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Faro is a popular gambling card game that originated in France in the late 17th century. Initially known as “Pharaon”, the game took Europe by storm in the 18th century.
It wasn’t long until Faro spread to America and became the favored pastime during the California Gold Rush.
It’s often compared to poker because of their similarities of being the fast-paced games that follow easy-to-learn rules. However, the odds of winning in Faro are much higher than in poker. Unlike poker, however, not many people play Faro nowadays.
Faro accommodates any number of players, and the game itself lasts for about 10–15 minutes. It’s played only with a single deck of cards.
Today, we’ll try to teach you everything you need to know about this legendary game.
The Basics of Faro
The round of Faro was called “Faro bank” because it involved a designated “banker” from the house. The game can accommodate any number of players, or bettors. There are multiple bettors, but only one banker, and they cannot be rotated.
A typical game of Faro takes place on an oval-shaped table covered in green baize. The table also had a cutout made for the banker to be able to operate — place cards and chips.
The house determines bet values, chips, and stakes. The betting chips were usually set between 50 cents and $10 per person.
The standardized betting layout involved 13 cards glued to the faro table face up in numerical order marking two rows. In Faro, the suit of spades is generally used to represent all denominations of other suits. The banker puts a high card at the head of the two rows.
In the Faro card game, players can bet in three different ways:
- place bets on one of the 13 cards
- place multiple bets on multiple cards
- bet on the high card.
As for bet size in Faro, there are two limits — the plain limit and the running limit. The plain limit is the highest amount staked on a card for the initial bet. The running limit is 4x the plain limit. If, for example, a player bets 10 and wins, they may leave the initial stake + winnings (which is 20 in total) on the same card while also betting on the second card where they win 20 as well. The player’s total stake would be 40, whereas the banker determines the running limit.
If a player wins the second bet, then they are allowed to place 40 on the next bet, and this is called “parlaying” a bet. Every time a player wins, their maximum stake doubles. Bankers allow this practice because they have the statistical advantage.
Players choose the cards they wish to bet on. If they put a betting chip at the center of the card, that means they are betting on that card alone. There are several ways a player can place bets in Faro. Placing a betting chip in the center of the table, at equal distances from four cards, would mean betting on all four cards. Players can also place a bet in the corner of the card, which would mean placing a bet on that card and the card directly diagonal from the card with the chip.
Players can also place a bet toward the end of the table, at equal distances from three cards. This puts a wager on all three cards. The last way to place a bet in Faro is also the most straightforward one. Here, you place bets on the high card, which means that you’re betting that the winning card will be higher than the losing card.
Placing a “coppered” bet (only a penny) would mean that you’re betting on the particular card (or cards) to be a losing card rather than a winning card.
Players also skip a turn (avoid risking the stake) or reduce the stake by half.
How to Start Playing Faro Online — Step by Step Guide
Here are all the necessary steps you need to take in order to start playing real-money faro on an online casino site.
The banker first shuffles the whole deck of cards. Afterward, they put this deck of cards in the shoe — a mechanical device that was used to prevent the house from cheating and increase assurance among players of a fair play.
The banker then takes out the first card from the shoe and puts it face down, leaving the remaining 51 cards in play. This card is also referred to as “burned off” because it doesn’t come into play again. This step was significant, as it prevented the counting of the cards.
Removal of Two Cards
Next, the banker removes two cards; the first is the banker card (bettor’s losing card), and it’s placed to the right of a dealing box. The second one is the player’s card (English card) and it is placed to the left of the dealing box. Each game has two cards — a winner and a loser. Before the next round begins, the banker moves the winning card to the same pile as the soda — the first card on the top.
The losing card typically wins it only for the banker who collects all the chips placed on it, unless the bet was coppered. If the bet was coppered, then players win, with winnings equal to the amount of wager placed.
If players place bets on a winning card, they can win. The winnings are equal to the bet amount placed on the winning card, and the banker pays them out.
If the banker draws two cards of the same denomination, also called a split or a doublet, they collect half of the chips placed on that card.
Final 3 Cards
The banker keeps drawing two cards out of the dealing box until only three cards remain. At this moment, the banker could call a special bet, also known as “call the turn”. With this bet, players can predict the order of the three remaining cards that are drawn out. The first of the three is the banker’s card, the second is the player’s card, and the last card in the box is called the “Hock”.
If a player predicts the order of the three remaining cards correctly, then they get paid 4 to 1, unless there was a “cat-hop” or a pair among the three cards. If all three of the remaining cards are of the same denomination, then all bets are off.
The game consists of 25 turns with betting rounds in between. It starts with the soda and ends with the hock (the last card that was drawn). All bets are settled at the end of a turn, and then players place new bets for the next turn.
When the deck is used up, and the banker disposes of the hock, the cards are collected and reshuffled. The next round can then begin and playing resumes as usual.
