How to Play Sic Bo
Sic Bo, also known as ‘Tai Sai Dai Siu’ and pronounced ‘see-bo’, is an ancient Chinese dice game where players bet on the outcome of a roll of three dice. This makes it sound very simple to play, and it is to a point, but the many different potential outcomes and payouts are where things get trickier for newcomers.
The table can be extremely off putting if you are going into the game blind, so understanding how to read it before you start laying your bets is key. To make things more confusing, some casinos may have a slightly different layout to others, but they will all show every possible outcome of the roll along with the associated odds in some way.
The game can be found in physical casinos, at online casinos, and included as a live casino game, and there are even a few alternative versions starting to creep in now such as Super Sic Bo, which gives you some indication as to its rising popularity.
Reading the Board
Before guiding you through a mock round of Sic Bo, it would be best take you through the board so that you understand what your betting options are and the likelihood of each of those bets coming up.
A common enough layout for a Sic Bo board would look like this:
As you can see, there are a lot of options here.
Firstly, lets do away with the right hand side of the board as this just shows you the dice as they roll, and then records the previous results in the history section so that you can keep track if you want to. Sic Bo is a game of chance though, and every roll is independent of the last so this doesn’t really serve a purpose in reality, even though some people like to use it to work out what to bet on next.
In terms of the bets themselves, it helps to think of the board in rows or levels working from the bottom upwards. There are four levels in total and the first three are all essentially deal with the same bet type, while the fourth goes a little rogue. None of them are difficult to understand though.
On the bottom row you can see the single number bets, where you are simply betting that a certain number will show up on at least one of the dice. We have bet 100 that a number 3 will turn up in this image, so if the dice were rolled and the result was a 6, a 4, and a 3, we would win double our money. However, this gets better because we get paid out for every number 3 that shows up, so if we rolled a 6 and two 3’s then we would get paid out twice, and once more again for a triple 3.
If you actually want to bet on a triple outright then the payout is much much higher but we will come to that later.
This next row shows the combination bets. Here, you are betting that two specific numbers will be rolled from the three dice. We have bet on a 5 and a 2 showing up in our image, but every possible combination is available.
The chances of this happening are much less likely, and so the payout is higher. It doesn’t matter what the third dice lands on, so long as your two numbers are in there somewhere then your bet will win and you will get back 5 times your stake.
This third row shows the total bets, and contain every potential number that all three dice could add up to apart from the highest and the lowest; 18 and 3. This is one way that the casino gets their edge, if three 1’s or three 6’s show up then no one wins – unless they have bet on specific triples but again, that explanation is coming up.
To win a total bet, all three dice have to add up to the number you have bet on. It doesn’t matter how just so long as the end result is the same. So if you had bet on number 14 as we have in the image above, you could win from a 5, a 6, and a 3, just as you could from a two 5’s and a 4.
There are various different payouts for total bets depending on the number you choose, and that is because there are more combinations within the three dice that can add up to certain numbers than others – there is only one way to get a 4 from three dice, for example, so that number has a much higher payout than 11, which can be reached by quite a few different combinations.
This last row is broken up into a few different bet types.
Right in the middle of the row is where you can bet on any triple to occur and you can see that the payout for that is 30 times your bet. Either side of that you can bet on a specific triple, we have gone for a triple 2, and because this is such an unlikely bet to win the odds are a massive 180 times your stake.
Next are your specific double bets and it is the same story here; place your chips on the double you think will appear and if it does you will get 10 times your stake back. In this image, we would win if a double 5 was rolled along with any other number.
Lastly you have the two corners, and we are back to betting on the sum of all three dice with these. Unlike the rest of the bets on this top row the two corner bets pay out at evens so you simply double your stake if you win, but that is because you are much more likely to win the bet.
The left hand corner is for low/small numbers from 4-10, while the right hand corner is for high/big numbers from 11-17. So, if we made a ‘big’ bet and the dice were rolled and totalled 15 we would win. One thing to note here is that any triple will lose this bet; so even if we made that same ‘big’ bet and we got three 5’s to make 15, the bet would lose because the 15 was formed from a triple.
Sic Bo Bet Types
To really get you comfortable with the different types of Sic Bo bet we have compiled this table as a reference, which also includes the house edge for each bet type.
Just like the Sic Bo board, we have created the table from the bottom up, so single bets will be at the bottom, combinations next, and so on.
|Bet Type||Description||Payout||House Edge|
|Big Bet||Any number between 11 and 17||1:1||2.8%|
|Small Bet||Any number between 4 and 10||1:1||2.8%|
|Doubles Bet||Two of the same specific number||10:1||11.1%|
|Specific Triple Bet||Three of the same specific number||180:1||16.2%|
|Any Triple Bet||Three of the same number indiscriminate||30:1||13.9%|
|Totals Bet||Predict the sum of all three dice||6:1 to 60:1||7.4% to 15.3%|
|Combination Bet||A combination of any two specific numbers||5:1||2.8%|
|Singles Bet||Any single number to appear at least once||1:1, 2:1, or 3:1||7.9%|
Now you can see at a glance which bets come with what payouts, but also how much the house stands to make every time you make those bets.
