Sic bo (a.k.a tai sai and dai siu) is an ancient Chinese game of chance involving three dice and an array of betting options. Players can wager on outcomes such as the aggregate value of the dice roll, and specific numbers shown on one or more of the dice. Also referred to as Chinese roulette due to the players’ fortunes being left to chance, sic bo offers greater odds margins than the devil’s wheel – from even money wagers, up to bets paying as much as 180:1.
Before each roll, players place their bets on a layout that features all the allowable wagers. These range from 1 to 1 payouts, to a maximum of between 150 to 1 and 180 to 1, depending on where in the world (or the Web) we play. As in roulette, a land-based casino will often require each player to use colour-coded chips to avoid any confusion when collecting winnings; obviously, this is not a factor in online play, as most Internet games are single-player affairs. All wagers must fall within the confines of the minimum and maximum bet, which will be clearly marked at your table of choice (and you can always ask the croupier for help, of course).
After players have placed their wagers, the dealer will declare ‘no more bets’ and then roll the dice using a mechanised cage or tumbler – similar to the one used in the children’s board game, Trouble, but electronically operated. Sometimes, particularly in brick-and-mortar establishments, the tumbler will be covered by a kind of cloche that is only removed once the roll is completed.
When the results are known, the backlit layout will illuminate to show all the winning bets. In real-world casinos, this is done by the dealer punching each die’s value into a computer console, which then lights up the corresponding panels accordingly. The winnings are doled out, the losing bets are cleared away, and the croupier will say ‘place your bets’ to begin the next turn.
In a live setting, sic bo is played at a more sedate pace than some other popular table games. The dealer allows plenty of time for players to lay out their wagers, whereas in roulette, for instance, last bets must be called before the ball drops. This makes for a nice change from the often frantic nature of real money gambling, and affords new players a more laid-back atmosphere in which to observe, learn, and start playing.
Live sic bo games can be a little slow in comparison to roulette, blackjack, or baccarat – and this suits some players just fine, especially learners. However, many players prefer playing at their own pace, and Web play allows us to set our own speed. There is no waiting around for other players to puzzle over their next bet – just click and roll. It is possible to play dozens of hands per minute in online tai sai, which increases our potential earnings vastly compared to playing land-based tables.
The interactive sic bo games powered by Microgaming (software used by our recommended websites, such as www.JackpotCityCasino.com, www.AllSlotsCasino.com and www.RoyalVegasCasino.com), is modelled on the player-friendly payout system used in Australia and New Zealand. That gives us the lowest house edge around. And, like all Microgaming titles, you can be assured of a fair, fun, and rewarding experience when playing digital dai siu.
The best part, though, is the freedom to play however, wherever, and whenever you want. Whether on a PC or Mac, laptop or desktop, or even a mobile device – Australians can win real money without having to leave the house and brave the land-based casino crowds. For better odds, faster game-play, and none of your bankroll wasted on petrol or public transport, we recommend playing over the Internet.
Betting options and payouts in sic bo vary from country to country and casino to casino. In Macau, for example, the best odds offered on any bet are 150 to 1, whereas most live casinos in Atlantic City and the United Kingdom will pay 160 to 1 or even higher.
However, the good punters of the lucky country will be pleased to learn that Australia, of all places, is renowned for the most attractive tai sai payouts on the planet. This is in direct contrast to our b&m venues’ collective reputation for short-odds blackjack games and double-zero roulette tables. The reason is pretty simple: casino operators love Chinese tourists, due to the ancient nation’s deeply ingrained gambling culture. So combine great odds with our relative geographical proximity compared to the UK and the US, and Australia becomes a primo destination for Asian players.
Below are the wagers allowed on a typical Australian layout, such as the ones commonly found at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
Small – Win if the total sum of the dice is between four and 10, excluding triples (i.e. when all dice show the same number). Pays 1 to 1.
Big – Win if the total sum of the dice is between 11 and 17, excluding triples. Pays 1 to 1.
Total values – Win if you pick the total sum of all three dice. Payouts vary, with four and 17 the largest (62 to 1), and 10 and 11 the smallest (6 to 1).
Any triple – Win if all three dice are the same number, regardless of the number (e.g. 1-1-1 and 6-6-6 both win). Pays 31 to 1.
Specific triples – Win if all three dice show a specific chosen number (e.g. if we bet on triple ones, we only win if 1-1-1 shows). Pays 180 to 1.
Specific doubles – Win if two of the three dice show a certain number (e.g. if we bet on double ones, we would win if the dice turned up 1-5-1). Pays 11 to 1.
Two-die combination – Win if two specific numbers show (e.g. betting on one and three both turning up). Pays 6 to 1.
Single number – Win if the chosen number shows, with larger payouts if the number turns up two or three times. Pays 1 to 1 for a single, 2 to 1 for a double, and 12 to 1 for a triple.
