Electric Faro Box

Back in the 1800s when electricity was new, there were claims that Faro boxes rigged with electrical current used to manipulate the cards removed from the box were being used to fleece gamblers. Sounds unlikely to me. Read the article and decide for yourself


7/30/20223 min read

The Electric Faro Box

April 7, 1870 The Tennessean – from the New York Sun

A Novel Invention In The Gambling World

One of the most ingenious inventions for fraud and deceit ever introduced to the sporting fraternity has been recently placed on private exhibition for the inspection of a few select gamblers. it consists of an electric Faro box so constructed as to permit cards to be secretly drawn, at the will of the dealer, without the possibility of the manner in which the movement is made being detected. It will be necessary first to say to those who have never fought the tiger that Faro box is a very simple affair, usually made of some kind of metal, and is used to hold the cards which are presumed to be drawn similarly while the game is being played, until the whole pack is exhausted. Every second card shown except the first card which is called soda wins throughout the game. The first card shown loses.

This is the rule, although there are a few technical exceptions. The box is usually about four inches by three inches in size, and is fitted with springs which press the cards to the top, once they are released by being pressed through a slot. In all square games but one card is passed through the slot at a time, although there are accommodation boxes which permit more being drawn.

Cheating is thought to be quite as dishonorable among professional gamblers as among gentlemen who never gamble, but if the thing can be reduced to a science, then it becomes a mere matter of skill; and this is the light in which some view the recent invention.

The electric Faro box is very similar in construction to the box now in ordinary use among gamblers, except that it is invariably made of steel or iron, and the springs for pressing the cards up are spiral instead of elliptic. Through one of these springs runs a wire which controls the magnet in the box. The table upon which the box rests is fitted in the usual plain way with the layout, the check rack, and cases. Upon the layout however depends very much obviously success of the fraud. This unpretending article is usually only a board covered with cloth, but upon which is fashioned one of each several denominations of cards in a full pack. These cards when used in connection with the electric Faro box are oxidized and placed upon the cloth in such a way as to completely dispel all suspicion of their character. This is part of the secret of the invention, and it's claimed to be an entirely new thing in the science of electricity. Attached to these cards, and running from each separately are fine copper wires, which are placed under the layout board and rundown through one of the table legs, which they connect with the battery under the floor.

The cards used maybe of the common kind, but before being placed in the box they are immersed in a powerful magnetic solution, which is also held as a secret. When the game is about to open and the dealer takes his seat, the table has the appearance of a very ordinary piece of gambling furniture. The box is produced and placed upon the table, immediately over a strip of oxidized cloth, highly charged with electricity and the game begins. All the cards being magnetized, both in and out-of-the-box, the current of electricity is made by a magnet skillfully adjusted in the box, which is always under the control of the dealer. As all money at the Faro bank is usually represented by chips, some weight is placed upon a card when a bet of any importance is made (10 or a dozen chips will weigh several ounces). So sensitive are the cards on the layout that the slightest pressure is at once telegraphed to the representative cards in the box, and in consequence of their becoming magnetized they cannot be made to win unless the dealer breaks the current of electricity.

This is done by an ingenious contrivance which detaches the magnet in the box, when the current is off. Otherwise the cards, having been prepared for the purpose, would come out in pairs or doubles, very much after the fashion of braces using all skin games. This is not easy of explanation, except that every card on the layout corresponds with four similar cards in the pack, and that they are severely magnetized, so that any card upon which a bed is made must lose if permitted to come out double with another card. This is done through the slot which is so arranged that a slight piece of steel can be moved as to increase or deep diminish the aperture. In this matter can the deal be changed a proceeding that all gamblers will readily understand.