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A game of Pharo, Johann Baptist Raunacher (1729–1771), Eggenberg Palace in Graz. In this picture can be seen that the player (second from right) has bent up by it occupied a corner of the Asses: so she indicates that she the banker offers Paroli .
Faro Lot, New Jersey about 1889
Pharo plays an important role in Tchaikovsky's opera Queen of Spades.

Pharo , Pharao , French Pharaon , in the USA and Canada Faro (see here ) or Faro Bank is a game of chance with French cards .

The name of the game is explained in such a way that one of the kings in the card game was depicted as a pharaoh and this card was considered to be particularly auspicious, which is why it was used most often - whether this explanation is correct cannot be determined today.


A game similar to the Pharo is Landsknecht , which emerged at the time of the Thirty Years War and is probably to be regarded as a forerunner, as well as the games Temple and the later Bassette . This is already (almost) identical to the Pharo, Bassette is said to have been invented in Venice and introduced to France by Justiniani, the envoy of the Serenissima in Paris, in the second half of the 17th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pharo was one of the most popular card games in Europe.

Daniel Bernoulli and Leonhard Euler wrote mathematical works on the Pharospiel. Pharo is also often mentioned in literary terms, e.g. E.g. in the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova , in the novel The Elixirs of the Devil and the novella Gamblers' Luck by ETA Hoffmann , in Michail Lermontov's drama Masquerade or William Makepeace Thackeray's The Memoirs of Junker Barry Lyndon - in the film Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick is a society at the Pharo game - as well as in Lion Feuchtwanger's Jud Suess .

The play scenes in the operas Les Contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach , Manon by Jules Massenet and Pique Dame by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, based on Alexander Pushkin 's story of the same name, show people at Pharo - in each of these operas Pharo is explicitly mentioned by name, at the play in Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata is likely to be a Pharo variant.

Pharo was probably introduced to the New World by French emigrants at the end of the 18th century, the French name Pharaon was shortened to Faro . Faro was the most popular game of chance in the Wild West in the 19th century before it was supplanted by poker - gold diggers pass their time playing Faro and poker in Giacomo Puccini's opera La fanciulla del West . The city of Faro in Yukon in northwest Canada is named after the card game. The Faro banks were marked by a sign with the image of a tiger; the expression “bucking a tiger” reminds us of that for wasting money.

Even if Pharo is hardly known even today, this game lives on in many terms and expressions , e.g. B. defy , Va banque play etc.

The game

The basic rules

Pharo is played with two packs of 52-hand French playing cards. The two playing parties are on the one hand the banker , on the other hand up to four punchers who play against the former.

Each pointeur receives a book (livret) from the banker, i.e. the 13 cards of one suit , e.g. B.  A,  2, ...,  K, as a bet scheme.

Before the start of the game, the banker puts his cash register (bank) in front of him on the table and determines the minimum bet, the point . To place a bet, the pointer places his bet on the corresponding card in his book. If a pointeur wants to risk a stake equal to the amount in the bank, he announces it with the words “Va banque!” Or “Va tout!” .

The banker then takes the second pack of cards, the talon , shuffles, lets one of the punchers take off and tells the players which card is the last ( en bas , en face ). After the punchers have wagered on one or more of their cards at will, the banker pulls two sheets of paper from the pack of cards one after the other ( deduction , coup ) and places them face to face on the table in front of him.

The first card of each pair is for the banker, the second for the punchers, i.e. H. the banker wins all bets of the players on those cards which correspond in rank to the card drawn first regardless of the color ; the punchers receive a profit equal to their stake (i.e. they win at a ratio of 1: 1) if they have occupied the second card of a draw. The stakes on the other values ​​remain unchanged - they may at best be increased, but never decreased.

If a card falls plié , ie two cards of equal rank (doublet) are drawn in a coup , the banker receives half of the stakes on this card. Furthermore, the banker receives the bets that are allocated to the first card of the last deduction, ie the 51st card, while the last card never wins - it was shown before the start of the game.

