When most people think of gambling in the old west Poker comes to mind. However, despite what many modern westerns would have us believe, the king of the felted green was Faro. Today, the game has been all but forgotten but from 1825 to 1915 it was the most popular game of chance around.
Created and named Pharoh by the French in the early 1700’s it was eventually banned, but not before it spread to England. It was here that Pharo (the British Spelling) gained wide popularity due to its simple rules, fast pace, and player friendly odds. By the time it reached America the name had been further shortened to Faro and given the colorful description of “bucking the tiger” due to early Faro card backs which depicted a tiger in mid-leap. It was also in America where Faro cheating was the most rampant. In fact,Hoyle’s Rules of Games began their Faro section by warning readers that not a single honest Faro game could be found in the United States. Despite this, the game was extraordinarily long lived; the last Faro game was in 1985 in Reno, NV. It would seem that many shared the same love of Faro as the infamous Canada Bill Jones who said, “I know it’s crooked, but it’s the only game in town.”