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The Traditional Chinese Dice Game

Sic Bo – An Oldie but a Goodie

Sic Bo is a dice game, similar to Craps, hailing from the foreign distant shores of China, which will appeal to fans of both Craps and Roulette as it borrows elements from both games. It doesn’t have quite as much of the same following as the two aforementioned table games, but it can be just as entertaining! The aim of the game is to bet on your prediction of the outcome of the roll of the dice. What’s unusual about Sic Bo is that it’s played with three dice which are shaken before thrown. But, before you let rip on those dice, here’s all there is to know about this fascinating ancient game.

Why play Sic Bo?

  • Its gameplay is similar to Craps
  • Having three dice adds excitement and makes it more interesting
  • It’s a game of chance coupled with good payouts

The History of Sic Bo

The Chinese were the ones behind the invention of paper and playing cards over 1,900 years ago, but they found ways of entertaining themselves long before this. They took pleasure in games of chance that made use of painted stones, tiles and dice, many of which have stood the test of time and are still intact and played today, their rules unaltered for centuries. Sic Bo was one of these ancient games, which literally translates to “dice pair”, signifying that the game was very likely initially played using two dice instead of three. It also goes by the names Tai Sai and Dai Siu, which carry the meaning “Big Small” or “Hi-Lo”. The game originally comprised of throwing bricks with numbers painted on the sides. Eventually, those cumbersome instruments were ousted in favour of three lightweight six-sided dice. The addition of a third die adds excitement to the game and makes it more interesting. The game spread through to the US via Chinese manual labourers, who in the 19th century came over to America to build the transcontinental railroad. It was predominantly played by immigrants in railroad and mining camps for many years. Only after the second wave of Chinese immigrants in the 1940s did their gambling ways catch on with non-Oriental gamblers. In America, the game was changed up a little and became known as ‘Birdcage’ as the dice were shaken in a cage-like device before being rolled. In the UK, it emerged as ‘Grand Hazard’, the three-dice variation of Hazard, which is also the game Craps originated from. Another English version of the game was called Chuck-a-Luck. In spite of all these variations of the dice game emerging all over the world, the Chinese were resilient and kept to their original version of Sic Bo. It made its way onto Macau’s casino floor right next to the Roulette and Baccarat tables, and then onto the Las Vegas Strip where it eventually became a hit among non-Chinese visitors.

Playing Online Sic Bo

To play Sic Bo online, you’ll find three dice and a rather complex-looking Sic Bo table marked with a variety of betting options similar to a Roulette table. Fear not! For looks are deceptive here and the game is actually pretty straightforward. All you have to do is decide how much you’re willing to bet and which wager to bet on. There is no limit to a number of bets you can make per roll, so more the bets you make the more chances you have of winning. Keep your eyes open as the odds and table layout may vary from place to place.

The game starts with a placing of bets, you can bet as much or as little as you like. Next, the dice are rolled, and if the final outcome on the dice matches your bet, you win. One look at the busy layout gives the impression that there are a myriad of bets that can be made. Here is a list of some of the most frequent wagers in the game. The odds may vary from casino to casino, as the major casinos of Macau, Atlantic City and Australia each have compiled their own odds.

Small and Big Bets: These are the most common bets in Sic Bo. With a Small bet, you are expecting the total sum of the roll of the dice to range between 4 and 10. Whereas with a Big bet you are expecting a total between 11 and 17. The odds on these two bets pay even money (1 to 1) which means, that you don’t win much, although you have a good chance of winning. However, you can lose this bet if you roll a ‘triple’, that is when you hit the same number across all three dice. It is this reasoning that the numbers 3 and 18 aren’t included in these betting ranges. The house edge is 2.78%.

Odd and Even Bets: This bet is similar to the one made in Roulette wherein you can predict whether the total on the dice will be odd or even. If a triple is rolled, you lose. The house edge is also 2.78%.

Two-Dice Combination Bet: This is a wager on the outcome of any two of the three dice. For example, if you bet on 2 and 5, you win if one die lands on 2 and the other lands on 5, ignoring the number on the third die.

Single Die Bet: This bet is a prediction that at least one die will land on one particular number. This pays out even money. If two or even three dice land on your selected number you will win much more, 2 to 1 and 12 to 1 respectively (the latter of which differs from the Triple bet).

Specific Double Bet: In this wager, at least two of the dice must land on your chosen number to win. This bet pays 8 to 1.

Specific Triple Bet: This is a high payoff bet (the highest, in fact, with 150 to 1 odds) that all three dice will have the same number.

Any Triple Bet: This bet has better chances of success than the previous wager, as here you are betting on any triple on your dice and not a specific number. The odds of winning this bet are 24 to 1.

Total Sum: This is a very popular bet with a great payout on the total sum of the three dice. Below are the totals, gathered according to their payout odds. Remember that you can bet on as many totals as your heart desires.

Total of 4 or 17 – Payout odds of 50 to 1

Total of 5 or 16 – Payout odds of 18 to 1

Total of 6 or 15 – Payout odds of 14 to 1

Total of 7 or 14 – Payout odds of 12 to 1

Total of 8 or 13 – Payout odds of 8 to 1

Total of 9, 10, 11 or 12 – Payout odds of 6 to 1

Below are some other not so common three/four-number combinations bets which don’t have any names, so the first couple of letters of the alphabet will have to suffice.

