How do you play Baccarat?

Baccarat is a gambling game at cards, played by a banker, or dealer, and two patrons who lay stakes against the banker. Regardless of the number of patrons, just two hands – designated the ‘player’ hand and ‘banker’ hand – of two or three cards each are dealt and the object of the game is to bet on the hand that adds up closer to nine. The three possible outcomes are a player win, a banker win and a tie, and patrons can bet on any of these eventualities, but not on a player win and a banker win simultaneously. In the event of a tie, stakes laid on player win and banker win are returned.

For the purposes of calculating the value of each hand, tens and face, or picture, cards have a value of zero, aces have a value of one and cards between two and nine have their face values. Of course, this allows a hand to add up to more than nine but, in that event, the value of the hand is the second digit.

The player hand is concluded before the banker hand. If the player hand has a total between zero and five, unless the bank hand has a total of eight or nine, known as a ‘natural’, the player hand draws a third card. The player hand stands on total values of six and seven and, for obvious reasons, on eight and nine. A natural eight or nine for either hand wins outright, with no further cards drawn, unless the natural eight or nine is tied, or beaten, by the opposing hand. By contrast, while the banker hand always draws another card on values between zero and two and always stands on values between seven and nine, the response to values between three and six depends on the value of the third card in the player hand.

What’s the largest amount won playing roulette?

‘The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’ was a popular British music hall song in the late nineteenth century but, by that stage, half a dozen players had, quite literally, set the bells ringing in the Casino de Monte-Carlo by winning more than the 100,000 franc cash reserve – otherwise known as the ‘bank’ – set aside to cover liabilities on each roulette.

The first man to famously do so was Joseph Jagger, a mechanically-minded, but down-on-his-luck, piece worker from Yorkshire in the North of England. In 1873, working in cahoots with unscrupulous casino staff, Jagger recorded the results of every spin of each roulette wheel at the Casino de Monte-Carlo for a period of weeks. Subsequently, having discovered that one of the wheels displayed a distinct bias towards some numbers rather than others, he began to bet on the frequently-occurring numbers. Over a period of several days, he won 2,000,000 francs, or the equivalent of £7.5 million in modern terms.

Less than two decades later, in 1891, Charles Wells, a known petty criminal born in Hertfordshire in the East of England, but educated at Clermont-Ferrand University in central France, broke the bank at Monte Carlo not once, but several times. Surprisingly, perhaps, given his dubious background, each time he did so by pure good fortune, without resorting to any form of skullduggery, subterfuge, or out-and-out cheating. One the first occasion, when he won 1,000,000 francs, he reportedly won twenty-three of thirty consecutive spins of the roulette wheel and, on his return to Monte Carlo later the same year, he managed to win another 1,000,000 francs from a series of random bets.

When was poker first played?

It can be argued that poker, in its modern sense, was first played on riverboats on the Mississippi River in the early nineteenth century, but the origins of the game are believed to be much older. The sixteenth-century card game known as ‘primiera’in Italy and ‘primera’ in Spain has many similarities to modern day poker and, in turn, provided the basis for the seventeenth-century games known as ‘poque’ or ‘pochen’, which were played in France and Germany, respectively.

Poque was subsequently transported across the Atlantic Ocean by French colonists to territories in North America, which was acquired by the United States in the early years of the nineteenth century. The name ‘poque’ was anglicised to ‘poker’ by English-speaking settlers and, thereafter, the game evolved to resemble the modern version, with a 52-card deck and five-card hands for each player.

The evolution of Las Vegas from a cultural backwater to a major tourist destination in the early twentieth century may have done plenty for the local economy, but casino operators were not keen on poker from a money-making perspective. Nevertheless, as the only casino game where gamblers could play against each other, rather than the house, poker was popular with patrons, so most gambling houses ran a poker room.

Down the years, different versions of poker, including five-card draw, seven-card stud and the current favourite, Texas hold ‘em, have fallen into or out of fashion at various times. Nevertheless, while the ‘boom’ period in the early years of the twenty-first century may have subsided, poker remains the most popular card game on the planet, with an estimated hundred million players worldwide.

What’s the history of blackjack?

Blackjack is derived from the ancient game of ‘twenty-one’, which is believed to have existed in Spain, as ‘veintiuna’, in the seventeenth century and subsequently spread to France, as ‘vingt-un’, or ‘vingt-et-un’, the surrounding countries, including Britain, and eventually to America from the early eighteenth century onwards. Vingt-un, albeit occasionally pronounced, and written, as ‘Van John’, was played under its French name in Britain and America throughout the nineteenth century.

However, until 1931, when gambling was legalised in Nevada and the first gaming licence was awarded to the Northern Club on Fremont Street, Las Vegas, vingt-un was played in illicit casinos and speakeasies. In fact, blackjack wasn’t called actually ‘blackjack’ until the twentieth century; in the early days of legitimate gambling in Las Vegas, casinos offered a series of promotional bonus payments, one of which was 10/1 against a hand consisting of the ace of spades and the jack of spades or the jack of clubs or, in other words, a ‘black jack’. Of course, that bonus payment for ‘blackjack’ no longer exists – the best modern patrons can hope for is odds of 3/2 and, even then, only in a standard, six-deck game – but the name stuck.

Following the publication of basic blackjack strategy – a mathematically correct set of rules for playing any hand – in the Fifties, blackjack quickly rose to become the most popular casino game in Las Vegas. Subsequently, in the face of multi-deck shoes and apparently minor rule changes, not least cutting the payout on blackjack to 6/5 in all bar single-deck games, the popularity of blackjack has waned slightly. Even so, blackjack remains the second most popular card game on the Las Vegas Strip, after baccarat.

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