Faro is a gambling card game for two or more Players that originates from France. Also known as Pharaoh, the name of the Kings of Ancient Egypt.
Faro rose to popularity in the United States from the 17th to the 19th centuries, at which point its popularity began to decline due to the overwhelming popularity of Poker, as well as its reputation as a game for cheaters and less-than-reputable casinos.
How to Play Faro?
Faro is played traditionally using the French-suited 52-card deck. However, as the French and Anglo-American decks are exactly the same, save for the actual art depicting the suits and the face cards, either would be suitable for a game of Faro.
The game can be played by many Players, as it is essentially the card game equivalent of roulette. As it will be made apparent later, Faro is extremely susceptible to “counting cards” because of the rules and procedure of the game.
If one wishes to avoid card counters, more decks may be added in order to decrease the ease of counting cards, however, the rules of Faro generally encourage card counting.
As a gambling game, Faro also requires either valueless tokens or money in order to be played correctly. This is because the betting procedure, as well as the concept of risk vs. reward, are integral aspects of Faro, as they are to all gambling games.
At the start of the game, each Player should give themselves the same amount of money or tokens in order to play with, so that at the start of the game each Player’s “buy in” is the same.
In addition to the tokens, each Player should also have another different token, unique to the other chips or tokens on the table. These are most commonly pennies, though any token distinct from any other token representing cash value may be used.
Once these materials are all gathered, the game may begin.
The Banker should be determined either by Player choice or randomly. The Banker shall remain the Banker until the entire deck has been exhausted, at which point they will switch out with another Player at the table, who will then take over the Banking position.
The Banker must search through the deck, finding all of the cards of a single suit and placing them in order in the center of the Play Area.
Any suit of the Banker’s choice may be used, though for ease of simplicity, each card should be from the same suit. These cards should be ordered out on the table in the following traditional arrangement:
The 7 is placed off to the side, in between the two rows, so that both rows can be an even 6 cards. These 13 cards represent the “betting zones”. Once each of these betting zones have been laid out, the Banker will shuffle the remaining cards in the deck and draw the top card.
This card is revealed to all other Players, and is then set off to the side. Cards, as they are discarded, are all displayed to the side in order, making it clear to other Players which cards have already been played in this particular deck with this particular Banker. This is the reason that Faro is so susceptible, and possibly even encourages card counting.
Once Players have all seen this top card, the betting process begins.
This is the core of Faro’s gameplay. As previously stated, Faro is essentially the card game equivalent of Roulette.
Players will place their chips onto the betting zones as they see fit, although many Faro tables establish maximum bets, it is possible to go All-In (betting all of a Player’s available money).
Players may bet on multiple spaces at once.
Once each Player has placed their desired bets, the Dealer will then draw the top two cards of the deck and reveal them to each Player. The first card drawn and displayed is the “losing” card, and the second card drawn and displayed is the “winning” card.
These two cards correspond to their matching cards in the betting zones. Players that placed their bets on a losing card will then lose their bet, while Players that did the same for winning cards shall win their bet instead. For example:
- The Banker draws a 4, and a 9.
- Player 1 had $5 on 4, and so loses their $5.
- Player 2 had $5 on 9, and so wins $5 for a total of $10.
Players may also “short” bets, by utilizing their penny or unique token. This “short” is simply a bet that a card will be the losing card. For example:
- Player 1 places $5 and their penny on 3.
- The Banker draws a 3 and a Q.
- Player 1 wins $5 for a total of $10, because they bet that 3 would be the losing card.
There are also special bets that may be made with the Banker, without placing any chips or tokens on the betting zones. These are known as “Betting High” and “Betting Low.”
When Betting High, Players are betting that the winning card will be a higher value than the losing card, for example:
- Player 1 Bets high
- Banker draws a 4, and a 9.
- Player 1 wins their Bet.
When Betting Low, Players are betting that the losing card will be a higher value than the winning card. For example:
- Player 1 Bets Low.
- Banker draws a 10, and a 2.
- Player 1 wins their Bet.
If both the winning and losing card are the same, the Banker will take half of the bet from any Player betting on that card.
