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How to Play Chemin de Fer


The game of baccarat as it is now played with standardized rules that must be followed for each hand has evolved from Chemin de fer, where decision are allowed to be made with regard to how to play each hand. The game was originally played with an iron box, like a case used in Faro (case bet – last bet of the box, or shoe). The name can be interpreted to mean iron road or railroad.

Chemin de fer is played on a large table with room for at least eight players, although up to 12 players are sometimes allowed. Eight decks (rarely six) of standard English cards are used, no jokers or wild cards are included. The cards are carefully shuffled by each player around the table, and then by the dealer or croupier. The player to his left cuts the decks and they are placed into a shoe and dealt one card at a time.

The casino provides space for the game, the croupiers (dealers), and collects a 5 percent commission on all winning bank hands. Players bet against each other, not against the house.

The Layout

The layout used on a Chemay table has a large square marked Banque, which is for the player acting as the banker to place his bet. The second square is marked Reliquat, which is for the banker’s bet that is not currently covered by the other players.

Banking Chemin de Fer

The player on the croupier’s right has the first option to be the banker, and will risk whatever amount they wish on the next hand (a table minimum and maximum is standard). The other players, in order, are allowed to match any amount of the banker’s wager, up to the entire bet. Other players are allowed to cover any remaining amount, and the player with the largest wager will play the hand. If the player’s wagers exceed the banker’s bet, the banker has the option to match any remaining amount. The banker is given the shoe and deals out four cards face down, two to themselves and two for the players, represented by whoever has the largest stake against the banker.

Card Values

Card values in Chemin de Fer are the same as in baccarat, with 10’s and face cards counting as zero. Aces count as 1 and all other cards, 2 through 9, count as their pip value (a 7 is a 7, etc.). A two-card hand of ace-five equals 6. A two-card hand of Jack-four equals 4.

A natural is a two-card hand of 8 or 9. Both the player and the banker look at their hands and announce when they have a natural and both hands are turned-up for all to see. If they do not, the player is given a chance to draw one more card. If they accept, the card is dealt face-up. After the player’s turn, the banker may draw a single card, dealt face-up. After their decision, both hands are turned up for all to see.

Mathematics of the game dictate that the most prudent play is to always draw when the first two cards total 0 to 4, and always stand pat (no draw) when the two cards total 6 or 7. When both hands are compared, the highest hand (9 is the highest) wins. The croupier will distribute the chips between the players and the banker, depending on who wins. When both hands are the same total (a tie), no chips are exchanged.

Changing the Banker

As long as the banker wins or ties, they continue banking, although they may withdraw at any time. If the banker loses, the next banker is the next player in order and they may set any bank they see fit. If the original banker should withdraw, the first player (in order) who will match the original bank wager will be the next dealer.

When the cut-card is encountered, 16 cards from the back of the shoe, a new shuffle ensues. The banker will remain the banker until they lose or withdraw, even if a shoe ends. When this happens, the dealers will take-over and get the next set of cards ready to be shuffled.

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