The Game that Won (and Sometimes Lost) the West
It’s not often I stumble across a topic that indulges both my interest in the Regency era and in the American West.
Today, I’m talking about gambling and the game of faro.
Last week, my blogaholism brought me an interesting article about gambling in the Georgian era. Readers of Regency era fiction know that gambling is a frequent preoccupation of the characters who inhabit that fictional world. That was true too for the real gentlemen and ladies of the era who visited clubs and gaming hells or set up games in their own drawing rooms. Charles James Fox is said to have lost 200,000 pounds in gambling over the course of his life, and the Duchess of Devonshire an equally exorbitant amount.
One of the most popular games for these aristocrats was faro, a game that, like most wicked things of the period, originated in France. In The Georgian Art of Gambling, author Claire Cock-Starkey says that faro was so popular among women that two titled ladies ran faro banks in their own homes.
And the game crossed the Atlantic. Old western movies have characters pulling their pistols over poker, but in reality the most popular game in the American west was faro. In Wyatt Earp, author Casey Tefertiller relates the story of Earp protecting a gambler, Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce, a nickname derived from a favorite faro play. Earp himself ran a faro bank at the saloon he’d invested in, Tombstone’s Oriental.
This was obviously a game for the high,
and the low.
If you’re wondering how to play, here’s the game, according to Hoyle. Wikipedia also has a lengthy explanation of not only how to play faro, but also how to cheat at it. It won’t be useful in Vegas, since faro is no longer played there, but if you’re writing Regency or Westerns stories, this is a great resource!
Have you heard of faro before? Did you know it was popular in the West? I love hearing from readers!