ABC: Wherein you choose a three-number combination, for example, 2-3-4. If all three numbers are rolled, you’re paid 30 to 1. The house edge on this bet is 13.89% and the chances of winning are pretty slim at 2.78%.

DEF::This is another three-number combination using two unique numbers, wherein you must specify which number will appear on two of the three dice, ignoring the third number. For example, 4-4-6. This pays 50 to 1 with a very high house edge of 29.17%. The probability of winning 1.39%.

ABCD:This is a bet on a four-number combination which pays 7 to 1 if the roll matches three of your four numbers. For example, 1-2-3-4. The odds of winning this wager is 11.11% and the house edge is also 11.11%.

Beginners’ Tips

Being a game of pure chance, it is difficult to determine what your best moves are, but we’ll try anyway.

  • The optimal bets to place and wager on are the Big/Small and Odd/Even as both of them feature a house advantage of approximately 2.78% and pay even money. The other bets, including the Triple bets, feature an advantage of up to 30%. However, if your goal is to have a good time and a chance to hit some really big payouts, you can go for it regardless.
  • Combination wagers are also a safe bet as they have a low house edge of 2.77% and the odds of winning are 6 to 1. This means that you can win once in every seven bets.
  • Regarding the odds on specified totals, the best values to bet on are the totals ranging between 7 and 14 as they have a pretty low house edge of 9.7%.
  • The Triple bet is the riskiest wager you can make, so it’s good to steer clear of it. Experienced players know not to use it as the main bet so sometimes use it as a side/additional bet instead.
  • The idea is to not place bets on wagers with slim odds and a high house edge. You may as well just hand over all your money to the croupier. For example, if you bet on a total of 5 to 16, the odds of landing these totals on the dice are 6 in 216. This bet pays 30 to 1, but the house edge is 13.9%. There are far more lucrative bets which can be made.

Variations of Sic Bo

Here are a couple of variations of the game which are identical in gameplay to Sic Bo. In spite of this, they have succumbed to the original format of the Asian game and are very difficult to come across online and in land-based casinos.

Grand Hazard, like Sic Bo, is also played using three dice. The dice are thrown with a cup or rolled down a chute containing a series of inclined planes that tumble the dice as they fall.

Chuck-a-Luck, also known as Sweat Cloth, Chuckerluck and Bird Cage, is the American version of Grand Hazard. It gets its name as the dice are kept in a cage-like device. The bets on this game tend to be single number wagers with an additional bet for any triple.

Hoo Hee How and Yee Hah Hi are two very alike games. The numbers on the dice are replaced with symbols and pictures. In the former, the die features symbols such as a fish, scorpion, goard, coin, crab and rooster. There are six bets you can make, one per symbol, which all pay between 1 to 1 and 3 to 1, depending on how often the symbol appears. This game has a house edge of 7.87%. In the latter, you have the same symbols, although each symbol represents a different colour. You can make bets on all three dice landing on the same colour. The odds on this bet are 7 to 1. A second bet that can be made is on two dice landing on a specific colour of your choice, which pays 3 to 1. You can even bet on one die landing on one specific colour which pays even money. The house edge is 11.11% across the board.

Playing Casino Sic Bo for Real Money

Until you’re familiar with the ins and outs of Sic Bo, it’s best to try out the game online for free, which you can do right here at the very top of this page. What’s great is that you don’t need to download any software whatsoever to give the game a roll. When you feel like you’re ready for a different, more exhilarating gaming experience, you can start yourself off with a small deposit into one of the top five casinos listed above where you’ll go head to head against the casino’s computer software to win real cash. You could even be fortunate enough to find a casino which offers live dealer games, however, they aren’t so common. Those casinos which feature this type of gameplay will likely have an Asian Gambling section, within which the live dealer Sic Bo game is found. Whether you decide to play for free or with real money, you can do so from the device of your choosing, from your laptop, tablet or mobile device. Gambling couldn’t be more accessible!


Is it easy to find and play Sic Bo online?

Sic Bo isn’t as popular as Craps and Roulette, but it still has quite a loyal following. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll find it in every online casino. There are a few casinos which offer live dealer games, particularly those that cater to Asian players as the table game is especially popular in Asia. Its payouts are just as good, if not better than some of the other tables game. With regards to land-based casinos, it is predominantly found in Macau (where it has the largest following of all), Atlantic City, and Australia.

Is there are a strategy for winning at Sic Bo?

There are no betting systems in Sic Bo. Devising a winning strategy for this table game is rather difficult as it depends on so many elements that are out of your control. Furthermore, as this is a game of chance, luck is a big factor in determining whether you win or lose. Being a game involving three dice, it’s impossible to confidently predict the outcome. That said, there are some methods which can be adopted by players. The Low-Risk Method is a defensive type of play designed for rooky players with a small bankroll. This strategy involves placing simple bets to slowly gather wins and limit your losses altogether. The Medium Risk Method is intended for players with a medium sized bankroll and are willing to place more complex wagers. In this strategy, the idea is to make small combination bets to increase your chances of winning. The third strategy is The High-Risk Method aimed at professionals and high-rollers with large bankrolls. The concept behind this strategy is to use all the money at your disposal to aim high and hit several bets at the same time – it’s been dubbed high-risk for a reason as you can win as well as lose substantial sums of money.

Important: US residents are only permitted to play for real money at casinos that are licenced and regulated by the State they reside in. Please ensure you are familiar with your local laws if you intend to play slot games online or take part in any other form of online gambling for real money.