? There are many things players can learn about baccarat in Macau and its gambling scene.  

Baccarat’s popularity around the world is no mystery. The luck-based game is simple and affordable to play and offers increased chances of winning with a low house edge ranging from 1.01% to 1.24%. Intrigued? Let’s show you how to play baccarat

How to play baccarat

Start by placing your bet on any one of three outcomes for the next round: you winning, the banker winning or a draw. Note that payouts and the house edge differ depending on which outcome you bet on. The payout if you bet on your hand winning is 1:1 with a house edge of 1.24%. The payout remains the same when betting on the banker being victorious, with a house edge of 1.06% and usually a required commission payable on your winnings. If you bet on a draw you usually get a higher payout of 8:1, but the house edge will go up to 14.36%.

Once you’ve placed your bet, the dealer draws two or three cards for the player’s and banker’s hand. The closest hand to 9 wins. Remember that 10 will be subtracted from the hand when it exceeds 10 and that will be the total. And just like that, now you know how to play this incredibly fun casino game. Learning to play baccarat will also make it easier to learn how to play other games such as online blackjack with live dealers.

The most famous baccarat players of all time

Now that you know how easy it is to play, here are the most famous baccarat players to inspire and motivate you for your online baccarat game. 

The warrior: Akio Kashiwagi

A strong contender for the greatest baccarat legend of all time is Akio “The Warrior” Kashiwagi. The Tokyo-born real-estate tycoon reportedly earned annual profits in the region of $100 million and owned more than $1 billion in assets. Kashiwagi played for the highest stakes possible in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. He thought nothing of staking $100,000 on a single hand and would sometimes even bet $200,000 when the house permitted it. Proving his commitment and extreme playing style, he once played baccarat for 80 hours straight. Naturally, the Japanese legend went through monumental swings, sometimes winning millions in a single night, other times losing all his profits – and more.

Kashiwagi’s final baccarat game took place in Atlantic City in December 1991. His initial budget was $12 million and he vowed to play until he lost it all or doubled it. At one point he was up $10 million, but the house stopped the game when he was down $10 million. He sadly died a month after his last game, on January 3rd, 1992. 

Master of many games: Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey is a household name among poker fans. He’s earned 10 World Series of Poker gold bracelets and more than $38.2 million in live poker tournaments. But the “Tiger Woods of poker” is also a master of many other types of casino games – including baccarat. 

His legendary and unethical run in 2012 was enough to win him a permanent place in the baccarat hall of fame. That year, he and his assistant “Kelly” Sun made a fortune playing baccarat casino games in London and Atlantic City. Sun, in particular, is an expert at “edge sorting,” an advanced gambling technique based on detecting decks with non-symmetrical patterns on their backs as a result of manufacturing errors. Players who know the flaws of a particular deck can exploit them, something casinos don’t allow. 

Ivey and Sun’s method consisted of paying a $1 million deposit for a private baccarat table and three special requests, all devised to make things easier for them. The first of these was that the dealer should only speak Mandarin, which allowed Sun to ask for favors without casino management cottoning on. The second request was for the dealer to rotate the cards 180 degrees, the better for Sun to spot flaws on the long backs of the cards. Their final request was to play only with a purple Gemaco deck, which has specific imperfections that Sun had memorized. Combined, their technique served Ivey and Sun so well that they eventually made $20.6 million. 

Unfortunately for them, they were eventually taken to court by a number of casino owners who had discovered their technique. Ivey and Sun put up a good fight but lost the case. In the end, they didn’t get to keep any of their winnings but they did go down in history as serious chancers!

The media mogul: Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer was Australia’s richest man at the time of his death in 2005, with a net worth of $6.5 billion. The media mogul’s vast wealth enabled him to play casino games for stratospherically high stakes and his game of choice was, you guessed it, baccarat. 

In 1995, he had an unprecedented run at a top Las Vegas casino, playing for as much as $500,000 per hand and winning $26 million in just a few hours. Following this spectacular win, the casino banned him for life! But the Australian was capable of losing big as well. In 2000, Packer lost more than $18.6 million during a three-day baccarat session in Vegas! It was the biggest short-term loss in the city’s history at the time. Not to be deterred, he went on to also lose a record-breaking £11 million at a top London casino.

Packer had a photographic memory and was able to instantly work out baccarat odds. But there’s more to this legend than his uncanny memory. Packer had the kind of gambling temperament that only an extremely large fortune can support. He could be dangerously spontaneous and incredibly generous. 

Mr. Bet-A-Million: John Warne Gates

Chicago millionaire John Warne Gates (1855-1911) earned a fortune from selling barbed wire and ended his life as a very rich man despite starting out selling firewood to homes and local railroads. Some railroad workers whom he befriended taught him casino table game rules, and Gates never looked back. Gambling became his lifelong hobby and once he’d had made his fortune, Gates hosted many high-stakes baccarat games at his home in Chicago and on long train journeys between the Windy City and New York.

On one such occasion, Gates was doing duty as the baccarat banker and decided to bet $1 million in just one round! That was worth $27 million in today’s money and his opponent had to wager the same amount in order to play. They were playing with the “cheval” rule, where the banker deals three hands. The first hand was for Gates, while the player got to choose if they wanted to play one or both of the remaining two hands. In the end, Gates and his opponent won a hand each and tied on the third, so no money changed hands. The sheer audacity of his bet earned Gates the nickname, “Mr. Bet-A-Million.”

You don’t need to bet a million or book an exclusive table to join the action At BetMGM. We offer many table games like online roulette, baccarat and blackjack. If you prefer online slots, our casino has thousands of themed games with exciting slots bonuses and jackpots. 

Enjoy the best baccarat games at the BetMGM live dealer casino

Are you ready to discover the sophisticated world of baccarat? Then simply register with BetMGM. We have the best live dealer casino games from top developers featuring friendly professional dealers and a fun, engaging interface. Whatever your budget, our games have wide betting ranges for high-stakes and low-stakes bets. Whenever you want to take a break from baccarat, browse our catalog to play the best online slots for real money. What are you waiting for? Bet with the king of casinos, bet with BetMGM. 

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.