Faro is a wonderful game that, after dominating the world of wagering games for over a century, has sadly all but disappeared. My understanding is that cheating by dealers and use of gaffed (rigged) equipment had become so common that nobody was willing to put down money on it anymore. The last few faro tables in Las Vegas disappeared in the 1980s.
A layout is used, with one of each card from a single suit (generally spades) glued to it or otherwise represented on it, as in the photo at right. One card is dealt to the player and one to the banker, as in baccarat, except that it’s only one card each. Bets placed on or near the card dealt to the player win; bets placed on or near the card dealt to the banker lose, unless they have been “coppered” by having a small (usually) copper token placed on top of them, making them essentially bets for the banker, in which case they also win.
Card counting is built into the game, and takes the form of an abacus-like device called a case keeper (also seen in the photo), which is used to identify which cards have already been dealt out of the single deck used for the game. (Incidentally, if this idea is particularly appealing to you, allow me to strongly recommend using that silly scorecard that they provide in baccarat to keep track of which cards have been dealt out of the shoe. Although, of course, this gets you only halfway there — you would then need to determine a way to utilize that information in a game where a hand consists of two to three cards and nobody can bust and face cards mean nothing.)
If the dealer drew two cards of the same rank (a “doublet”), he took half the stake placed on or near that card on the layout. This was the game’s only source of house edge, another reason for casinos phasing it out. I saw an article where a casino executive said that he could make more money by having any other game occupying the space taken up by a faro table.
For lack of “real”, live faro games available, I’ve tried a few different electronic faro games recently. I got Reel Deal’s Gold Rush casino game only because it included faro. Its faro game wasn’t bad, although the case keeper being built into the layout was kind of strange. Everybody gets their own single color for their chips, like in roulette. The human player always gets purple (other colors are played by bots). Bets can be coppered and all of the essentials of the game are there. This is more than I can say for either their baccarat or dragon bonus baccarat games, which will only allow you to bet on the player or banker or tie, never player or banker and tie — in the Reel Deal version of baccarat, you can only place one bet on the layout at a time, so forget about using the tie bet as a hedge.
I do really really like the stats provided in the lower left-hand corner by Reel Deal, showing number of games played, won, and lost, amounts of money wagered, won, and lost, and percentage return on bets. I really wish that the superior Hoyle casino games included this feature. It would be so much more useful than the box Hoyle provides in that space, which tells you when the bots are thinking. Seriously. That’s all it does.
I discovered a free flash faro game that I like a lot better than Reel Deal’s. It’s called Wichita Faro, and includes an optional tutorial for those unfamiliar with the game. I like the graphics much better than Reel Deal’s, and the case keeper especially looks cool. So this one gets my vote as far as electronic faro games are concerned. Although, I’ve also discovered, but haven’t tried, Arizona Faro, which is a free download that, again, I haven’t tried, and therefore can’t vouch for. From the screenshots, I’d say that Wichita Faro is still probably your best bet. You can play Wichita Faro for free here.
Remarkably, Wichita Faro even manages to outdo Reel Deal on the Old West theme, which is what Reel Deal was going for in Gold Rush. (I especially liked the antique cards.) The dealer’s voice is funny and not used frequently enough to be annoying. I really like the game and, until someone can point me at a live faro bank, it’s the faro game that I recommend.