Chemin de Fer is considered the initial form of modern baccarat, but it is still played in France. The name is French for “railway”, but the older meaning of the name meant “iron road” because of the iron box in which the cards were kept.
Naturally, the game is very similar to modern-day baccarat since it is its predecessor, but Chemin de Fer involves more decision making than baccarat. It is extremely hard to find a land-based casino with Chemin de Fer tables in the United States, and online casinos don’t offer the game too. However, if you go to Monte Carlo, you will surely find a Chemin de Fer table.
What is Chemin de Fer
Chemin de fer, also called Shimmy, or Chernay, French card game played mainly in European and Latin American casinos. The game is played by up to 12 players, on a kidney-shaped table; the object is to total 9 with a hand of two or three cards. When the cards total a two-digit number, the first digit is ignored, so that 14 would count as 4. Ace counts as 1, number cards at face value, and picture cards as 10 (which counts 0). Chemin de fer derives from the Italian game baccarat, differing from it in that players bet one at a time against each other instead of against the house. As a casino game in the United States, chemin de fer was displaced by baccarat in the late 1950s.
Chemin de Fer is a baccarat game where players bet against each other. The one who holds the bank sets aside an amount he or she is willing to risk and that covers the bets of the opponents. This is a fundamental difference from two other baccarat games: Punto Banco (Nevada Baccarat) and Baccarat Banque, where the bank is always held by a casino.
Chemin de Fer is an original version of baccarat that appeared in France. Literally the name of the game means "railway". Chemin de Fer is usually played with six shuffled card decks at a typical "kidney-shaped" table. The table can be occupied by 8 to 12 players. The course of the play is controlled by a croupier from a place between the first and the last player. Opposite to him there are two dealers who handle the bets.
There are two squares on the table in Chemin de Fer. The first one, titled Banque, is designated for the bets on the Banker, the second one, titled Reliquat, serves for the part of the banker's bet, which is not covered by players. In the middle of the table there is a slot for used cards called Panier and another slot called Cagnote for casino's 5% baccarat commission of the winning bets.
On the beginning of the game the cards are shuffled by a croupier and then by the players in the order. Finally the cards are shuffled by the croupier again and the player at his left side splits the deck with a blank card.
Chemin de Fer Rules & How to Play Chemin de Fer
Chemin de Fer is different from the other Baccarat versions – Punto Banco and Baccarat Banque – in that here, players bet against each other. A player holds the bank and sets aside a wager that covers the bets of his / her opponents. The game is played at large kidney-shaped tables that have 12 seats for players two for dealers, plus one for a banker. The banker stands between the first and the last players, facing the two dealers. The minimum number of players is 8 and the maximum – 12. The game is played with six decks of cards contained in a shoe which moves across the table in a counterclockwise manner. Presumably, this gave the name of the game – the shoe moving across the table as each player gets to deal the cards resembles the movement of a train, hence Chemin de Fer which means “railway” in French.
The Player and the Banker look at their cards. If any of them (or both) has the total 8 or 9 (Natural), he announces so, shows down the cards and the game is decided immediately (the higher total value of cards wins). If the win is not on the hand (Natural), then there are the following rules of Chemin de Fer.
The Player's Rule
|5||draws or stands|
|6 or 7||stands|
|8 or 9||wins out of the hand|
The Banker's Rule
|Total||The Banker draws, if he is allowed to *||The Banker stands, if he is allowed to *||By discretion|
|3||1–7 or 10||8||9|
|4||2–7||1, 8, 9 or 10|
|5||5–7||1, 2, 3, 8, 9 or 10||4|
|6||6 or 7||1–5, 8, 9 or 10|
|8 or 9||win out the hand|
|* If the Player stands, the Banker draws a third card if his total is 0–5 and stands at 6 or 7.|
As it was said the cards are dealt face down (i.e. they are not visible to the opponent). If the Player demands to draw a third card, he announces Carte (a card). The Player shows his cards after the Banker has shown his own cards. Doing so earlier would not be tactical as if the total is 5 then, in Chemin de Fer, there is a choice between drawing a card and standing.
If the Banker knew that the Player's total is 5, he would adapt his decision accordingly. The additional cards are always drawn face up, because in this phase the initial hands are shown and on their basis it is determined whether the third card is drawn or not. There is no need to worry about the rules of Chemin de Fer – they are watched carefully by the croupier.
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 Tips
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Chemin de Fer game is rarely found at online casinos as they tend to prefer other variants of baccarat, such as Punto Banco due to how fast it can be played. The faster it is played, the more profitable it is for the casino. Despite the fact it is difficult to find online, you should not let this put you off. If you can find a casino offering Chemin de Fer tables you should take up the opportunity as this exciting variation on baccarat is certainly worth playing.