The Banker should have enough money to cover the bets of each other Player, making Faro a difficult game to play with friends unless everybody brings a certain amount of money with them, in case they must play their turn as the Banker.
Betting continues until the deck is depleted, or one Player has taken all of the chips from the other Players, at which point the deck is reshuffled and a new Banker is chosen, and a new game may begin if desired.
Faro Card Game Rules
The rules of the game are summarized below for ease of use:
- Players may keep their bets between rounds, move them, or remove them. However, once bets are made, they must be kept once the cards are drawn.
- Players may use their penny or otherwise unique token to short bets.
- The Banker controls the total money supply, and the cards.
- Players are welcome and encouraged to look at the display of cards that have already been drawn and discarded, so that they can use math to calculate the likelihood of the next cards drawn. This is known as “counting cards.”
Like in most gambling games, Faro is scored by the amassing of wealth. The Player who walks away from the table with more money than they came with is the winner, anybody who winds up with less than they joined with are the losers.
For the purposes of Betting High or Betting Low, card values go in numerical order, with aces always being last. This makes the order of cards for the purposes of Betting High or Low:
Ace (Low), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K
Aces are never high in Faro, and suit does not matter.
Imagine the following scenario in a hand of Faro.
- Player 1 bets $5 on 3, and shorts $10 on 10
- Player 2 bets $5 on 10
- Player 3 bets $20 on 4
- The Banker draws a 10, and a 5.
- The losing card being 10, Player 1 wins their $10 short, while Player 2 loses their bet of $5.
- Player 3, having neither won nor lost, is free to keep their bet, change it, or move it to another card.
- The Banker takes 5 dollars from Player 2, and gives 10 to Player 1.
Strategy & Tips
Below we listed some tips that might help you win.
- Although Faro may seem like it is a game of pure chance, the fact that all cards removed from the deck are openly displayed actually makes Faro almost entirely a game of mathematical probability. It is entirely possible to calculate the odds of the next winning and losing card, based on the remaining pool of cards available in a given deck.
- A betting strategy is also important. Save your big bets for near the end of the round, when it becomes more likely that your large bets are going to pay off. Betting 20 dollars at the start of the game is almost entirely a chance-based bet, but betting 20 dollars near the end of the game is a smart way to make a large amount of money with less risk than usual.
- Furthermore, betting High or Low is best when there is about an even number of high and low cards. If there are too many high or too many low cards, it becomes more likely that you won’t get the high or low.
Cheating in Faro
As explained above, counting cards is an integral part of Faro. However, this makes the game rather bunk as a modern gambling game.
This is because Players play against the Banker, rather than each other. A group of smart Players that understand how to play effectively, betting with advantage, will routinely be able to beat a Banker simply by mathematical probability.
The Bankers will be unable to make a profit, and may even find themselves completely cleaned out if a group of knowledgeable Players step up to their table. This is one of the reasons Faro has died out in popularity at many casinos.
How many cards are in a Faro deck?
A game of Faro utilizes a normal 52-card French or Anglo-American deck. Casinos that want to protect themselves from card counting may utilize multiple decks in a shoe, making it much harder to count.
What are the odds of winning in Faro?
This is not a question with a single answer. The odds of a game of Faro are drastically changed from hand to hand. This is because the odds of winning a game of Faro depend not only on the bet you have made, but on the cards that are still remaining inside the deck at the time bets are made.
If you bet on 3, but there is only a single 3 left in the deck, the odds of winning are very low. However, if you bet on Queen, and all three Queens remain in the deck, the odds of winning are much higher.
Is Faro a gambling game?
Yes. Faro is indeed a gambling game, as its whole integral core gameplay is focused around betting and the use of money as a scoring system.
Can you bet the whole board?
Although it would be possible if a Player wanted to hedge their bets such that the entire board was covered, this would be completely pointless. As there is always a winning and losing card, a Player that evenly spreads their bets across the whole board would always win one bet, but also lose one bet, leaving them neutral overall as though they had never even played.
Can you ‘All-in’ in Faro?
You are allowed to place all of your chips on a single card, or spread all of your chips to multiple cards. However, if you lose those chips, you will be forced to pay more money in order to “buy back in” and keep playing.