For hundreds of years, Sic Bo was a strictly Chinese pastime, little known or understood outside Asia. It spread throughout the world through waves of immigration, and in each new region the game was localised to make it more acceptable to non-Chinese players. As a result, quite a few variations can be seen today. What they all have in common is the use of three dice and betting areas for wagering on the outcome of each “spin” or throw.
Birdcage – So-named for the hourglass-shaped dice cage spun by the Dealer, this game played with three dice is similar to Sic Bo, but with far worse odds. The five most common bets available are Single Number (1~6, pays 1-to-1 for each occurrence), Triples (all three dice show the same value, pays 30-to-1), High (total of 11+, loses on triples, pays 1-to-1), Lo (total of 10 or less, loses on triples, pays 1-to-1) and Field (total outside 8~12, pays 1-to-1). Additional bets that are common include Odd and Even paying 1-to-1, plus Specific Total (4~17). In many locations, “Birdcage” and “Chuck-a-Luck” are thought of as the same game, although the betting options tend to be more limited for the latter.
Chuck-a-Luck – This simplified American version of Sic Bo is a cousin of Birdcage and Grand Hazard. It is most often seen at carnivals or fairgrounds, frequently operated as a fundraiser for charities and played for prizes, such as toys or plush animals, rather than as a serious form of gambling for cash. Players typically stand, as no seats are made available. The basic version offers just one type of wager—a bet on one of the six single numbers to appear and paying 1-to-1 for a single occurrence, 2-to-1 for two occurrences and 10-to-1 if all three dice show the selected number.
Dai Siu – This alternative name for Sic Bo, meaning “Big Small,” is most commonly used in Macau. The odds used for payouts are typically much tighter in the Macau version of the game they are in the United States or Australia. For example, a winning wager on a selected Triple pays only 150-to-1 instead of the more common 180-to-1 and a successful bet on a Specified Total of 4 or 17 pays 50-to-1 rather than the usual 60-to-1.
Grand Hazard – This British game is quite similar to Sic Bo, although the table layout is greatly simplified. The various Triple combinations, referred to as “Raffles,” appear in a column at the center of the table, flanked by the Low and High betting zones, with the six “Chuck” numbers (1~6) at the top of the layout and the fourteen Specified Totals (4~17) below. A major difference in Grand Hazard is the method of making payouts for the Specified Totals at 30-for-1, 12-for-1, etc., meaning the House keeps the stake bet by the player, resulting in payouts of 29-to-1, 11-to-1, etc.—equivalent to an additional margin for the House on such wagers.
Hi-Lo – The version of Sic Bo commonly played in the Philippines.
Lucky Dice – Alternative slang name for the game of Sic Bo.
Mini Dice – The name commonly given to Chuck-a-Luck in Malaysia and Singapore.
Tai Sai – An alternative name for Sic Bo, literally meaning “Big and Fine” or “Jumbo.”
Yee Hah Hi – Literally translated, the words mean “Fish Shrimp Crab.” This variation of Sic Bo is popular in Macau, where the dice feature no numbers or dots; instead, symbols are used, such as fish, crabs or shrimp. By one estimate, this version accounts for about one out of ten Sic Bo tables in the former Portuguese colony. Wagers can be made not only on what symbols will appear but also what colours and what numbers the dice symbols associate to. For example, if all three dice are of the same colour, the payout for a correct bet is 7-to-1. Other symbols used are gourds, coins and roosters.