Faro is one of the oldest banking games still around
today. I is said to be of Italian origin and was the favorite game of European Royalty and all Aristocracy in the 16th,
17th and 18th centuries. The game found it's way to America by way of New Orleans late in the 18th century.
Faro was played in nearly every town west
of the Mississippi and to be a Faro Dealer was one of the most honored and lucrative professions of the era. Many of
the famous names from the old west, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Luke Short, Ben Thompson, Soapy Smith and Bat Masterson made
a living at times running a Faro Bank. The players (called punters) considered it an investment, they put money in the
Faro Bank and nearly fifty per cent of the time they would double their money. On the losing end of that 50% men were
broken to ruin or even killed. It is a very simple to understand, fast paced game that the cowboys and miners grew attached
to. The dealers were many times more than just a card shark, they often were versed in reciting sonnets of literature,
reporting on current events or primarily (other than the dance hall girls) they were the entertainment of saloon.
Playing cards of the day had no numbers. But
with Faro the dealer only played one card at a time, so no numbers were needed. When poker became popular they invented
cards with numbers that they called squeezers because a player could see all of his cards all squeezed together.
In the late 19th century several companies
became wealthy by making gambling equipment, especially Faro gear. Will & Finck, H.C. Evans, Geo Mason, Ball &
Ball, B.C. Wills and many more had extensive catalogs to order the equipment through the mail.
Although the portable Faro outfit brought
the game to any table top, Gambling Halls became the place to be, offering Craps, Roulette, Hazard, Chuck a Luck, The Wheel
of Fortune and a variety of other popular gambling games.
Because the odds of Faro were so even a dealer
had to figure out ways to stretch them a bit in his favor. So cheating became a common practice both by the dealer and
the punter. Even the big Casino Furniture companies would make and sell gaffed dealer boxes and accesories to aid in
cheating. The best of the dealers had the slight of hand cheating movements toned to perfection. But if you were
caught, there would be hell to pay.
In a professional game of Faro it takes three
Faro Bank workers. The dealer had a man keeping the Case box sitting directly across from him. The case keeper
or "coffin" would kept count of every card played. Seated in a tall chair to the left of the dealer was the
lookout. He watched the playing board for any cheating movements and sat over the check rack, with all the chips and
money, as a guard. If the house was to cheat, all three had to be in on it.
By the early decades of the 20th century those
Gambling Halls became Casinos. Faro was played however, because the odds were to close to even, the game of Faro nearly
died out in the late 1940s.
Famous Faro Dealers
Gamblers of the day were known as Sporting Men. As gambling saloons go,
three come to my mind that were the greatest. The Long Branch Saloon of Dodge City, The Oriental Saloon of Tombstone
and the White Elephant Saloon of Fort Worth Texas. All three have one thing in common, Luke Short.
The Dodge City Peace Commission
In the above photograph are most of the primary partners in the
greatest Faro syndicate of old. "The Saloon Ticket". This photograph was taken in 1883, when these men
came to the aid of Luke Short in what was called The Dodge City War. These men built and ran the gambling operations
for both the Long Branch Saloon of Dodge and The Oriental Saloon of Tombstone. It is little known that when Wyatt Earp
bought into the Faro business at the Oriental he brought in his team of elite professional gamblers. Bill Harris, Bat
Masterson and Luke Short. Standing from left to right are BILL HARRIS (the co-owner and originator of the
Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Dodge City mayoral candidate, Tombstone Oriental Saloon partner and Gambling Hall partner
of Luke Short in Fort Worth Texas) LUKE SHORT (The best and most famous Faro dealer of all time, co-owner of the Long Branch
Saloon in Dodge City and the White Elephant Saloon in Fort Worth Texas) BAT MASTERSON (Lawman and Faro dealer, who lived into
the 20th century as one of the most important sporting men of the era), and William Petillon (Business associate and lawyer).
Seated from left to right, Charlie Bassett (Lawman and Faro Dealer) and Wyatt Earp (Lawman, Faro dealer, western legend),Frank
McLean (Faro Dealer) and Neil Brown (Lawman and Faro Dealer).
life and times of the Gambler Gunfighter Luke Short has been the inspiration of Pharo Bank.