How to Play Baccarat Chemin de Fer

As a baccarat card game, the rules to Chemin de Fer will be familiar to anyone who has played other variations, such as Punto Banco or mini baccarat. The key differences here are that Chemin de Fer is played against other players and that participants sometimes have a chance to change their hand by hitting or standing.

Here are the basic rules to playing Chemin de Fer in a casino:

  • 1

    Players take turns to be the banker and take possession of the banker's hand. The first banker is usually the player located closest to the croupier's right. The role rotates around the table like in many other casino table games.

  • 2

    The banker indicates how much he/she is willing to wager. In Chemin de Fer, the banker is expected to stake a high wager, as its their responsibility to cover all the players' bets

  • 3

    Players take it in turns to bet whatever they want up to the level of the banker's maximum bet.

  • 4

    Two cards are dealt face-down to the player with the biggest wager, and two to the banker, respectively.

  • 5

    If the banker or player has a hand that equals 8 or 9 (the 'natural' numbers), the game ends and whoever has that hand wins.

  • 6

    If neither one has that hand, the player can decide whether to take a third card (if their hand is worth 5). Initial hands are then revealed.

  • 7

    Once the banker has decided, as appropriate, whether to take a third card or not, hands are compared, and the winnings of the round are distributed.

Chemin de Fer requires a minimum of eight players and can accommodate up to 12 around the table. The shoe of cards revolves counterclockwise around the table, which is shaped like a kidney bean.

In Chemin de Fer, card values work the same as in other forms of baccarat: cards 2 through 9 are worth face value, Aces are worth one point, and 10, J, Q and K are all worth zero. Jokers are removed from the pack before play begins.

In most baccarat card game variants, 9 is the best value hand possible. In this respect, Chemin de Fer fits right in with other casino table games of this type.

Are Baccarat and Chemin de Fer the Same?

Are Baccarat and Chemin de Fer the Same?

When most people mention baccarat, they are usually talking about Punto Banco. This version of the game, which uses eight decks of cards, is a simplified version of baccarat as it reduces player agency. Punto Banco is very common among casino table games online because it does not require the input of any other players.

Chemin de Fer on the other hand, uses six decks and pits players against each other, with every player taking a turn to act as the banker. That's a role that also exists in Punto Banco but it is always taken by the house, with a 5% commission charged on winnings from the banker's bet.

As discussed, Chemin de Fer and Punto Banco are very closely related, albeit with a few key differences. Sadly, both on casino sites and at land-based casinos, Chemin de Fer can be harder to find. This is usually due to the amount of interaction required from players, so be prepared to try another baccarat variation if an online casino does not offer Chemin de Fer.

Chemin de Fer Table Layout

When compared to a roulette or craps table, a Chemin de Fer table looks simple by comparison. The main points to note are that the table features space for up to 12 players and the dealer, and to place their bets.

There's also space dedicated to where the player and banker hands are dealt. The dealer's area of the table is where the shoe (containing six decks of cards) as well as the stacks of chips that are being used at the table are kept.

In some cases, the table may be covered by a smattering of French words such as Banque. Fortunately, in cases where the translation is not obvious (banque = bank), the casino dealer will explain everything players do not understand.

Chemin de Fer Table Layout

Player's and Banker's Rules in Chemin de Fer

The biggest distinction between player and banker hands in Chemin de Fer is that the player gets to make their move first. If the hand is worth 5, for example, they decide whether they want to hit or stand before the hands are revealed and before the banker decides if they want to hit their hand.

When drawing additional cards, the player and banker both have different rules to follow. The following tables lay these out clearly:

The Player's Rules to Drawing Cards

TotalThe Player
0-4Draws
5Draws or Stands
6 or 7Stands
8 or 9Wins

The Banker's Rules to Drawing Cards

TotalThe banker should draw if allowed to*The banker should stand, if allowed to*By discretion
0-2Always draw-n/a
31-7 or 1089
42-71, 8, 9 or 10-
55-71, 2, 3, 8, 9 or 104
66 or 71–5, 8, 9 or 10-
7-Always stands-
8 or 9-Wins-
Drag table

*If the player stands the banker must draw a third card if their total is 0-5 and should stand at 6 or 7.

When playing Chemin de Fer for real money online, as with other types of baccarat card games, bettors should expect to pay a commission on wagers made on the banker bet (usually between 3-5%). This is because when the game is played perfectly, players have a 44.7% probability of winning compared with 46% for the banker.

In Punto Banco, the player bet has a house edge of around 1.3% and the banker bet has a house edge of 1.06%. Despite the small differences between the two baccarat games, those same figures hold true for Chemin de Fer.

How to Win at Chemin de Fer

Many players prefer to mix up their reactions to a hand worth 5 to keep the banker guessing. Otherwise, they risk falling into patterns of predictability that may influence the action that the banker takes against them.

As for the banker, the correct action to take depends on the value of the player's hand(s). For example, the banker should always hit on hands worth 0-5 and stand on 7 if the player stands. Beyond that, any move the banker makes will hinge on what they expect the player to do if their initial hand is worth 5.

