Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Popular Chinese Gambling Games

Unbeknownst to most gamblers in the West, China is often credited with first pairing chance games with wagering (as far back as 2000 B.C.)  When you consider that the development of the first fiat currencies (as well as the process of making paper) also have a Chinese origin, you can also say that playing cards might also have emerged out of the East as well.  The point is, the Chinese people’s involvement with gambling is very historically deep, to say the least.

Many of the more traditional games are still very popular throughout Asia to this very day.  Of course there are also exceptions to the rule, like Fan-Tan, which used to be quite popular amongst Chinese Americans of the 1800’s, and isn’t internationally recognized.  These days, the following Chinese gambling games rule the roost in terms of popularity…


For all intents and purposes, Mahjong is pretty much the quintessential gambling game which many will immediately associate with Chinese culture.  It is generally played with 4 people and utilizes 144 individual tiles, of which 13 are (typically) distributed to each player upon the beginning of each match.  Taking turns, each gambler seeks to discard and draw tiles from their hand in order to complete a “legal hand” (which consists of a series of grouped tiles).  One of the things which makes Mahjong so intriguing of course is its visual appeal via the use of specialized, colorful (sometimes featuring strange characterizations).  Interestingly enough, it’s often rumored that the game was created by none other than Confucius himself in and around the year 500 B.C (although no one knows for sure who is responsible for its development).

Sic Bo

Yet another intensely popular game in China is Sic bo, which is for all intents and purposes, a dice game that utilizes a specially labeled table onto which bets are placed.  In other words, it’s almost like a different take on Craps or something.  Of course Sic Bo isn’t just popular in Asia; its influence has also spread out all across the world, with casinos featuring their own games (or variants) in regions like the UK as well.   Since you typically play Sic Bo with 3 dice, you would also expect the resulting odds to be slightly more complex as well, which they are.

Pai Gow

If you like domino-based games, you’ll love Pai Gow.  Quite simply, you start off with 32 dominos which are split into 8 stacks (4 each).  This is often referred to as being the “woodpile”.  Next, each player is dealt a stack which is in turn divided into 2 separate hands of 2 tiles each.  What makes Pai Gow unique is that you have 2 individual sets of either a higher or lower value which are competing directly with those of the dealer.  Additionally, in order to win, both of your hands must be able to beat what the dealer has.  Likewise, if only one is greater then you will only “push” for the round (and of course if they’re both lost then you lose) – pushing means that you win back your money, but that’s all.  This type of play makes Pai Gow very popular because it is perhaps based more on luck than personal strategy.