Classic Casino Games: Faro Rules & Bets

How to play Faro, an exciting antique among casino table games.

Classic casino game of Faro being played in 1895What comes to mind when you think of casino games? Is it those infinitesimally popular slot machines? The professional’s favorite blackjack? Maybe your mind goes straight to roulette, baccarat, craps, video poker, or pai gow? Whatever comes to mind, I’d be willing to bet it’s not the old-fashioned game of Faro.

Believe it or not, as uncommon as Faro is in today’s casinos, it was actually the most popular of all card games in the 18th and 19th centuries. Everyone assumes poker was the top game in the old west, but Faro was the original card game of choice. The photo on the right shows a game taking place at a saloon in Arizona in 1895, when the game’s popularity was at its peak. But that’s enough Faro history…

How to Play Faro

To play, you’ll need a minimum of two people (1 dealer, 1+ players), one penny per player, a full deck of 52 cards, plus an extra 13 cards; one of each rank. These cards are used to create the game board / betting table. The rest (the full deck) are used to play the game. You’ll also need color coordinated betting chips, giving one color stack to each bettor. Once you’ve got these things gathered, you’re ready to begin.

Faro Rules – Setting the Board

Take the 13 extra cards and lat them out in two rows. The first row contains the first 6 cards, the second row the last 6 cards, with the 7 – the middle card – centered at the end of both rows. It should look something like this.

How to Play Faro - Setting Up the Table for Betting

Preparing and Dealing the Cards

The dealer will shuffle the full deck and set it in front of him or her. The first card is exposed. This is called the “Soda” card. This card is burned (set aside face up) to signify the start of the game.

After players bet, the dealer will play two cards face up. The first is the “Losing Card”. The second is the “Winning Card”.

Any bets on the value of the Losing Card are lost and collected by the dealer (unless betting “copper”). Bets on the value of the Winning Card are won and paid accordingly by the dealer.

Any lasting bets that are not won or lost may be taken back, moved to another card, or left in place – the bettor decides before the next cards are dealt. Then more bets are placed, and two more cards dealt from the same deck.

All cards played from the deck are set aside, face up, grouped by their respective ranks (Aces, Twos, Threes, etc.) Players can look at these cards for reference as the game progresses, giving them a better idea of where to place their bets.

If a bettor wagers on a card rank that is no longer eligible (all 4 ranks have been played), it is called a “Dead Bet”. Anyone who notices a Dead Bet has been placed – players or dealer – can take the bet and keep it, so be careful and pay close attention!

Betting in Faro

Players have several betting options in this game. They include:

Flat Bet on One Card Value: A lasting bet that the Winning Card will be a specific card rank. Place this bet by putting 2 bet units directly on the same-value card on the table. If the Winning and Losing Card are of this same rank, the player loses half the bet (hence the need to bet in 2 units).

Split Bet on Two Cards Values: The same as a Flat Bet, but split equally (one bet unit each) on two numbers. If the Winning Card matches one of them, you win both bets at even money. If the Losing card matches one of them, you lose both bets. If either card matches, or if both match the different chosen ranks, it’s a push. If both Winning and Losing Cards are the same, and match one of the chosen cards, half the bet is lost.

High Card: A bet that the Winning Card will be of higher rank than the Losing card. This bet is made with the dealer by giving them the chips and saying “With the High Card”.

Odd/Even Card: A bet that the Winning Card will be odd or even. This bet is placed with the dealer, giving him the chips and saying “With Odd” or “With Even”.

Coppering: A player may Copper on any bet by placing their penny on top of the chips. This denotes that they are betting with the Losing Card instead of the Winning Card. In a Flat Bet, it means you’re betting that the Losing Card will be of the chosen value. In a High Card bet, it is a bet that the Losing Card will be Higher than the Winning Card. And in an Odd or Even Bet, it’s a bet that the Losing Card will be “With Odd”, or “With Even”.

Turn: This bet can only be placed at the end of a game, when only the last three cards remain in the deck. Since all played cards can be seen, players know which three cards remain. To bet the Turn, tell the dealer the order you believe the last three cards will be played in. If correct, a Turn bet pays 4-to-1.


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