Cribbage, though sometimes played by three or four, is also customarily a poker game for two.  It has several forms, but the five-six-, and seven come eleven versions are the most popular.  The object in all versions is to achieve a certain number of points (the score is kept by advancing counters on a board ) by collecting different combinations of cards and discarding those that will be less advantageous when the hand is played and there is a show of cards.
As in bridge, the stakes in any of these games are rarely very high; but in a long game a considerable amount of money may change hands.  A bezique enthusiast of my acquaintance challenged his wife to a game of a million up with stakes of one shilling a hundred points.  The game lasted three and a half years and during that time one or the other was often many thousands of points down.  But the final settlement was for four shillings and sixpence only-which at least demonstrates that in a long run (though it is but a relatively short part of the long run) the chances tend to even themselves out.

A 19th-century Eskimo ribbage board from Alaska.  The score in cribbage (usually a game for only two players) is recorded by pegs’ being moved along the two rows of holes on either side of the board 60 holes for each player.


Faro-perhaps the oldest “banking” game in the world has only recently been replaced (by cheating baccarat and craps) as the most popular casino gamble in Europe and America.  Right, a faro game in Reno, Nevada, during the 1920s.  Players place their bets on the faro layout (far left), painted with a  suit of cards, usually Spades.  The banker deals two cards: Players with money staked on the first card win; any bets on the second card go to the bank.  (Players may bet with the bank, in which case they win on the second card go to the bank.   (Players may bet with bank, in which case they win on the second card and lose on the first.) bets can also be laid on a card’s being odd or even; and, in the last round, on the sequence of the three cards that remain.  Cards that have been dealt are recorded on the dealer’s counting rack (left) by moving the four wooden markers beside each card.  The positions of the various bets are showin by the blue counters (far left 0; A is staked on the six- “winner”; B on the four- “loser”; C isa “split” between the two and the Queen; D is staked on the odd.

The 17th century was undoubtedly the hothouse in which all the great card gambling games were nurtured –faro , trente et quarante, baccarat, chemin de fer, vingtet-un, and poker as well as number of other games that have long since vanished or been given different forms, like wit-and-reason, bankafalet, bassette, gleek, bone-ace, and five-cards. But their heyday lasted a century or more and colored vividly the gambling scene.
Bassette, the great banking game that gave way to faro, was invented by Pietro Celina, a Venetian, about 1593.  It took Italy, Spain, and France by storm and caused such havoc among the fortunes of the rich that complaints were laid against Celina and he was banished to Corsica.  The king of France (Henry of Navarre ) and the pope (Paul V) both issued edicts forbidding the game unless the banker was noble birth (which seems a strange solution, since it was the noble who were doing all the complaining).  As played in France the game flourished well into the 17th century, edict or no.  in England small and large stakes were permitted and there were no edicts.  In fact, after his restoration Charles II put it around that bassette losses were fashionably laudable, perhaps because his own had made some steep inroads into the treasury.
Then came faro.  The exact time when it took over from bassette in the European gaming rooms is uncertain, but it and the older game were certainly running side by side during the middle years of the 17th century.  In bassette, basically, each player bets that his chosen card will turn up in a deal before the cards that are the dealer’s choice.  Faro is broadly the same.  Thirteen cards runmmy games from ace to deuce are painted on the layout (suits are irrelevant) and players bet on cards of their choice.  The banker draws one card at a time from a dealing box: The first card is not bet on; the next is a losing card; and the next is a winning card.  The deal continues thus, alternate losing and winning.  Players bet on each card- i.e.,whether it will win or lose.  If the banker draws successively two cards of the same value, he takes half the bet on that card.  A gadget like an abacus keeps track of dealt cards, so players can know what cards remain. When three are left (the “last turn”), players bet on the order of their appearance.

Faro requires almost as little kill as chase-the-ace, but as it became more and more popular the players needed a good deal of skill to stop the cheating tactics of bankers.  Marked cards, sleight-of-hand dealing, etc., became highly important in faro, because the banker could then deal cards that were to his advantage.
Although cheating has a history as old as gambling, it might be said that it became really worth while in the big banking winning seven card games .  Conjurers who had amused audiences at fairs and entertainments found a new outlet for their prestidigitations.  Chemists and opticians came to the aid of sharper with bleaching and other marking processes, including cards with luminous spots on their backs that revealed their face value but that were visible only when viewed through specially tinted spectacles.  And codes of signals between bankers and collaborators among the onlookers became school boyish in their complexity.  All these methods, and numerous elaborations of them, are still used today.  You need only riffle through the catalogues of carnival outfitters to find endless varieties of cheating packs, gadgets, and signal codes “for entertainment only.”  (One recent optical development is a contact lens form of the tinted spectacles for reading the luminous betraying cards, at $ 300 a pair.)
The faro days were a gambler’s paradise.  The whole world seemed faro-mad.  Pawnshops glittered with jewels whisked into custody by wealthy women –and their husbands –to raise money.  Robbery with violence was rife in the dark alleys of every town that had a gaming house.  Fortune tellers specialized in a new branch of their art that conveniently foretold the cards the banker would turn up for the players.  Syndicates found surprising amounts of money from surprising sources to furnish and equip gaming houses.  (One of them, in Hamburg, was floated on the profits from the huge sales of a periscopic device enabling voyeurs to peer into upstairs windows from downstairs apartments.)
Though the game eventually became a standby of gamblers on every social level, it was at first the favorite of the glamorous and fashionable society gamblers.  One leader of 18th century British society, Mrs.  Fanny Westmacott, remarked in a letter: “The game of pharoh has stolen from society much of the fashion of assemblies and balls, but it is an advancement that society is hereby grouped into houses every bit as genteel and with better opportunity for the close proximity of suitable ladies and gentlemen.”

In Paris, the First Secretary at the British Embassy thought it worthwhile to inform his government in diplomatic correspondence that “Agents would be well placed at the faro tables here, for nowhere else is there quite such a splendor of foreign ladies and gentlemen revealing quite so much of the fortunes of their countries.”  And in Lyons an enterprising coachbuilder named Chabrier put on the market a highly successful carriage that he called a dormouse.   It was fitted with a bed and was specially designed for faro game players exhausted from gambling, who could thus snatch a few hours’ sleep without bothering to go home.