A game of faro was often called a ‘faro bank.’ It was played with an entire pack of playing cards, and admitted of an indeterminate number of players, termed ‘punters,’ and a ‘banker.’ Chips (called ‘checks’) were purchased by the punter from the banker or house from which the game originated. Bet values and limits were set by the house. Usual check values were 50 cents to $10. each.
The faro table was square, with a distinguished cut-out for the ‘banker.’ A board with a standardized betting layout consisting of one card of each denomination pasted to it, called ‘the layout,’ was placed on top of the table. (Traditionally, the suit of spades was used for the 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. Players also had the choice of betting on ‘the high card’ located at the top of ‘the layout.’
A deck of cards was placed face-up inside a ‘dealing box,’ a mechanical shoe used to prevent manipulations of the draw by the banker, and was supposed to assure players of a fair game. Many sporting house supply companies sold gaffed dealing box, that were made so that the banker could cheat. The first card in the dealing box is called the ‘top card,’ and is “burned” off, leaving 51 cards in play. As the ‘top card’ is pulled out of the dealing box, it exposes the first card in play, which is called the ‘banker’s card,’ and placed on the right side of the dealing box in the other, called the carte anglaise, or English card, and simply called the ‘player’s card’ in the United States for the players, placed on the left.
The banker collects on all the money staked on the card laid on the right, and had to pay double the sums staked on those on the card remaining on the left (in the dealing box). In modern betting terms, the payoff on these winning wagers was “2 for 1”, which is the same as odds of “1 to 1”, also called “even money”.
A player could “copper” their bet by placing an octagon shaped token called a “copper.” Some histories claim a penny was sometimes used in place of a copper. This reversed the meaning of the win/loss piles for that particular bet. An abaccus-like device, called a “case keep” is employed to assist the players and prevent dealer cheating by counting cards. The operator of the case keep is called the “case keeper.”
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 equalled the doublet. In a fair game, this provided the only house edge.
If the banker drew for the players the last card of the pack, he was exempt from doubling the stakes deposited on that card. In most cases, when 3 cards remained, the dealer would offer a specialized bet called “betting the turn.” This bet offers a 5 for 1 payout if the players can identify the exact order of the last 3 cards.