This element of choice can make playing Chemin de Fer a slower and potentially more confusing game than other baccarat variations. That goes a long way towards explaining why Punto Banco is the more popular baccarat card game played online.

Win at Chemin de Fer

Chemin de Fer Strategy

As with all types of baccarat in the casino, Chemin de Fer is primarily a game of luck. It's only really when players have a hand worth 5 that they have a choice as to whether they want to hit or stand. There is no 'right' move to make in this case.

If a player takes a card, it is recommended that the banker does the following:

Chemin de Fer Overall Strategy Table for Bankers

S – Stand H – Hit
Banker0123456789
7SSSSSSSSSS
6SSSSSSHHSS
5SSSS?HHHSS
4SSHHHHHHSS
3HHHHHHHHS?
2HHHHHHHHHH
1HHHHHHHHHH
0HHHHHHHHHH
Drag table

As indicated above in question marks, there are only two situations in which there is no suggested reaction for the banker to take. Overall, the chart shows the banker should hit on 0-5 and stand on 7.

Betting systems are mentioned frequently in conjunction with a baccarat card game like Chemin de Fer or Punto Banco. These might seem interesting, and can result in immediate gains, but they rarely work out well in the long term.

One such example is the Martingale system, which involves the player upping their bet after every loss. Besides risking vast sums of money to make a small profit, bettors may struggle to find other players willing to match the large bets they want to make.

Tips for Playing Chemin de Fer Online

There are no concrete ways to ensure players will win their hand when playing Chemin de Fer for real money. Much of the etiquette and pageantry associated with casino table games based on baccarat is pure superstition and has no bearing on the final results.

With that said, it is worth bearing the following in mind before playing:

  • 1

    Keep an eye on your fellow players

    Players get the option to draw a card or stand when their total is 5, with many mixing up whether they draw or stand to keep their opponents guessing. If you see that one player always hits, or stands on, a 5 then this might inform your own actions.

  • 2

    Don't get carried away when placing wagers

    A weak banker hand might see one player having to pay multiple players out of their own pocket. Keeping bets modest will not only help to alleviate this concern but will also let players stay at the table for longer.

  • 3

    Disregard the idea of hot (and cold) streaks

    As shown above when discussing betting systems, there's no science to the idea of betting with or against streaks. It's as effective as any other method of deciding how to wager, but you shouldn't rely on it to win.

  • 4

    Avoid the tie bet in other variations of baccarat

    Let's say that you move from Chemin de Fer, where ties result in bets remaining on the table and being played in the next round, to other variations of baccarat. The tie bet, whenever it's available, is best avoided because of its high house edge.

  • 5

    Don't chase losses

    This is always true in the casino and includes a baccarat game like Chemin de Fer. Placing bigger and bigger wagers to recoup money lost is never a good idea. Play steady instead.

History of Chemin de Fer

Hundreds of years ago, a French version of baccarat that involved multiple players competing against each other emerged. Named Chemin de Fer, many argue that this was the first version of the game as we know it today. Others claim that some form of baccarat was being played in Italy many years before that. Clearly, baccarat's origins have more than a bit of mystery to them.

Various reasons have been provided for the origin of the game's name. Some suggest that the rough translation of 'railway' refers to the fast-paced nature of the game, just as someone today might refer to something being like a rollercoaster. Others say that the more literal translation of 'iron road' refers to the metal box in which cards and paraphernalia might be kept.

Gambling was outlawed in France in 1837, but the game continued to thrive in illegal gambling venues and the illicit world of the underground casino. Chemin de Fer remained popular throughout Europe long after this and made its debut in Las Vegas at the end of the 1950s.

Despite the popularity of the game, and perhaps due to the intensive nature of putting together and running games for the house, it was ultimately displaced by the simpler Punto Banco.

History of Chemin de Fer

FAQs

  • What is Chemin de Fer?

    In layman's terms, Chemin de Fer is a variation of baccarat that is a little more complicated than Punto Banco. It involves multiple players and gives them the option of hitting their hand or standing.

  • What gambling game is a variation of baccarat?

    There are a couple of different variations of baccarat, a term that is often used interchangeably with Punto Banco in the USA, out there. Chemin de Fer is one such variant and is popular because it gives players more control over the action than other baccarat games.

  • What is the card game in which players bet against the banker?

    Although this could refer to several different casino table games, the use of the word 'banker' suggests this is a question about baccarat. Variations of this game involve betting either on a player or banker hand, with a commission taken on the latter.

  • What card game does James Bond play?

    Although Bond plays Texas Hold'Em in the 2006 Casino Royale movie, Chemin de Fer appears to be his game of choice in many of the older movies and in Ian Fleming's Bond novels. If you want to be like Bond, it seems that this is your game.

  • How does Chemin de Fer differ from classic Punto Banco?

    There are two primary differences here, the first being that players take turns to be the banker and distribute the cards. The second is that players are given a choice of whether or not they want to hit, i.e. draw a third card, or stand.