The Faro Shuffle is a technique of shuffling in which every other card is perfectly interlaced that is easier to learn than it seems.
A perfect Faro Shuffle starts out with the magician splitting the deck into equal halves, holding one in each hand. The inner corners are pressed together until the built-up pressure forces them to spring together and interweave.
If the shuffle is done perfectly, each stack will contain 26 cards and there will be no two cards from the same packet next to each other. This means that if you separated the blacks cards from the reds, and shuffled them in a perfect faro, there would be no two cards of the same color next each other.
Eight perfect "Out Faro" Shuffles will return the deck to the same order in which it started. This seems impossible, but mathematics makes it work and create the illusion of a thoroughly shuffled when in fact nothing has been changed at all. And 52 perfect "In Faro" shuffles will return the deck to the same order in which it started.
There is a huge amount of literature in the magic world related to tricks with the Faro Shuffle. Some tricks require only one shuffle, such as Paul LePaul's "Gymnastic Aces" and Ken Krenzel's "Bullet Trick." Other tricks require several. Few require more than three or four. Alex Elmsley, Edward Marlo, Harry Lorayne, and Harry Riser are among those who have published a great deal of information and tricks using the Faro Shuffle.
According to gambling expert Geno Munari, in the game of Faro, it was very important that the players and the dealer did not get a single flash of any card that was in the deck. If the dealer knew the position of a card it would be very easy to know a winning card or a losing card. So the early Faro operators devised a technique of shuffling that made it virtually impossible to see indices or card face values.
The first method is accomplished as follows: The cards would be squared up on the layout and then separated into two equal packets and butted together at the short ends, as a normal table riffle shuffle would begin. Instead of bringing up the inner corners of the cards to allow each side (left and right) to be sprung from the thumbs on to each other in a weave like pattern, the two butted ends are basically woven into each other by an extremely quick appliance of pressure and a slight movement and twisting of the packets, without being lifted off the table. The thumbs are on the sides of the packets and the forefingers on the backs of each packet. The movement happens very quickly and almost impossible to explain in print. The interlace begins at the bottom and goes to the top. One must just try it. The dealing layout also helps facilitate the movements of the cards with the latitude of cushion under the cards. The cards literally do not leave the table, thus not one card pip or index can be determined. A perfect interlace can occur with this shuffle.
Shuffling checks (chips) with one hand was a common thing that a dealer would do with no action on the table. The players would also shuffle checks even during the course of play. Someone early on figured that if you had a stack of checks, say red and green, that after a certain amount of shuffles they would return to the original stacked order. That discovery led to the idea of shuffling the cards perfectly eight times to return to the original order. Hence the Faro Shuffle was created to arrange the order of the cards from random to a predicted order.
The second method of the Faro shuffle very closely resembles the first method: After the cards are split into two different packets and butted together on the table, they are grasped by the ends by the thumbs and second fingers on the sides. The first finger lies on top of the backs, and then the cards are lifted slightly off the table just enough to start the interlace. In this method the interlace begins on the top and goes to the bottom. It is very showy.
Descriptions of the faro shuffles were appearing in books by at least 1894.
- Koschitz's Manual of Useful Information (1894)
- Maskelyne’s Sharps and Flats (1894)
- S. Victor Innis' Inner Secrets of Crooked Card Players (1915)
- Card Manipulations No. 3, Weaving the Cards (Butt Faro) (1934)
- Expert Card Technique - The Perfect Faro Shuffle, page 143-154 (1940)
- Pentagram Mathematics of the Weave Shuffle by Alex Elmsley, June, July, August 1957.
- Ed Marlo's Revolutionary Card Series: The Faro Shuffle & Faro Notes (1958)