OBJECTIVE OF FARO: Place winning bets on cards to receive a payout each turn.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-10 players

MATERIALS: 52-card deck, betting chips, coppers (pennies), case-keeper, dealer box (optional)

RANK OF CARDS: K,Q,J,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,A

TYPE OF GAME: Gambling



This gambling game was extremely popular in the American Wild West and the gold rush, today Faro is a lesser known and enjoyed game, having gone out of style in the 1950s. It’s believed to have originated in France sometime in the late 17th century and was called “Pharaon.” As it passed through western Europe its name changed to Pharo in England, once it arrived in the United States its name was converted to Faro.

Faro is a derivative of the game Bassetta, which was brought to Paris from Italy in the early 17th century. Its origins can be traced back to as early as the 15th century.


Setting Up

The dealer also acts as a banker.

Players buy chips from the banker in order to place bets during the game.

The banker uses a table, typically covered in green cloth. It’s 3 x 1.5 feet with thirteen cards of one suit (usually spades) printed on it. Below is a photo of the table layout.

In saloons, an employee of the banker or anyone not playing the game would manage the casekeeper. It is an abacus-like board with four beads on a wire opposite of a card. Once a card has been shown, the casekeeper would push a bead over to indicate so. Before a fresh deal, all the beads are pushed over to the other side of the wire to indicate they have not been shown. In the absence of a casekeeper a cue sheet may be used. Simply grab a fresh piece of paper, to the far left, from top to bottom, mark A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. If a card is shown, and it is a winner, indicate so by placing a straight line beside the corresponding rank. If the card is a loser, indicate that with a 0 next to the card show. A soda is marked with a dot. in the event of a split, mark an x. Reminder, there will only be three notations beside the card’s rank on the cue card if there is a split.

Betting units should be decided prior to starting the game.


  1. Size: There are two limits on size: plain limit or running limit. The plain limit is the highest amount staked on a card for the initial bet. The running limit is 4 x the plain limit. So, if the plain limit is 5 the running limit is 20. For example, a player bets 5 and wins. They may leave their original stake and winnings, which totals 10, in the same spot or move it to another card where they also can win 10. This means the player’s total stake is 20, the running limit imposed by the banker. If the player wins that last bet, they may only stake 20 on the next. This is called parleeing a bet. If the player wins, their maximum stake doubles. So, if the first bet is 5 the second is 10, the third is 20, the fourth is 40, and so on. Bankers generally allow parleeing bets because they have the statistical advantage.
  2. Placing Bets: Players must decide what cards on the Faro board they wish to bet on. Placing a betting chip in the center of a card is placing a bet on that card alone. However, they are several possible ways to bet on cards in Faro. If a player places a betting chip equidistant from four cards in the center of the table, they are placing a bet on all four of those cards. Bets may also be placed in the corner of a card, this places a bet on that card and the card directly diagonal (drawing a line through the chip to the next card) of the card with the chip. Players may also place a betting chip toward the end of the table, equidistant from three cards, one of those being one of the cards farthest out in the layout. This places a bet on all three of those cards. The last simple way to bet is high card. On the Faro table will be a rectangle marked “high card,” placing a bet here means you think the winning card will be higher than the losing card.
  3. Coppered Bets: Placing a copper (simply a penny) on top of your bet reverses the bet. You are then betting that a card (or cards) will be a losing card rather than be a winning card.
  4. Players may avoid risking their stake on a turn by declaring, “I bar this bet for a turn.”
  5. Players can reduce their stake by half by declaring, “one-half of this bet goes.”

Playing Faro

After bets all placed, the dealer shuffles and cuts the deck and places it face-up beside themselves. Ideally, the dealer will use a dealing box. It is a spring loaded box the dealer puts the deck in so that cards come out one at a time and players can’t see cards below the one on top. This reduces cheating.

The first card on top is called the soda, it is not used and immediately discarded to the left of the board. Following the soda, the next card is the loser card. It is placed between the soda and the pack, on the left side of the board. The next card face-up on the deck is the winning card for that turn. Each turn has two cards, a winner and a loser. Before the next turn, the winning card is discarded to the same pile as the soda.

The game has 25 turns with betting rounds in between, starting with the soda and ending with the hock (the last card turned). All bets are settled at the end of a turn and new bets are placed.

Loser cards only win for the banker, who collects the chips placed on the losing card on the table, unless the bet was coppered. If the bet was coppered the player wins, their winnings is equal to the amount of the bet placed.

Winning cards win for the player who bet on them. Their winnings is equal to the bet amount placed on the winning card and paid out by the banker.

If the winning and losing card are the same in a turn this is called a split. The dealer collects half the chips placed on that card.

The turn before the round reaches its end there will be three cards remaining in the deck. Players may then bet on which order the remaining cards will be revealed. The next turn is played as normal and once the final card is revealed the player who got the order correct is paid out 4 times the bet made. If there was a pair involved the payout is only 2 times the bet.





Nakoa Davis

21 thoughts on “Faro”

    • Hi Chris, I did some research into this and had a hard time finding any actual rules for the original game Bassetta. The closest I could find was the Wikipedia article on Basset, which I think may be an English derivative. I also found a couple of articles speaking of the game in historical context, but not of actual gameplay. Below is the Wikipedia article I mentioned. Best of luck, and I hope this helps in some way.

  1. Nice game description – however the deck does NOT run dry. When the casekeeper shows only 3 cards left play, the dealer will offer a bet on the order these last cards are revealed . The bets are noted and a successful punter will be paid 4 to 1, an exciting end to the game ……!

    • Hi Brian, you are correct! Thank you for taking the time to correct us! I will update the game rules ASAP, thank you again.

  2. One of the very best explanations on how to play this (to me) rather complex gambling game. Clear and lucid.
    Many thanks.

    • Hello Swimmy, in this example the player would win the bet placed on 6 and lose the bet placed on 5. I hope this helps.

  3. I have a question regarding payouts. Naturally, winning with a bet on a single card is a payout equal to what the bet was. If there was one bet on four cards (example: chip placed between 2, 3, Jack, Queen), does that also result in the same payout as if the person was just betting on one card, or is the payout different?

    • Hi Brain, so the way placing once chip on multiple cards works is if any of the 4 cards are the winner you win at the same 1:1 payout, however if anyone of the cards is the loser you lose the bet. if you have both the loser and winner as cards chosen the round is a wash and your chip remains. I hope this helps

  4. Yes you answered my question about having a multiple card bet where both the losing and winning card are dealt.

    I read somewhere that the banker would settle all losses BEFORE dealing the players card giving the banker an extra edge.

    Also read that the banker set his own rules at his table. Players could take them or leave them.

    My question is : some rules say the cards in the dealers box are face up hence the window in the dealers box for all to see. . Others say they are face down in the dealers box . Thoughts?

    I recently purchased an 1890s straight dealers box at an auction. Worth every penny. Weigh a a ton and made of silver nickel.

    • Hi Pete! What a find with the old dealer’s box, that is awesome! As for whether the cards go in face up or down, I typically see it played with the dealer’s deck faceup. The dealer’s box was traditionally used to reduce cheating, and the cards were loaded in faceup so only the top card could be seen. I hope this helps!

  5. Amber,
    Thank you for explaining the game.
    My question is in regard to the last three cards. How did a player indicate the order of the three cards? Do they just say it or mark the faro board somehow?

    • Hi Larry, traditionally when I play we just announce our bets but you could write them down, or do some other way to indicate.

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