The game Sic Bo

The game Sic Bo logo

The game Sic Bo has been compared to many other games. Of those games, Grand Hazard and Chuck-a-luck come closest to the current Sic Bo. They are games with three dice in which the gambler must guess how they fall.

A characteristic of Sic Bo is that a ‘croupier’ shakes the dice in a cup. In almost every other dice game, he or she then throws the dice on the table. In Sic Bo, however, the dice remain hidden under the cup until the players have placed their bets.

Game of chance

There are 50 possibilities for this on the special game sheet. The simplest gamble gives you one time your stake. The riskiest gamble gives 180 times the stake. The ‘bank’ takes such a high percentage that the chance of winning is very small. However, there are Chinese players who say they can hear how the dice fell.

Ye Han
Ye Han

The most famous player who claimed this was Ye Han. This gambler and casino boss, who was known as “Ghost King Ye” was the top croupier of the dice game in several casinos around 1930. He discovered that after being shaken, the dice would spin for a while and make a soft squeaking sound until they lay still. But that the sounds differed, so with his extraordinary hearing, he knew how the dice lay. From that time on, in most casinos, the dice fall on a film, rug or other dampening material.

Origin of Sic Bo

It is not possible to say with certainty when the game, as we know it today, originated. However, because of the dice cup, an estimate can be made. Indeed, the use of a dice cup came into vogue around 1680 during the Kangxi dynasty in the early Qing dynasty. They were blue and white porcelain cups, with the dice falling on a specific saucer. The cup came into vogue because it meant that the dealer and players both did not know the points of the dice.

two dice

We’ll follow the popular stories about Sic Bo for a while. In those stories, Chinese emigrants bring the game to America in the early 20th century. Obviously, this dice game was not the only game they introduced there. The Chinese played several games and, incidentally, were most enthusiastic about those games themselves.

The word Sic Bo in China

In China itself, in several regions, as indicated, different words are used for the game with the cup. The word Sic Bo is hardly ever found in Chinese. Nowadays, it does appear in Macau when it comes to gambling, but then the American influence is always felt. And perhaps even the Portuguese, who were long in charge of Macau. Chinese themselves, for example, researchers, use the word at most for clarification.

Cussec table

For example, the psychologists who research thinking errors or the business experts who explain the turnovers in Macau. In their English-language reports, they then talk about Cussec and add the word Sic Bo in parentheses.

And when you come to the word Sic Bo, for example, on a Chinese site with old porcelain, some expert appraisers and antique dealers use it. However, they then often put it in quotation marks. As if to indicate that although they use it, they don’t use it wholeheartedly.

Our conclusion about the word Sic Bo

We conclude that the game may have originated a few hundred years ago. But the name Sic Bo does not come directly from China. It originated in the coming together of Chinese and Americans. And then later, under the influence of Americans in Macau, adopted in China. The latter then, especially in the gambling environment. Elsewhere in China, they call the game with the cup differently. That doesn’t detract from the game. It is fun and simple. Try it for yourself.