Sic Bo Etiquette

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The Sic Bo table is often very crowded. It may look like a gang of shoppers picking over sale items at a department store as they reach out across the layout to place wagers or pick up winnings. At the very least, the game can provide a very interesting cross-cultural experience.

Although the game has been greatly westernized outside Macau, Sic Bo is still a predominantly Chinese game of chance. As such, it has its own long-held customs and may evidence some especially Oriental forms of behavior. Nobody should be surprised if players’ behaviour at the table fails to conform to Western concepts of etiquette.

As a case in point, Sic Bo players find it quite acceptable to push past other players when making a wager, whereas physical contact of any sort is taboo at most other casino table games. This makes sense when one considers that China is the world’s most populous country, where personal space does not receive the same priority that it does in many other areas. In close quarters, a certain amount of physical contact is to be expected.

So at the Sic Bo table, don’t be offended by an arm reaching around from behind or certain amount of jostling for position as players reach out over the layout to position chips. Similarly, don’t expect anyone to apologise for an inadvertent push or bump. It’s just part of the game.

Oddly enough, Chinese superstitions take precedence over at least once aspect of the physical contact that takes place at the table. It is thought to be very poor manner to touch a gambler’s shoulder, equivalent to bringing bad luck. Bumping hips or rubbing elbows is fine, but shoulders are strictly off limits.

To make a valid wager, any chips to be bet must be placed on the betting layout before the dice are “spun.” Lights under the table surface indicate winning sections, and wagering is possible between the time the lights are turned off and when the croupier calls out “No more bets.”

Even though there is plenty of time to get bets down, many players will make a mad dash to position their chips the very second that the lights go off. One good reason: the most auspicious betting areas, especially Single 6 and Total 8, are rather small, with little space for betting. To get a good spot, fast hands may be required.

Players must be very careful to position their chips properly. That means completely within the betting area selected, not touching the surrounding perimeter. This makes it necessary to watch all wagers made to see that they are not accidently moved off the desired spot.

As soon as the dice spin begins, players may not touch their chips again until the payouts are made. Each player must take responsibility for counting up any winnings and confirming that the correct total is received.

Apart from the touching shoulders taboo, a number of other superstitions apply to Sic Bo. Counting money while playing is thought to be bad luck, while wearing red at the table is believed to attract good luck. Although they may remain unseen, red undergarments are said to be particularly effective at bringing good fortune to the wearer.

One Sic Bo myth tells of a baby ghost living behind the Sic Bo table. Feeding this little ghost sugar is supposed to bring good fortune, while ignoring the ghost can cause a player to stop winning. Based upon centuries of play, who knows?

Among Sic Bo players the gambling superstitions are not limited to the table area, either. They will avoid checking into hotel rooms marked by the number 4 (“si” means death); they will instead seek out rooms containing the number 8 (“ba” meaning happiness). Also, seeing a priest or nun before gambling at the table is bad luck, and many avoid entering a casino through the main entrance for a similar reason—they prefer to use a side door if available.

The casino itself must be mindful of superstitions and rituals, too. The “feng shui” (spiritual positioning) of the Sic Bo table is particularly important, creating the right atmosphere for attracting money or leaking it out like a hole in one’s pocket. Because players are very aware of feng shui practices, they may avoid tables that have been situated poorly on the casino floor.

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