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-oh), Pharaoh, Pharao, or Farobank is a late 17th-century French gambling card game. It is descended from Basset, and belongs to the Lansquenet and Monte Bank family of games due to the use of a banker and several players. Winning or losing occurs when cards turned up by the banker match those already exposed. It is not a direct relative of poker, but Faro was often just as popular due to its fast action, easy-to-learn rules, and better odds The earliest references to a card game named Pharaon (French for "Pharaoh") are found in Southwestern France during the reign of Louis XIV.
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Basset was outlawed in 1691, and Pharaoh emerged several years later as a derivative of Basset, before it too was outlawed. The game was easy to learn, quick, and when played honestly, the odds for a player were considered by some to be the best of all gambling games, as Gilly Williams records in a letter to George Selwyn in 1752. With its name shortened to Faro, it spread to the United States in the 19th century to become the most widespread and popularly favored gambling game.
It was played in almost every gambling hall in the Old West from 1825 to 1915. It was also widespread in the German states during the 19th century, where it was known as Pharao or Pharo. A simplified version played with 32 German-suited cards was known as Deutsches Pharao ("German Pharo") or Süßmilch.
It is recorded in card game compendia from at least 1810 to 1975. In the US, Faro was also called "bucking the tiger" or "twisting the tiger's tail", a reference to early card backs that featured a drawing of a Bengal tiger. By the mid 19th century, the tiger was so commonly associated with the game that gambling districts where faro was popular became known as "tiger town", or in the case of smaller venues, "tiger alley". Some gambling houses would simply hang a picture of a tiger in their windows to advertise that a game could be played there. 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.
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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. (See section of cheating by dealers below.) Cheating was so prevalent that editions of Hoyle’s Rules of Games began their faro section by warning readers that not a single honest faro bank could be found in the United States. (1 Cranch) 252 (1803), A game of faro was often called a "faro bank". Criminal prosecutions of faro were involved in the Supreme Court cases of United States v. It was played with an entire deck of playing cards.
One person was designated the "banker" and an indeterminate number of players, known as "punters", could be admitted. The faro table was typically oval, covered with green baize, and had a cutout for the banker. Chips (called "checks") were purchased by the punter from the banker (or house) from which the game originated. A board was placed on top of the table with one suit of cards (traditionally spades) pasted to it in numerical order, representing a standardized betting "layout". Each player laid his stake on one of the 13 cards on the layout.
Players could place multiple bets and could bet on multiple cards simultaneously by placing their bet between cards or on specific card edges. A player could reverse the intent of his bet by placing a hexagonal (6-sided) token called a "copper" on it.
Some histories said a penny was sometimes used in place of a copper. This was known as "coppering" the bet, and reversed the meaning of the win/loss piles for that particular bet. Players also had the choice of betting on the "high card" bar located at the top of the layout.
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Certain advantages were reserved to the banker: if he drew a doublet, that is, two equal cards, he won half of the stakes upon the card which equaled the doublet. In a fair game, this provided the only "house edge". If the banker drew the last card of the pack, he was exempt from doubling the stakes deposited on that card. These and the advantage from the odds on the turn bet provided a slight financial advantage to the dealer or house. To give themselves more of an advantage, and to counter the losses from players cheating, the dealers would also often cheat as well. A device, called a "casekeep" was employed to assist the players and prevent dealer cheating by counting cards. The casekeep resembled an abacus, with one spindle for each card denomination, with four counters on each spindle.
As a card was played, either winning or losing, one of four counters would be moved to indicate that a card of that denomination had been played. This allowed players to plan their bets by keeping track of what cards remained available in the dealing box.