There are historical debates concerning the exact source of the game, although many feel it is Italian in origin, while others claim the French invented it. Wherever it was invented, baccara (Italian) or baccarat (French) both translate to "zero" in English. The importance of this name is borne out by the tens and face cards, the majority of the cards in the deck, sharing that value. There are numerous varieties of the game played throughout the world. Chemin de fer and straight baccarat were both brought to America and introduced at the racetrack and spa at Saratoga and the ritzy Palm Beach resort in 1911. Each was met with shrugs from the nouveau riche. Both games lapsed in popularity in America due to a distinct lack of interest.
The game remains most popular in Europe and Asia. In the European versions, a player or group of players "bank" the game, with other players involved getting paid by or directly paying the game's backers and the House taking a percentage or cut. The most common contemporary American version, in which the House provides the financial backing for the game owes its immediate lineage to George Raft's Capri Casino in Havana, Cuba dating from pre-Castro days.
There is a debate as to the exact time and place in which the American version was re-introduced. It came about in Las Vegas in either 1959 or 1960 at the Dunes or the Sands casino. Its originator Tommy Renzoni, stated in his (out-of-print) book , Renzoni on Baccarat, that Punto-Banco as it was called in Cuba, was brought to Las Vegas by him in the late 1950s, as Castro was about to take possession of the island. Renzoni wrote that his game owed it roots to European chemin de fer via Argentina He claimed that the night of the game's first modern American play, the Sands lost $250,000.