Faro was undoubtedly one of the most popular card games of the 18th century, especially among the lower classes. Although both faro and Basset were forbidden in France, on severe penalties, these games continued to be in great vogue in England during the 18th century; apparently because it was easy to learn, it gave the appearance of being very fair, and, lastly, it was a very quiet, quick game, and could be played discreetly. “Our life here,” writes Gilly Williams to George Selwyn in 1752, “would not displease you, for we eat and drink well, and the Earl of Coventry holds a Pharaoh-bank every night to us, which we have plundered considerably.” Charles James Fox preferred faro to any other game, as did american con man Soapy Smith. It was said that every faro table in Soapy’s Tivoli Club, in Denver, Colorado in 1889 was gaffed (made to cheat). Faro was played all over the United States, by the rich and the poor, during the 19th century.
Faro’s detractors regarded it as a dangerous scam that destroyed families and reduced men to poverty. This reputation is likely due to the use by some bankers of rigged dealing boxes that allowed the banker to manipulate the draw of the cards after observing the players’ bets.
Faro bankers were alleged to employ ‘gentlemen’ to give a very favourable report of the game to the town, so that the games would be allowed to transpire without further inquiry.
Video: History of Gambling in America – part 1 of 5