Sic bo is a dice game that’s especially popular in Asian countries such as China and Korea. It’s entirely a game of chance, and is played with three dice with six sides. You cannot influence the throw of the dice, so there is no skill involved. Players bet on the outcome of each roll of the dice.
Because there are three dice thrown, payouts of 180:1 can result if players guess the right combination of all three dice. It’s the chance of a high payout that makes sic bo so enjoyable and exciting for many players. It’s also very simple to get into and start enjoying immediately, whether you play online or offline.
What is sic bo?
In sic bo, there are a multitude of ways to bet. For instance, you can bet on a single number appearing across two or all three dice. You can also bet that the combination of the numbers on the dice will be either high or low (above ten in total or less than ten). You can also bet on the number that the combined dice will add up to. Many people stick to the simple ‘big/small’ way to betting, which is simple to understand but offers low payouts if you win. Others seek higher payouts on less likely combinations of dice numbers.
Players keep track of the bets being placed using a specially designed table top. This shows the 50 possible dice combination bets and what each one pays out at. When you play online sic bo games, this table will be clearly displayed on your screen and light up when you place your bet. It’s an easy interactive game to get into that doesn’t ask for any particular skill or knowledge. Many players bet their lucky number when playing sic bo.
If you head into the casinos of Asia, such as in Macau, you’ll find plenty of sic bo games being played. The simplicity of sic bo is part of the appeal. Betting odds range from 1:1 to 150:1, meaning you have a chance of a big payout or you can play for longer on less risky odds. It’s such a simple game that you can play sic bo live with people whose language you do not speak. This means you can play online via live link to overseas casinos quite easily if you so wish. For the same reason, Chinese gamblers often participate in sic bo live games in the casinos of Australia or Nevada, USA.
Other names for sic bo
Sic bo translates into ‘precious dice’ or ‘dice pair’ in Chinese. The game also goes by the names tai sai or dai siu, meaning ‘big and small’. In the Philippines, where the game is very popular, it is called hi-lo. It’s also known as ‘dice bowl’ for historical reasons, as the dice used to be shaken in a ceramic bowl. You’ll also find it being played just as ‘dice’.
There are also very similar games to sic bo that are known as ‘grand hazard’ and ‘chuck-a-luck’ in various parts of the world. In grand hazard, the dice are either shaken in a cup or sent down a chute (known as the hazard chute) to reach their final combination. Three of a kind is the biggest payout with this game at 180:1.
In the United States, games such as ‘sweat cloth’, ‘chuckerluck/chuck-a-luck’ and ‘birdcage’ are similar chance-based dice games. In birdcage or chuck-a-luck, the dice are spun in a small wire cage similar to a birdcage. In the big Las Vegas casinos, this used to be a common game but it has mostly now been replaced with sic bo tables. There are fewer outcomes that can be wagered on with chuck-a-luck, making it a simpler game than sic bo. Outcomes that pay out include big or small, any triple combination or a specific number coming up on any of the dice.
‘Cee lo’ is another game played using three six-sided dice. Players bet on particular outcomes, such as the combination four-five-six coming up on a throw. For this reason, cee lo is also known as four-five-six (it’s also known as this in Chinese). The main difference between cee lo and sic bo is that someone acts as a bank in cee lo, meaning that players bet against the bank. There are also certain ways that players can automatically win or lose in cee lo. For instance, the bank will pay out if all three dice show the same number. If the player rolls one-two-three or any identical pair of numbers plus a one, they automatically lose.
History of sic bo
There’s a theory that sic bo was first played with much larger objects, perhaps wooden blocks, before the gaming objects were shrunk to the smaller dice size. Originally sic bo gaming blocks may have been marked with symbols rather than numbers. Players would bet on the combination of symbols that would be thrown rather than betting on the numbers as they do today.
It’s also thought that the game was first played with only two dice, before a third was introduced to raise the stakes. What is certain is that the game is very old, perhaps thousands of years old. Humans have been playing dice for many thousands of years in some shape or form. Roman soldiers used gaming dice made from the knuckle bones of pigs when stationed around the empire.
When dice were first incorporated into the game of sic bo, it’s thought it may have been played by placing the dice onto a ceramic plate which was then covered with a bowl and shaken. The bowl is then removed to reveal the dice outcome. This added a certain dramatic flourish to the roll of the dice! Part of the appeal of sic bo, and the reason it has so endured, is that very few items are needed for the game besides a trio of dice. If players prefer to use a cup or bowl to shake the dice in, it’s unusual for these objects to ever be far from hand. This is likely to have contributed to the spread and endurance of the game.