The withdrawal of all 52 cards by 26 coups is called waistline .

A card that wins several times in a row or particularly often in the course of an evening is called a carte favorite , as in The Elixirs of the Devil by ETA Hoffmann.

Further rules


Lappé (possibly from laper : French for licking), La paix (French for peace) or Paix for short : If a player has won and wants to bet on the same card again, he can temporarily forego the payment of his winnings and play Lappé . If he wins, he receives double the original rate as a win; if he loses, he gets the original sentence back (double ou quitte) .

If the lappé has won, the player can risk his winnings again and repeat the lappé (double lappé) : If he wins again, he now receives four times the original rate as a win; if he loses, he gets the original bet back.


If a pointeur has won with one card, he can play Paroli , i. H. For the time being, forego collecting the winnings and put them back on the line with the original rate - this is indicated by the player by bending one corner of the card upwards.

If the Paroli wins, the player receives three times the original rate from the bank.

From this derives the phrase “stand up to someone” or - used less often today - “turn someone up”, which means something like “to oppose someone” or “try to thwart someone's plans through unexpected measures”.

(Source: Meyers Konversationslexikon from 1908)

Multiple paroli

Sept et le va

If the paroli has won, the pointer can again offer paroli with the announcement “Sept et le va!” . If he wins again, he receives seven times his original rate.

Quinze et le va

If the player wins the Sept et le va , he can play Paroli again with the announcement “Quinze et le va!” And if he wins, he receives fifteen times the original rate.

Bank advantage

Let us assume that a player - regardless of which value is en face - bets on a certain card at the beginning of a waistline, for example on the king - and lets the bet play unchanged until this card appears for the first time ( and then no longer wagers in the game until the end of the waist).

With this style of play

  • the player wins a unit with a probability of 48.02%,
  • if the player loses a unit with a probability of 48.02%,
  • the player loses half a unit with a probability of 3.96%.

In other words, the bank advantage is just 1.98%.

Leonhard Euler also gives this value ; this value is of course only to be understood as a guideline: the bank advantage changes after each individual withdrawal depending on how many cards of the value occupied and how many cards in total are still in the face-down cards of the pile.

For comparison: With the multiple chances of (European) roulette the bank advantage is 2.7%, with the single chances 1.35%.


Tableau of a Faro table from "The Merry Gamester: A Practical Guide to the most popular card, dice and board games of the English speaking world, from ancient times to 1900 , 1903

If five players, i.e. a banker and four punchers, take part in a Pharopartie, you use two packs of 52 sheets, and each punchtor receives his own book as described above. If more than four punchers take part, the banker places the thirteen pique cards from a package as a tableau ( layout ) and proceeds as usual with a 52 package.

In this latter form, the game became particularly popular in the Wild West, but the American Faro differs from the European Pharo in the way it is processed and additional betting options (see Faro article ).

Jewish Faro or Stuss , like Pharo or Faro, is played with 52 hands, but in the case of a split ( i.e. the English name for carte plié ) the banker wins the full stake and not just half. The bank advantage is therefore 3.96%.

The variant known in Vienna as struck , my aunt, your aunt or Naschi Waschi is played with only 32 cards, and the bank collects the full stake in the case of a carte plié . In this rather predatory type of game, assuming the above-mentioned style of play, the following applies:

  • The player wins a unit with a probability of 46.72%.
  • There is a 53.28% probability that the player will lose a unit.

In other words, the bank advantage here is as much as 6.56%.


Individual evidence

  1. Barry Lyndon, screenplay by Stanley Kubrick
  2. ^ History of the city of Faro, Yukon ( Memento from May 16, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ Leonhard Euler: Sur l'avantage du banquier au jeu de Pharaon. In: Mémoires de l'académie de sciences de Berlin 20, 1766, pp. 144–164 ( online with English translation )