Join us to rediscover the game of Faro – the card game that inspired all of Europe and the Wild West in the 19th century. It has been sung about in operas and immortalised in novels: This game will teach you how to properly stand up to them! And this is how to play Faro.
The Faro game, also called Pharao, French Pharaon, English Faro, goes back to card games played as early as the 17th century at the time of the 30 Years War: such as Landknecht, Tempeln and later Bassette. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the game of Faro was extremely popular in Europe, and in the Wild West it was the most popular game of chance with cards for decades before being replaced by poker in the 20th century.
So it is hardly surprising that the game of Faro has been immortalised in numerous literary works and operas: From Casanova’s memoirs, to the Devil’s Elixirs and Barry Lyndon to Verdi’s La Traviata and Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West Faro has made its appearance in European high culture. In northwestern Canada, even a city is named after the popular game: Faro. Even the phrase still in use today, to stand up to someone, goes back to Faro.
How could a game that has left such a lasting impression in cultural history almost fall into oblivion? As avid card players, we say: that has to change! Discover the Faro game anew with us – it’s worth it! This is how to play Faro.
As with most games of chance, there is a banker in the Faro game. You choose which of you will be the first to take on this role by drawing cards and then alternating each round. The up to four other players are called pointeurs in the jargon.
The banker has two packs of cards, each with 52 cards, lying separately next to him. One deck must be sorted by suit. Each of the pointeurs now receives a so-called livret (”booklet”) from the banker from the first deck, i.e. 13 cards of one colour, which he lays out in front of him. In addition, the banker determines the minimum stake and places his entire cash box (“bank”) on the table in front of him.
Each pointer can now distribute the point, i.e. minimum bet, on one or more of his cards. Each player can bet a maximum of the total amount in the bank, which he must announce with the words ”Va banque” or ”Va tout”.
After all the bets have been made, the banker begins by deducting 2 cards at a time from the Talon and placing them face up on the table next to each other. Such a pair is called a deduction or coup and it is extremely important for the sake of fair play that the order of the pair always remains the same: for the first card of each pair is for the banker, the second for the pointeurs..
The banker scores all the pointeurs’ bets that are on cards of the same rank, regardless of suit. For example, if the first card of a coup is a seven and one or more pointeurs have bet on their seven, they lose these bets to the bank..
All pointeurs who have made a bet on a card that has the same rank as the second card of the coup get a sum equal to the bet paid by the banker. They take the corresponding bet off the card unless they offer parry (see below).
After each coup, the pointeurs may increase their bets on their livret, or also occupy new cards. However, a player may not reduce the original stake or take it out of play: only the winning stake may be taken out of play..
If two cards of equal rank, for example 2 queens, are drawn from the talon in a coup, the banker receives half the stake of a pointeur who bet on that card. In this case one speaks of a doublet or says the card has fallen plié (”bent”)..
For the last, the 26th coup, it is true that only the banker’s card wins. This is because the last card was shown to the pointeurs before the bets were placed. Therefore, the probability of winning for the pointeurs with a bet on the value of the 52nd card, which lies en face, is lower than for other values.
If all coups are deducted, one speaks of a waist. A card that wins several times in a row or particularly often in the course of an evening is called a card favourite.
If one of the pointeurs has won, he can forego paying out his winnings for the time being and bet that this card will win again in the next coup. This makes sense especially if the draw is already advanced and the player has been counting attentively. Because then he knows whether there is a good chance that the same card will appear again in second place in the next coup.
If this does indeed happen, the Pointeur wins a double profit. If not, he receives no winnings, i.e. not even for the previously drawn coup, and must take his bet from the corresponding card.
When a lappé is won, the player can even raise again and play a Double Lappé. If the same value appears again in the next coup as a winning Pointeure card, he collects 4 times his original bet. If he loses, he only gets his stake back..
If a Pointeur has won, he can immediately put the stake and the profit made with it (i.e. now double the sum) back on a card. In this case heparries! The card is marked classically by bending one corner slightly upwards. However, if you don’t like to bend your playing cards, you can also put a previously agreed marker on them like a colourful piece of paper.
If the paroli, i.e. this marked card, wins in one of the following coups of that round, the player receives three times the original deck or 1.5 times what is now on the card.
Risky but highly profitable are multiple paroli. After winning a paroli, the player can parry again with the words ”Sept et le va!”. If he wins the paroli again, he receives seven times the original stake or 1.4 times what is on the card..
The Pointeur can now even offer a third paroli by saying ”Quinze et le va!” and putting everything he has won so far (now already a total of 12 times his original bet) on one card. If he now actually wins again, he receives as winnings fifteen times his original stake or 1.25 times the sum lying on the card..
The risk with Paroli is to lose everything again under certain circumstances if the corresponding card appears not as the second but as the first card of a coup and thus the bank wins.
Note: The Faro game is played according to different rules in its North American variant Faro. Here, more than 4 pointeurs can play against the banker and only one 52-card hand is used. The pointeurs do not get their own livret, but the 13 spades cards are laid out as a tableau or layout in the middle of the table. In addition, other betting rules apply in Faro than in the classic European Faro game.
And now have fun playing Faro!
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Image source cover image: Johann Baptist Anton Raunacher under CC BY-SA 3.0
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