Sic Bo is an ancient Chinese casino game that uses three dice to determine the outcome. Its exact origins are unknown, but it does have many variants and is one of the most popular games in Macau. The name’s literal translation in Chinese means “precious dice”. It also goes by other names that are mainly of Chinese origin. Tai Sai and Dai Sui are just to name a few. In English it is often referred to as Hi-Lo or Big and Small.
While being a mainstay in most Asian casinos and culture, it made its way to the Americas in the early 20th century by way of Chinese immigrants. The game can also be found in casinos throughout the world, but will almost always have variations. Most of these variations refer to the odds of specific bets being paid.
Interestingly, the game was illegal in the United Kingdom for some time. It wasn’t until 2002 that it was legalized under British law. Originally, many games of unequal chance were not allowed in casinos in the U.K. However, this law has since been amended and now includes Sic-Bo along with various other casino games to be played in the United Kingdom.
Since Sic Bo is mostly played by Asians, the game can be found in the Asian betting games section in most casinos outside of Asia. Some of your major casinos in the states will have a spot on the main floor it, but if you can’t find it, it’s most likely in with the Asian betting games section.
The game itself is based on three dice that are thrown by a dealer at the table. The table will have all betting options laid and may vary, depending on where you play. The main concept and bets will all be there, the differences being placement of said bets and odds in which they are paid out. No one knows quite sure why the payouts vary, but one can guess that the casino may be greedy by paying lower odds on the same bet at a different casino. This is just my own speculation and has no solid basis or facts by which to go off of.
Betting Basics and Payouts
When you first approach a Sic Bo, it may look like hieroglyphics, but in reality it’s quite simple to decipher. The table layout (see below)will likely have pictures of dice, a bunch of other numbers and maybe some random Chinese Dragon or writings. The bets will also have how much it pays out directly underneath it in most cases.
The game gets started by all players making their bets. Once all bets are placed, the dealer will throw the dice and depending on how these dice land, will determine who wins. There are about 50 or so bets that can be placed on a single throw of the dice. While this may be overwhelming, all are quite easy to understand.
Unlike Craps where you have hidden bets that aren’t laid out on the table, Sic-Bo has every available bet in plain view that will clearly mark how the bet is won. For example a picture of 2 die with a 2 and a 4 will mean if 2 of the die are a 2 and the other a 4, this bet would win. Pretty easy!
Mind you that’s just one example of a bet that can be placed. Let’s start discussing all the available betting options and their payouts. The payouts described below are found in the majority of casinos, but as stated earlier, may vary.
This article will try to be as accurate as possible, but with so many variations on payouts, it’s difficult to know them all and be 100% perfect. Just another disclaimer to cover myself as I don’t want someone thinking we are providing false information.
Many of these bets will “even money” payouts, which means they will pay 1-1 odds, but in actuality have a slightly less than 50% chance of winning. This is where the house obtains its edge, but are still some better bets to make. Also, many of the bets while different in name will be grouped into the same category. Many bets will have the same odds and payout, thus making different only by name and how they are achieved.
Three of a Kind: Betting on three of a kind is making a bet the three dice will all have the same number. For example: A throw that lands 3-3-3, is 3 of a kind. This bet has the highest payout as it is the most difficult to hit.
There 2 types of triple bets you can make. This one is betting on a specific set of three numbers. See below for the other type of triples bet.
Its payout is 150-1 in Macau, and in Atlantic City Casinos 180-1., but there are actually 216 ways to make three of a kind. This gives the house a very large edge and is probably one of the worse bets you can make.
Any Triples: Much like the above, this bet is on the dice being all the same number. However, with the any triples bet will win if any of the 6 numbers appear on all 3 dice.
This bet pays with odds of between 24 and 30-1. This makes the house edge between 14 to 30%.
Specific Doubles: This bet is used to bet on 2 of the same number appearing on 2 of the 3 dice. You can bet on any number you wish, but it has to be a specific number.
This bet pays with odds between 8 and 11-1. The house edge for this bet is between 33 to 11%.
Three Dice Total: This bet has 7 options. The three dice total must be between 5 and 17 and has varying payouts based on which total is rolled.
- 4 and 17: Between 62 and 50-1 odds. House edge is between 29 to 15%.
- 5 and 16: Between 18 and 31-1 odds. House edge is between 47 to 11%
- 6 and 15: Between 14 and 18-1 odds. House edge is between 30 to 12%
- 7 and 14: All payouts are 12-1. No Variations that I am aware of. House edge is 10%
- 8 and 13: All payouts are 8-1. House edge is 12%
- 9 and 12: Between 6 and 7-1 odds. House edge is between 19 to 7%.
- 10 and 11: All payouts are 6-1. House edge is 12.5%
Specific combinations: you can wager on 2 of the dice having 2 separate but specific numbers. Example: One dice has a 3 and the other has a 4. The third dice will have no effect on this wager.
Payouts for this bet are between 6 and 5-1. House edge is between 16 to 13%.
Single Dice: This bet is wagering on a specific number appearing on 1, 2 or all of the dice. Payouts will vary depending on how many dice the number is on.
- 1 Dice: 1-1 odds
- 2 Dice: 2-1 odds
- All Three: 3-1 odds (Some Australian casinos have payouts of 12-1.)
Big: The total of the dice will be between 11 and 17. Any triple rolled will negate this bet and make it a loss.
All casinos payout at 1-1 odds, and has a house edge of 2.8%.
Small: The total of all three dice being between 4 and 10. Again, any triples rolled will negate this bet and make it a loss.
All casinos pay odds of 1-1 and have a house edge of 2.8%
Odd: The total of all dice will equal an odd number. Any triples rolled will make this bet a loss.
All casinos pay with odds of 1-1 and have a house edge of 2.8%
Even: The total of all dice equal an even number. Once again, any triples rolled make this bet a loss.
All casinos pay at odds of 1-1 and have a house edge of 2.8%.
Four Number Combos: Pick 4 numbers, and if 3 of the 4 appear on all three dice, this bet wins. For example:
- All bets pay at 7-1 and has a house edge of 11%
Specific Double and Single Combo: Two dice will have a specific double and the other a specific single number. Example:
- Double 2s and a single 1.
- This bet pays at 50 or 60-1 and has a house edge of 15 to 29%.
The last bets may not be found in all casinos. Macau especially does not have either of these options available.
Now that we have all of the available bets and their odds, it’s time to learn a little strategy to make your playing experience a little more enjoyable.
It’s obvious to see that some of these bets are outright absurd. A bet that pays 150-1 may look enticing, but since you only have a 216 in 1 chance of making this bet win, you are getting some of the worse odds in a casino game. Stay away from these high payout bets and stick to the even money bets such as Big/Small and Odd/Even.
Since some of these bets are considered even money bets, you can use specific betting strategies that work well with even money odds. Some of the most common are the: Martingale, D’ Alembert and the Oscars Grind. You can read all about these and more in our betting strategies section to learn how they work and how to use them.
Other great Sic Bo resources include:
Wizard of Odds – Link to one of the most influential casino games portals in the world, especially for Sic Bo.
OnlineSicbo.org – Dedicated Sic Bo portal and included strategy and other “how to” tutorials.