The game of Sic bo (骰寶), translated as “precious dice,” is a casino game played with three dice. The game is also known as dai siu (大小), translated as “big or small,” when played in the casinos of Macau. Sic bo is similar to the English games of Grand hazard and Chuck-a-luck. It was introduced to the US by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century, and was played in mining and railroad camps before becoming a standard casino game in the 1980s. In the United Kingdom, the game was licensed for casino play in 2002.
Sic Bo is now played in casinos around the world although it is most popular in Macau, Korea and South East Asia. Because the game has various names and styles, odds and bets vary, but two specific layouts are generally seen in play: the traditional 50-bet layout and a larger variety with an additional 56 bets that include an odd and even bet, 4 dice combination bets and all 3-dice combinations.
Sic Bo in Asia is played online in two different formats. The first is using a standard Flash game, where everything is automated by the site’s software.
A typical Flash version of Sic Bo as found at most Asian casinos
The second way is much more popular in Asia and uses a live dealer. This way of playing mirrors the way the game is played in a real casino. You can see the dealer and dice at all times, as well as making all your bets live and in real time. The game is setup in a real casino environment with broadcasting technology to stream the game online.
A screenshot that shows live dealer Sic Bo in Asia at Dafabet
The game is usually played on light-up game tables that highlight all winning wagers after the three dice numbered 1 to 6 are placed in a plastic hopper and shaken. Players choose from a variety of dice combinations and are paid according to the odds listed on the layout. Online casinos offer Sic bo as both free and real-money applications and playing the game is as easy as choosing a point total and waiting for the dice to come to rest on a new number. The wagers available are listed below.
Small and Big Bets
The main bets on Sic Bo involve small (number totals of all three dice from 4-10), and big (numbers from 11-17). Winning bets pay even money, or 1 to 1. A wager on small wins when the dice total is between 4 and 10. When the dice total 3 or 11-17, the player loses. A wager on big wins when the dice total is between 11 and 17. When the dice total 18 or 3-10, the player loses. These bets have a house edge of 2.78.
Odd and Even Bets
Players may wager on the dice total being either odd or even. Winning bets pay even money, or 1 to 1. The wager is lost if the player does not correctly choose odd or even, or any time a triple is shaken – all three dice the same. This bet has a house edge of 2.78 percent.
Sic bo offers many other wagers, but they carry a higher house edge than Small and Big and Odd and Even bets.
Total of All Dice
Players may wager on the total sum of all three dice, from 4 to 17. Payoffs depend on the casino, or online site, but generally run from 6 to 1 up to 50 to 1. The payoffs are usually higher on online casino sites.
Players may wager on a single number showing up on the dice: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, and the player is paid depending on how many times the chosen number appears on the dice. If no dice match the player’s number, he loses the wager. If a single dice matches the number, the payoff is even money, or 1 to 1. If two of the dice match the player’s number, the payoff is 2 to 1. If all three dice match the player’s number the wager is paid 3 to 1.
Double Bets (Two Dice Combinations)
Players may wager on the points of two dice, such as 5 and 6. If both of those numbers appear, the player is paid 5 to 1.If a matching pair is chosen (11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66) and two of the numbers appear, the player is paid 10 to 1.
Players may wager on any triple (111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 666) and if the dice come up as triples, the player is paid 30 to 1.
If the player choses one specific triple, the payoff is much higher, often 180-1.
Keep in mind that Sic bo moves quickly, and if you are playing Small and Big or Odd and Even wagers you will win your wagers on a fairly regular basis with a small house edge. High payoff bets, especially the Triples wager at 180-1, don’t happen very often so your wager will not be paid very often (about 46% of the time). The payoff can also have great variance.
When you play Sic Bo in Asia and at many online casino sites the payoff is 216 to 1, resulting in a house edge of 16.2%. However, in US casinos, the payoff is usually 180 to 1, and in Macau, the payoff is set at just 150 to 1 (a house edge of 30%), so choose your game carefully!