A device called the casekeep is used to prevent the banker from cheating and allow players to keep track of denominations that have been played. The person in charge of this device is called the “coffin driver” or the “casekeeper”.
Like most other card games that made their way into the US during the 18th century, the Faro card game was invented in France. It derived from the British card game called “basset” that was popular among high-class society members because of the vast sums of cash that were at stake. Basset was a polite game, but King Louis XIV outlawed it back in 1691.
It was during the reign of King Louis XIV that Faro was first mentioned. It first appeared in Southwestern France under the name “Pharaon” only a couple of years after basset had been outlawed. Fast forward a couple of years later, and Faro was outlawed as well.
While banned in France, the game gained massive popularity in other parts of Europe. Then, around 1717, Faro was brought to the States through the port city of New Orleans by John Law — a Scottish outlaw who had to flee England.
By the 1800s, Faro became a hit in America. You could find it at nearly every single bar, pub, tavern, and saloon across the US. At one point, the New York police Gazette stated that people were spending more money on Faro than on all other gambling titles combined.
As bigger casinos emerged, Faro began to disappear because they presented a considerable advantage to the player. Casinos heavily favored American roulette and other games with a higher house edge, and Faro faded into the dust.
Nonetheless, you can still find Faro at a few selected establishments around the world, and there are several online versions of the game for people to enjoy as well.
Layout of Faro Card Game
In regular games at gambling establishments, both players and the house were cheating. The banker would cheat by rigging dealing boxes or tampering with the playing deck. Not even the casekeep could prevent the house from cheating. The banker usually used three different methods of cheating:
- Rigged dealing boxes,
- Stacked or rigged deals, and
- Sleight of hand.
A rigged deck had the cards marked with different textures so that the banker was able to find the pairs and put them together while they were supposedly shuffling.
A rigged dealing box had a small mirror next to it that was only visible to the banker. This way, they could see the next card that would be drawn and, if players were placing massive bets on it, they would have just switched it with another one, giving the house the edge.
A stacked deck was when the banker put pairs in a deck so that the house would win half of the bets placed on that denomination.
Sleight of hand was used on the rigged dealing box. The banker would merely look at the next card that was supposed to get drawn, and if there was a large bet on that denomination, they would replace that card with another one. This was a common cheating strategy because faro tables were often loud, and players wouldn’t notice anything.
On the other hand, players would cheat by moving bets using a sleight of hand and distraction to their cheating. The three most common cheating moves by players were:
- Moving with a thin strand of silk
- A simple move of their bet
- Removing copper.
Players often used a small strand of silk that was attached to the bottom of the pile of the bet, and a player could merely pull the strand to move the bets to other cards. This cheating move was less detectable than others because a player only needed to slightly move their hand instead of moving the entire body.
Sometimes players would wait for the banker to get distracted, and then move their stakes to another card.
Removing the copper is similar to moving with a strand of silk. Players would attach the strand to the copper and quickly remove it from the table if the card they betted on lost. This tactic was popular because the strand didn’t leave any marks on the table to be detected.
More often than not, when a player was caught cheating, the things would escalate, resulting in a fistfight or even a gunfight.
Online Faro Tips and Strategies
Faro is 100% a game of luck and, unless you possess extraordinary counting card skills, you may have to rely on lady luck to win in this game. There are a few tips, though, that can improve your winning chances.
In a Faro game played with a full card deck, there are 13 denominations or “flat” bet opportunities — one for each rank. If there are 23 or more cards left in the box, then you can place a flat bet to increase your winning odds in that round.
When there is only one card of the same denomination left in the box, you can place a case bet — bet on a particular rank. While there is zero house advantage on such bets, the house may request a 5% commission. You can use case bets to your advantage when there are fewer cards left in the deck. The excellent time to place case bets would be when 21 or fewer cards are remaining in the box.
Faro Game Apps
If you want to try out Faro Card Game but can’t find a gambling establishment offering this game, there is an exceptional Faro mobile app that could keep you entertained for hours. Below, you can find a short description of the app along with download links.
Wild West Faro
This is probably the best mobile adaptation of the once-upon-a-time popular game. It is optimised for both iOS and Android mobile devices. The game features fantastic graphics, funny sound effects, and smooth touch screen controls. The Android version requires OS 2.3 and up whereas, if you want to play it from the iPhone, your device must have 6.0 OS installed. You can download the app from the App Store and Google Play.
Faro was the ultimate test of counting skills, random luck, and winning opportunities. This fast-paced game provided immense enjoyment. Although Faro is practically extinct nowadays, you can find a “banker” that will play with you online. If you enjoy the thrill of poker and the excitement of a blackjack table, then you’ll love this game. Even if you can’t find a “banker”, you can gather a group of pals, teach them the rules, and have a blast with a new game. You can find all the information you need on this page.
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