Some games will also allow the following wagers, although these are rarely found beyond the high-roller rooms or the gaming floors of Macau.
Evens or Odds – All but identical to its namesake in roulette, where the player bets on the total value of the dice being either an even number (four, six, eight, et cetera) or an odd one (three, five, seven, et cetera). Pays 1 to 1.
Three of four – This wager resembles a boxed trifecta in horse and greyhound racing. Players choose four numbers, from one to six, and win if any three of those numbers should hit. For example: if we choose three, four, five, and six, and the roll shows 5-4-6, we win. (Some casinos limit this bet to a few specific combinations – e.g. Crown, when using this rule, allows only four combos, each paying 7 to 1.)
A regular Australian-style game, like the one above, carries a minimum house edge of 2.78 per cent (big or small bets) and maximum of 16.20 per cent (specific triples). Check out our dedicated article on sic bo odds and edges for more detailed information on the facts and figures behind the game.
The sic bo table can look daunting at first, with its sprawl of panels and Chinese characters. But do not be disheartened – it is actually very simple to work out, and there is no need to learn Mandarin just to place a bet.
– The bottom row covers single-number bets, with the text underneath detailing the payouts for whether a number hits once, twice, or three times.
– The next row above (with the domino-like images) gives all the possible two-die combinations.
– The top-middle row shows all the total values that can be wagered on, from four to 17. Some totals are more likely than others, hence the different payout odds from number to number.
– Finally, the top row, where new players get confused the most. The trick is understanding the symmetry. The big and small bets are in each corner, while the next panels on the inside are for specific double bets. Inside those are the specific triples, and the panel in the very centre is where you bet on any triple.
When Americans and Europeans caught on to the potential of sic bo in the early part of the 20th century, it originally appeared as a carnival game – often rigged and run by swindlers, with loaded dice and all. Local interpretations and hybrids gradually found their way into casinos, from Nevada, to New Jersey, to London, although these seem to be fading into obscurity thanks to sic bo’s recent resurgence. There is also a version that retains elements of the ancient ‘two bricks’ game, and which can still be found in live gaming venues to this day.
Commonly found in Macau, but also available in some land-based casinos in Australia and New Zealand, this version of sic bo uses dice with pictures rather than numbers. Yee hah hi translates to ‘fish shrimp crab’, after the symbols used. Each image represents a numeric value, from one to six, like standard dice. The icons are also colour-coded, which allows for wagers on whether (or how many) green, red, or blue pictures hit. Otherwise, the rules are identical to sic bo games that use numerical dice.
This three-die game took shape in the UK as a kind of hybrid between sic bo and hazard – the medieval two-die game from which craps evolved. The dice are rolled down an intricate chute onto a layout, where players can bet on the various outcomes. Wagers include odds or evens, high or low, total values, single numbers, and raffles (the same as triples in sic bo). Payouts follow similar lines to those of dai siu, with odds ranging from 1 to 1 all the way up to 180 to 1.
Chuck-a-luck is a simplified version of grand hazard, developed in the United States in the mid 20th century. It is also called birdcage, in reference to the hourglass-shaped wire chamber in which the dice are rolled. Most games only allow single-die bets, with bonus payouts for doubles and triples; however, wagers such as big, small, any triple, and the field (total dice value lower than eight or higher than 12) can also be offered. Like grand hazard, chuckaluck can still be found in some b&m casinos, but it is more commonly played as a carnival game.
The game has gained popularity in casinos the world over in recent years – from Great Britain, to the United States, to Australia and New Zealand. It is thought it was originally played more than 2,000 years ago by tossing a pair of bricks with symbols painted on each surface, before the advent of the six-sided dice that are used to this day. We get this clue from the name itself, which can be translated as ‘two bricks’ or ‘dice pair’. Nobody is sure when the third die was added to the mix, but the aim of the game – to predict which numbers or symbols show up – has never changed.
The game arrived in the United States in the late 1800s when Chinese migrants worked the gold fields of the western frontier, as well as labouring on the Pacific railroad. However, it wouldn’t be until around the 1930s that sic bo found any favour among American and European players, which led to spin-off games like chuck-a-luck and grand hazard.
There are two key factors in sic bo’s ongoing popularity boom today: the opening of the Hotel Lisboa in Macau in 1970, which was the first international-class casino to feature tai sai on its main floor; and China’s vast economic growth in recent decades, which has seen gambling venues the world over cater more and more for affluent Asian tourists. Since the early 2000s, sic bo can be found on the public casino floor in far-flung corners of the globe, with particular prominence in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, London, Sydney, and Melbourne.
Of course, the rise of interactive online gaming means there is no need for Aussie players to trek out to Pyrmont or Southbank to get in on the action.