The year is 1890 in Bishee, Arizona. The air is dry and the wooden sign reading "Orient Saloon" is splintered and cracked. Stock promoters, road agents and con-men sit at a tension filled table, liable to erupt into a sudden shoot-out. Tony, the proprietor, keeping a close watchful eye on the singer, Nifty' Doyle, as Murphy, the dealer, puts down the losing card; a Queen of Spades. Mining stocks and life savings go to the lucky dealer in the black fedora. "A fine game!" said the players," (Pushkin 182). Again, never losing a beat, the dealer collects bets.
Faro was undoubtedly one of the most popular card games during the eighteenth century. The rules of the game were simple. The dealer held a complete fifty-two card deck, from which he drew cards, one for himself, placed on the right, and the other placed on the left. The dealer won all the money stacked on the card on the right, and had to pay double the sums stacked on those on the left. With the simplicity of the game, it was easy to pinpoint its appeal. Yet detractors regarded it as a dangerous scam that destroyed families and reduced men to poverty and insanity.
During the early 1860's, saloons across America knew about the Faro's Suicide Table.' This table was famous because three of the table's owners suffered such heavy losses that they committed suicide, giving the table its bad reputation. The first owner said to have lost $70,000 in one evening, and shot himself. In 1890, the third owner lost over $86,000, shot himself, and the table has never been used again, (Faro).
The insanity caused by Faro's simple appeal can be seen in Pushkin's original story, "The Queen of Spades." In this story Hermann, a young soldier, is haunted by the rumor of a mysterious secret from the elderly countess, Hermann seduces her ward, Lizaveta, to gain access to her. His dreams seen thwarted when he frightens her to death before she can reveal it, but he is then visited by her ghost, who orders...