Sic Bo 101

I have seen in some casinos the dice game called Sic Bo. I have never seen it before and have not been able to find out much about it. Could you give me a brief rundown on the game, and is it worth playing? Richard S.

Ah, yes, ancient game from the land of joss sticks-possibly invented in the famous Naked Princess Gaming House on the Huang-Ho-where the chopsticks are pure silver and the river runs yellow as gold.

Sic Bo (“dice pair” or “dice in pairs”) also called Hi-Lo, Tai Sai (“big-small”), and Cu Sic (“guessing dice”) uses three dice loosely imprisoned in a wire cage called the “shaker”. Hard to miss the Sic Bo table where Asian games are offered with its winning combinations illuminated like the Las Vegas Strip under a full moon.

Sic Bo, Richard, is an easy game to play and, of course, lose. The player picks one or more of the six numbers appearing on a die, puts down his money on his chosen outcome (nitty-gritty below), and prays. The dealer shakes the shaker, whacks it down on the layout so all can see the top faces of the three dice, announces the numeric value of each die, enters all that into an electronic device on the table, which then illuminates all the winning combinations — the traditional abacus bit the dust when electrons entered the fray-and the dealer pays off all the winners.

Simple, what? Well, there are more than 30 betting choices, all displayed on the table layout showing the faces of the dice in their 30+ combinations along with the massive payoffs that are luring the player to play. And those payoffs are not strictly aligned with their probabilities of occurrence.

You can bet in several ways: that your number will come up somewhere, or it will appear on two dice, or wow! all three. You can also bet on any combination of numbers appearing on two or three dice, or even more flamboyant bets, as below.

The Single Die wager

You bet that your selected number, 1 through 6, will come up on one die. Payoff is 1:1.
If two of the dice come up with your number, the payoff is 2:1.
If all three dice come up with your number the payoff is 3:1. The casino advantage is 7.9%.

The Two Dice wager

You bet that some number will turn up on two dice (any pair). Payoff is 8:1, but casino advantage is 33.3%.
Two-dice combination bet: You select two numbers and bet that they will turn up. Payoff is 5:1, with casino advantage of 16.7%.

The Three Dice wager

You select a number from 4 to 17 and bet that the sum of the faces will equal this number. Payoff is from 6:1 to 60:1.
You wager that the three faces will show three specific numbers that you select. Payoff is 24:1.
You wager that any three of a kind will show. Payoff is 30:1.
You can also wager that a specific triplet will appear. Payoff is 150:1.
The casino advantage on Three Dice wagers is anywhere from 9.7 to 30.6%.

Small or Big wagers

You can bet that the total of the three dice will be small (i.e. 4 to 10) or large (11 to 17). Payoff is 1:1, house advantage 2.8%, but if any three-of-a-kind shows, both small and big bets lose. The skinny, Richard, is that although Sic Bo offers some handsome payoffs, it is not recommended by this writer, as the house edge on most bets is way out of whack with my philosophy of only making wagers that have less than a 2% casino advantage. The only bet worth considering for those who want to try the game is the small/big wager, in which the casino edge is 2.8%.

Gambling thought of the week: “In today’s market, a new slot machine ain’t worth squat if it’s not based on either a game show or a celebrity of some sort.” Anthony Curtis, Strictly Slots.