Sic bo seems to have been introduced to America by Chinese immigrants during the 1900s. It’s now offered in many of the large western casinos, especially ones where Chinese patrons are known to visit. Larger casinos offer a more glitzy version of the sic bo game using a mechanised table that lights up and a cup shaken with a mechanical device.
Sic bo is very similar to the old English game of hazard, also known as grand hazard, although it’s unclear if they evolved separately as there are no obvious connections in their origins. However, sic bo is more popular in US casinos than in European ones where it isn’t as well known. Of course, these days it’s possible to play sic bo games online from anywhere in the world.
Sometime during the game’s history, the game became more formalised with the invention of the table layout which lists all the possible combinations and their odds. The addition of the third dice into the game also made the game more interesting, as it increased the possibility of getting a large payout on a specific number combination.
Online casino software has improved in the last decade or so, meaning sic bo has become more popular online. Dice can be thrown electronically using algorithmic technology and there’s also the possibility for live dealer interaction if you prefer a live game. Sic bo games can be played as an online game entirely run by computer technology, using random number generating technology to simulate the roll of the dice.
Playing sic bo games online
Many websites offer the chance to play sic bo online and the experience varies at each one. At Best Deal Casinos we’ve taken the time to try many of the best sic bo games available online so we can present a list of the best ones for you. Our intention is to make it easy for you to find the best sic bo live online.
If you play sic bo live online, you’ll be transported by video camera to a sic bo table somewhere in the world. It’s a way to get some of the thrill of a live dice toss and connect with a real sic bo table. A dealer will liaise with you via video link.
You can also play entirely automated games without video link to a live dealer. Because sic bo is easy to understand and there are no strategies to employ like there are with card games, you don’t need much practice to get the hang of it. However, if you prefer to experiment before you bet for real, there are some free sic bo games that you can play online until you feel confident.
Generally online sic bo games work like this after you have purchased your chips: place your bet on a certain dice outcome. The virtual table areas shown on your computer screen will then light up to show the winning combinations as the dice are rolled by the computer. If you’ve won, the bets will be paid out according to the house rules. If you’ve lost, the losing bets are cleared from the sic bo table and the game can start again.
Rules and strategies
The most common bet that’s made in sic bo doesn’t vary the world over. Players most commonly bet either ‘big’ or ‘small’ (also known as ‘high’ or ‘low’). This means they bet that the outcome of the combined numbers on the dice will be either greater than or less than ten. If the total score is between 11 and 17 (inclusive) then it is a high. If the total score is from four to 10 (inclusive) then it is low. The chance of getting a low or high roll is just under 50%, so it’s a similar bet to heads or tails on a coin toss. But there is a very small possibility (about 0.5%) that all three dice will show either the number one or six (total score of three or 18). There are other ways to bet in sic bo; for example, you can bet that the dice will show specific numbers such as a three and a four. Alternatively, you can wager that the total of the numbers on the three dice will be either an odd or an even number. Again, the possibility of getting either odd or even is similar to wagering heads or tails on a coin toss.
It’s worth remembering that all bets have a house edge. So even if the probability of a particular number combination being thrown by the dice is 8:1, the house won’t pay out at those odds. The house edge varies between about 2.8 and 30%. Your best bet over the long term is to stick to bets with the lowest house edge. You won’t get the big payouts on these but the odds favour you a bit more. The lowest edge bets are always big / small or odd / even; however, not all houses offer the latter.
If you’re just after a quick game and fancy riskier odds, try the specific triple bets. You’re less likely to win but the payouts are higher if you wager on a specific outcome for all three dice. The payouts can reach as high as 180:1 in games of sic bo.
A good piece of advice is to treat each throw of the dice as unique. Just because (for example) the last three throws of the dice have resulted in an even combination of numbers, this doesn’t mean that the next roll of the dice is any more likely to yield an even combination outcome than the first throw of the day.
We take a great deal of care choosing the casino venues and gaming sites that our site features. We always aim to get the best gaming experience for you, and recommend good houses that offer an enjoyable online game. Check out our recommendations if you’re on the hunt for a sic bo game that you’ll enjoy.