Faro (card game)

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Faro, Pharaoh, or Farobank, is a late 17th century French gambling card game descendant of basset, and belongs to the lansquenet and Monte Bank family of games, in that it is played between a banker and several players winning or losing according to the cards turned up matching those already exposed or not.

Although not a direct relative of poker, faro was played by the masses alongside its other popular counterpart, due to its fast action, easy-to-learn rules, and better odds than most games of chance. The game of faro is played with only one deck of cards and allows for any number of players, usually referred to as "punters."




The earliest references to a card game named pharaon are found in Southwestern France in the late 17th century (1688) during the reign of Louis XIV.


Pharaoh and basset, the most popular card games of 18th and 19th century Europe, were forbidden in France during the reign of Louis XIV on severe penalties, but these games continued to be widely played in England during the 18th century. Pharo, the English alternate spelling of Pharaoh.[1], was easy to learn, quick and, when played honestly, the odds for a player were the best of all gambling games, as records Gilly Williams in a letter to George Selwyn in 1752.[2]

United States

With its name shortened to faro, it soon spread to the United States in the 19th century to become the most widespread and popularly favored gambling game. Also called "Bucking the Tiger", which comes from early card backs that featured a drawing of a Bengal Tiger, it was played in almost every gambling hall in the Old West from 1825 to 1915.[3]

Faro's detractors regarded it as a dangerous scam that destroyed families and reduced men to poverty, because of rampant rigging of the dealing box. Crooked faro equipment was so popular that many sporting-house companies began to supply gaffed dealing boxes specially designed so that the bankers could cheat their players. Cheating was prevalent enough that editions of Hoyle’s Rules of Games began their faro section warning readers that not a single honest faro bank could be found in the United States. While the game became scarce after World War II, it continued to be played at a few Las Vegas and Reno casinos through 1985.

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