Chemin de Fer was the first version of baccarat to become widespread in France and it is still a very popular game. Chemin is French for road, while Fer means iron, so the name literary translates into Road of Iron. The cards used to be placed in an iron box, hence the name. It doesn’t have anything to do with railways.
Chemin de Fer is played with six decks of cards shuffled together. The classic French deck with 52 cards is used, just as for other types of baccarat. The traditional table for Chemin the Fer is oval and discarded cards are placed in the middle of it. It is common for baccarat games to have a set minimum bank or wager amount.
To understand the guide below, it is good to have a basic understanding of baccarat, e.g. how to calculate points for a hand.
How to play Chemin de Fer Baccarat
- The croupier shuffles the card, followed by the players in play order. (Play begins to the right of the croupier and continues counterclockwise.)
- The croupier makes a final shuffle.
- The player seated to the left of the croupier cuts the deck.
- One player is designated as Banco (banker) and will do the dealing. All the other players are Punto (punters).
- Banco starts the round by deciding how much he/she wishes to wager.
- Every other player will, in order of seating, declare if he/she wishes to “go bank”.
If you go bank, you play against the entire current bank by placing a matching wager. As soon as one player has declared his/her willingness to go bank, no other player at the table can go bank for that round.
If no one goes bank, players will instead make individual wagers in order of seating. If the sum of all the wagers are less than the bank, bystanders who are not seated around the table will be allowed to wager up to the amount of the bank. If the sum of all the wagers from the seated players are larger than the bank, the banker can elect to increase his/her bet to match. If the banker does not increase his/her bet, excess wagers are removed in reverse play order.
- The banker deals four cards face down; two to the banker and two community cards.
- The punto player with the highest individual bet will be Punto and represent the punto players. (If there is a tie, the player seated first in play order among the players with the largest wagers will represent the punters.)
- Banco and Punto both look at their cards.
- If anyone of them has an eight or a nine, they will say so and the cards will be turned face-up to be compared.
If no one has an eight or a nine, Punto and Banco each have the choice to accept or refuse a third card. This is why Chemin the Fer is a game of skill, unlike the other major baccarat variants which are based on luck only. If a third card is accepted, it is placed face-up on the baccarat table. Punto is always the first to accept or reject a third card, followed by Banco. The hands are then turned face-up to be compared.
- If Punto’s hand exceeds Banco’s hand, each punter get their initial wager back + a matching amount from the bank. The position of Banco will pass to the next player in line (counterclockwise) for the next round of Chemin de Fer Baccarat.
If Banco’s hand exceeds Punto’s hand, all punters lose their bets and the money is transferred to the bank. The position of being Banco remains with the current Banco, unless he/she wishes to withdraw. The first person (in order of seating) willing to stake an amount equal to the current bank total becomes the new Banco. If no one is willing to do this, the next player in order of seating will become Banco and is allowed to chose how much he/she is willing to wager (but not below the minimum bank amount for the table if any).
In case of a tie between Punto and Banco, wagers remain as they are for the next hand.
Should I accept a third card when playing Chemin de Fer Baccarat?
Most players of Chemin de Fer Baccarat follows a set of guidelines grounded in mathematics and tradition. When you are the Punto representative, other people’s money will be at stake so they may object if you wish to go against these guidelines.
- Accept a third card if your hand totals 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4
- Refuse a third card if your hand totals 6 or 7
As you can see, hands totaling 5 are not covered by the guidelines.