"faro"<"pharaoh", formerly Re: "dude" et al.

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Dec 10 21:34:24 UTC 2004

Bill Mullins quotes from an article on "the faro shuffle" by S. Brent
Morris published in a magician's magazine, but says that the references
to the historical statements he quotes are in a sequel which he doesn't
have.  He also cites Morris's book Magic Tricks, Card
> Shuffling,and Dynamic Computer Memories, but does not own it.

The book is published by the Mathematical Assn. of America and is
available in the library here -- I will not say "available in better
libraries everywhere", because I reserve that expression for strange
and borderline useless books that are in the library here only because
I came upon them and sent through a purchase order.   The useful books
I order here are likely to be stolen, or at the least read until they
fall apart.  My legacy to future generations of NYU library users will
be the collection fo strange and marginally useless books I ahve
bought, and I tend to that legacy ceaselessly.

But I digress.

The source given for the statement that faro evolved in 18th century
France and "supposedly" took its name from a picture of a pharaoh on a
card is The Oxford Guide to Card Games, by David Parlett, 1990, p. 78.
The source for the statement as to its popularity in America is John
Scarne, Scarne's New Complete Guide to Gambling, 1986, p. 267.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

"We have seen the best of our time.  Machinations, hollowness,
treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our
graves."  King Lear, Act 1, scene 2 (Gloucester speaking).

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL>
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2004 1:10 am
Subject: Re: "dude" et al.

> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> >Sent: 12/8/2004 8:29 PM
> >Subject: "dude" et al.
> >
> >3) For the card game "Faro"---Is there any explanation for why it
> should>be named for Pharaoh?  If so, then the the hypothesis of an
> Irish>etymology would be wholly unnecessary. On the other hand,...
> The post of a week or so ago said that it came from a picture of a
> Pharaohon a playing card, but a follow up post said that no such
> deck is known.
> S. Brent Morris, "On the Faro Shuffle, Part One," _The Linking
> Ring_, vol 77
> no. 11 Nov 1997, p.77.
> "The perfect shuffle traces its roots to an old card game Faro and
> is still
> referred to by magicians as the Faro Shuffle.  The origins of the
> game of
> Faro are unclear, but by 1726, _The Whole Art and Myster of Modern
> Gaming_had a chapter devoted to "The Description of a Pharo-Bank,
> with the Expences
> and Attendants." [ANONYMOUS, 1726]  According to John Scarne, Faro
> was the
> most popular gambling-house game from shortly after the Louisiana
> Purchasein 1803 until craps succeeded it in the early 1900's.
> [SCARNE, 1986, 267]
> Out West the game was advertised with a sign showing a tiger and
> playingagainst a Faro bank was known as "bucking the tiger."  The
> game evolved in
> 18th-century France and its name supposedly came from one of the
> cards of
> the pack at the time bearing the picture of a pharaoh [PARLETT,
> 1990, 78]. "
> The details of the references above are in Part Two of the article
> which was
> in the December issue, which I have misplaced.  Morris gives
> credit to
> magician/mathematician/MacArthur grantee ("genius award") Persi
> Diaconis for
> running down the obscure references and discovering them.  John
> Scarne was a
> gambler/magician who gained fame from teaching soldiers in WWII
> how to spot
> and avoid gambling scams and cheats; see his autobiographies "The Odds
> Against Me" and "The Amazing World of John Scarne".  It is
> Scarne's hands
> that perform the fancy card flourishes and moves in the movie "The
> Sting" --
> he subbed for both Paul Newman and for Robert Shaw.
> Morris's articles are excerpts from his book _Magic Tricks, Card
> Shuffling,and Dynamic Computer Memories_, which I don't own, and
> may provide more
> leads for tracing the history of the game and the word as it
> applies to a
> shuffle.

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