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How to Play Chemin de Fer Game

How to Play Chemin de Fer Game

Chemin de Fer, an intriguing and sophisticated card game, holds a revered position in the world of casinos. Originating in France, its name, which translates to “railway,” signifies the game’s pace, faster than traditional Baccarat. Chemin de Fer not only offers a blend of strategy and chance but also an opportunity for social interaction, making it a favorite among seasoned and novice players alike. This American casino guide aims to demystify Chemin de Fer, providing you with the knowledge to confidently approach the game and enjoy its unique blend of elegance and excitement.


The origins of Chemin de Fer trace back to 19th-century France. While its exact genesis is shrouded in mystery, it’s widely believed to have evolved from Baccarat, a game once reserved for the nobility. Chemin de Fer gained prominence among the French aristocracy before spreading across Europe and eventually finding its way into modern casinos. The game’s rise to fame was partly due to its portrayal in popular culture, notably in the James Bond series, where it was featured as the spy’s preferred card game, further cementing its image as a game of sophistication and intrigue.

Differences Between Chemin de Fer and Baccarat

While Chemin de Fer is a variation of Baccarat, there are notable differences that set it apart:

Role of the Banker: In Chemin de Fer, the role of the banker is more dynamic. It rotates among the players, allowing each participant the opportunity to take on the banker’s responsibilities. This contrasts with traditional Baccarat, where the casino always acts as the banker.
Player Choice in Drawing Cards: Chemin de Fer offers players more autonomy, especially when it comes to drawing a third card. While traditional Baccarat has strict rules about when a third card can be drawn, Chemin de Fer allows players to make their own decision, adding an element of strategy to the game.
Number of Decks Used: Typically, Chemin de Fer uses six decks of cards, whereas traditional Baccarat can use anywhere from one to eight decks, depending on the casino’s rules.
Betting Dynamics: In Chemin de Fer, players bet against each other, whereas in traditional Baccarat, players bet against the house. This change in betting dynamics influences the game’s strategy and atmosphere.

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The Basics

Chemin de Fer is a card game most commonly played with six decks. The primary objective is to have a hand with a point value closest to nine. Cards 2 through 9 are worth their face value, aces are worth one point, and 10s, jacks, queens, and kings have no point value (zero). The game typically involves up to 12 players, and unlike other casino games, players compete against each other rather than the house.

The unique aspect of Chemin de Fer is its fluidity; the game’s pace and rhythm can change based on the decisions made by the players, particularly the player acting as the banker. This creates an engaging and dynamic gaming experience, blending luck with elements of skill and strategy.

Rules of the Game

Card Values and Hand Scores: The total score of a hand is the sum of the card values, but only the last digit is considered. For instance, a 7 and a 6 (totaling 13) count as 3.
Dealing the Cards: The role of the banker is key in Chemin de Fer. The banker shuffles the decks and deals four cards – two to themselves and two as a communal hand for the other players (punters).
Drawing Additional Cards: Players can choose to draw a third card, but this decision is bound by specific conditions based on the hand’s total score. For instance, if a hand’s total is five, the player can choose to draw or stand.
Winning a Round: The highest possible hand score is nine (a “natural”), followed by eight. If neither the banker nor a player has a natural, the game continues with the drawing of additional cards and subsequent comparison of hand scores.

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Roles and Responsibilities

The Banker: The banker plays a central role in Chemin de Fer. They decide the initial stake, deal the cards, and take on the financial risk of the game. The position of the banker rotates among players, offering each the chance to manage the bank’s resources.
The Players (Punters): Players compete against the banker, not each other. They decide whether to accept or refuse additional cards based on their hand’s total score. This decision-making process adds a strategic layer to the game.
Dealer: In Chemin de Fer, the dealer (often a casino employee) is not involved in the game like in other variations of Baccarat. Their role is limited to managing the game – ensuring the rules are followed and the game runs smoothly.

Gameplay Mechanics

Game Start: The game begins with the banker placing a bet. The players (punters) then decide if they want to “go bank,” matching the banker’s bet. If no player goes bank, they make their bets in order. If the total player bets exceed the banker’s bet, the excess is not considered.
Card Distribution: The banker deals four cards face down: two to themselves and two as a communal player hand. If either hand is a natural (8 or 9), cards are turned face up, and the round ends.
Player Decisions: If there is no natural, the player with the highest bet decides for the group whether to take a third card. The decision is based on the total of the first two cards.
Banker’s Play: After the players’ decision, the banker decides whether to draw a third card. The banker’s play can be more strategic, as they have the advantage of knowing the players’ total.
Comparing Hands: After all cards are dealt, hands are compared. The higher hand wins. If the banker wins, they collect the losing bets and pay out winnings from their own bank. If the players win, the banker pays out their winnings.

Strategies and Tips

Banker Advantage: Given the choice to draw a third card last, the banker has a slight edge. Consider this when deciding to challenge the bank.
Managing Bets: Be cautious with your bets. In Chemin de Fer, since you’re playing against other players, large bets can quickly deplete your funds.
Understanding When to Draw: If your card total is five, carefully consider whether to draw a third card. This is the most critical decision-making point in the game.
Observe the Banker: Pay attention to the banker’s strategy, as this can inform your decisions when playing against them or when you take on the banker role.
Practice Makes Perfect: Familiarize yourself with the game’s nuances by playing lower-stakes games before moving to higher stakes.

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Betting Rules

Initial Bets: The game starts with the banker’s bet, which sets the initial wagering standard for that round.
Player Bets: Players can bet any amount up to the total current bank value. A player can declare “going bank,” meaning they wish to match the banker’s bet in full.
Winning and Losing Bets: If the banker wins a round, they collect the players’ losing bets. If the players win, the banker pays them out of their bank.
Banker Rotation and Stakes: If the banker loses, they may continue but must replenish their bank to match the initial bet. If they decline, the role of the banker is offered to the next player. The new banker starts with a bet equal to the last bank amount.


Chemin de Fer stands out in the world of casino games for its unique blend of strategy, skill, and social interaction. Unlike many casino games where players compete against the house, Chemin de Fer offers a rare dynamic where players face off against each other, adding a layer of camaraderie and competition. The game’s rich history, the strategic decisions involved, and the role of the rotating banker make it a captivating experience. Whether you are a seasoned player or new to the world of casinos, understanding and appreciating the intricacies of Chemin de Fer can significantly enhance your gaming experience. Remember, while the game involves an element of chance, smart decisions and a thoughtful approach can make your experience both enjoyable and rewarding.

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Chemin de Fer FAQs

What is the main objective in Chemin de Fer?

The main objective is to have a hand with a point value closest to nine.

How is Chemin de Fer different from traditional Baccarat?

Key differences include the role of the banker rotating among players, more autonomy in drawing cards for players, and players betting against each other rather than the house.

Can players choose to draw a third card in Chemin de Fer?

Yes, players have the discretion to draw a third card when their hand's total score is five, adding a strategic element to the game.

What should a new player focus on when learning Chemin de Fer?

New players should focus on understanding the basic rules, the value of cards, when to draw a third card, and observing the strategies used by more experienced players, especially the banker.

Are there any specific betting strategies for Chemin de Fer?

While there's no guaranteed winning strategy due to the game's element of chance, players should manage their bets wisely, pay attention to the banker's play, and make informed decisions about drawing additional cards.