You probably know that baccarat is one of the most popular casino table games, but did you know that there are actually several different types of baccarat? These include punto banco, three-card baccarat, baccarat banque, and chemin de fer. The most common variant is punto banco, which is the one most players think of when they hear the word “baccarat.” That’s because it’s easy to play and widely available in land-based and online casinos, including high-speed variations like mini baccarat. But for gambling aficionados, chemin de fer is the variation of choice because it provides players with more options. Keep reading to learn how to play the game and pick up some strategic baccarat chemin de fer tips.
Introducing Chemin de Fer
Baccarat in general has been around since at least the early 19th century, although some gambling experts say that Italian soldiers first introduced the game in the 15th century. Whatever the truth may be, the fact is that it became tremendously popular among French aristocrats in the 19th century. The reason was that gambling was banned under Napoleon. Since all you needed to play baccarat was a table, cards, and money, it was easy to arrange private games away from prying eyes. The earliest variation, baccarat de banque, was a three-player game. Later in the century, chemin de fer (meaning “railroad”) appeared. Also known as “chemmy,” this variant is faster and allows more players at the table.
What both chemin de fer and baccarat banque have in common is that they’re player-banked games. In other words, players play against each other, not the house. This is why you won’t find chemin de fer online. What you will find with ease is punto banco. This house-banked game appeared in Havana during the 1940s and has become the dominant variant of baccarat. The reason is that it’s simpler and usually more affordable to play against the house than opponents whose bankrolls might dominate yours. But don’t type “punto banco” when you’re searching for online casino games on gambling sites. Just type “baccarat” because punto banco is the only variant you’ll find when you play baccarat online.
Banker vs. Player
When it comes to basic gameplay, chemin de fer is very similar to regular baccarat, with two major differences. The first difference is in the betting round before cards are dealt. Here’s how it breaks down.
Chemin de fer is a game for 8–12 players. Six decks of cards are shuffled into a shoe that rotates clockwise around the table. Players take turns to be the banker, although players can pass on their turns.
Before cards are dealt, the banker states how much they’re prepared to bet. This is usually a large amount. The banker will play the banker hand and has to be able to cover all player bets.
Players then take turns to place their bets up to the banker’s maximum. The player who bets the highest gets to play the player hand against the banker. To go all-in against the banker, a player will call “banco.” If more than one player calls “banco,” the player on the banker’s right has priority.
The Player’s Turn
Once bets are in, the player and the banker receive two cards each, face down. They both look at their hand, and if they’re holding a natural (a hand with a value of 8 or 9), they reveal it and win the round.
Hand values are calculated the same way as in regular baccarat: aces are worth 1, face cards are worth 0, and other cards are worth their pip value (2–9). If a hand totals more than 10, only the last digit counts. Suppose a player is dealt a pair of 9s. The hand total is 18, but the 1 falls away, so the hand is worth 8.
If neither banker nor player has a natural, the player has to draw or stand. Here’s the second major difference between punto banco and baccarat chemin de fer style. In punto banco (regular baccarat), drawing or standing is determined by a formula, and the player has no input. In chemin de fer, there’s an element of decision. Here’s how it works.
With a hand total of 0–4, the player has to draw.
With a hand total of 5, the player can choose to stand or draw.
The player has to stand on 6 or 7.
A hand of 8 or 9 is a natural and an automatic win.
The Banker’s Turn
If the player draws a third card, it’s dealt face up, and the banker has to respond, depending on their hand total.
- Hand total of 0–2: The banker always draws.
- Hand total of 3: The banker draws if the player’s third card is 1–7 or 10 and stands if the player’s third card is 8. If the player’s third card is 9, the banker can choose.
- Hand total of 4: The banker draws if the player’s third card is 0, 1, 8, or 9.
- Hand total of 5: The banker draws if the player’s third card is 5–7 and stands if the player’s third card is 0, 1, 2, 3, 8, or 9. If the player’s third card is 4, the banker can choose.
- Hand total of 6: The banker draws if the player’s third card is 0, 1, 2, 3, 8, or 9 and stands if the player’s third card is 0–5 or 8–9.
- Hand total of 7: The banker always stands.
When the banker’s done, the hand totals are compared. If the player hand wins, all players receive a payout with ±100 odds. If the banker hand wins, the banker takes all the bets less a 5% commission to the casino.
Regular baccarat is a straight-up game of chance with a 50-50 chance to win, but chemin de fer has a strategic element because players can sometimes choose to draw or stand.
If you’re the player and your first two cards total 5, you get to choose whether to draw or stand. Mathematically, both options have the same chance of improving your hand, so it’s best to mix it up and keep the banker guessing.
If you’re the banker, the recommended strategy is to draw on 0–5 and stand on 7. There are, however, some strategic variations depending on the value of the player’s third card:
- Stand on 3 if the player’s third card is 8 and either stand or hit if it’s 9.
- Stand on 4 against 0, 1, 8, or 9.
- Stand on 5 against 0, 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9, and either hit or stand against 4.
- Stand on 6 against 0 to 6, 8, and 9.
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