How to Play Sic Bo
Now you know all you need to know in order to get started and make your first bet on Sic Bo. We will go through step by step but it won’t take long, because Sic Bo is a fairly fast paced game.
It is often said that the game is similar to that of Craps, which is true to a point, but instead of the dice being rolled they are usually shaken electronically these days (or sometimes in a shaker by the dealer before being revealed) – despite this article constantly referring to rolls of the dice!
We would say there are five stages to entering a game, although not all of them relate directly to gameplay. Remember, Sic Bo is a game of chance, there is so skill involved at all here.
- Set Your Budget – You can go through many rounds of Sic Bo in a short space of time, so set your budget and stake levels accordingly. Using this as your first step in the game will help to prolong the lifespan of your playing session.
- Buy Your Chips – If you don’t have them already, then lay your money on the table in front of you as etiquette demands, and wait for the dealer to replace the money with chips. Do not try and take the chips from the dealer directly, this is bad form.
- Place Your Bets – The dealer will make it clear when betting is open and now you can place your chips on the table where you would like them. Be very clear, especially in smaller areas of the board, in where your chips are placed to avoid any confusion before the dice are rolled. Never try and place chips after betting has closed for the round.
- Watch – The dice will be rolled, often using a button that activates an electrical ‘shaker’ and the result will be made clear. The dealer will collect all losing bets and pay out all winning bets. If you have won take your chips immediately after the dealer has paid out or else they make think you want to make the same bet again.
- Reset – Quickly reassess your situation and decide what you want to do next. You can always sit a round out if you would like a break or you just don’t fancy your chances for whatever reason. Once you are ready to go again, wait for the all clear from the dealer and place your bets.
Playing Sic Bo Online
Some online operators have started to offer Sic Bo in order to differentiate themselves a little and to offer players more variety. This is a great way to learn the game because you can take it at your own pace without having to worry about an impatient dealer or other players.
There may also be instructions that can help you along on your first few rounds, and many developers have created games that indicate winning areas on the board after each roll of the dice, making it easy to keep track of which bets have won and why.
Another benefit is that you can get through many more hands in a shorter space of time online, because you aren’t having to wait for a dealer to pay out or for other players to place their bets or buy chips, everything is done automatically.
As well as being available as an online table game, you will often find Sic Bo as an option in the Live Casino. This is where there is a live dealer with whom you can interact running a real game that is streamed to your screen. If you are toying with the idea of going to a real casino to play then this is a brilliant stepping stone, because you can get an idea of pace and see the game in action ‘in the flesh’ so to speak, but you don’t have to bet if you don’t want to, you can just watch.
The History of Sic Bo
Sic Bo originates from China, and it is in many ways the Asian version of the classic game of Craps which is particularly popular in America. While craps has become the more popular dice game in the West over the years, Sic Bo has been getting more exposure and is experiencing something of a resurgence.
The game dates back over 2000 years to ancient China, and the theory is that the game was originally played with a pair of painted bricks. As time progressed, these bricks were replaced with much smaller and easier to use dice, with a third die added at a later date in order to make the game more challenging.
Later down the line, all three dice would be put on a porcelain plate and then topped with a bowl before being shaken, then the bowl would be removed to show the result. This is not that far from the way things work today.
It is widely believed that the game of Sic Bo was brought to America by Chinese immigrants around the start of the 20th century. Over time, the game was explained to locals and the non-Chinese residents of America and began to catch on.
More as a novelty than anything else, the game started to be offered to players in casinos in the UK, America, and Australia from the 1990s onwards, as the western world did not consider this a serious gambling game nor did they believe that this would catch on with players. But they did agree that it had curiosity value.
It has ended up as a staple alternative to the big games like roulette and blackjack though, earning its place in most casinos as a great way to offer a bit of variety for people who want to try something a little bit different.
There are a few questions we couldn’t cover as we would have liked to in the article itself, so we have included them in this FAQ to hopefully round off the article and give you all the information you need to go into the game confidently.
How does Sic Bo Differ from Craps?
While the two games do look very similar and both revolve around the toss of dice, there are a few differences other than the Asian vis American feel to each game.
Firstly, in Sic Bo, instead of throwing the dice yourself like you do in craps, the dealer is in charge of this factor. Also, the bets differ between the two games and the structure is a little different too.
In craps you can build one bet off the back of another and place more bets once each game has begun, whereas with Sic Bo all bets for each round are placed ahead of the roll and no further bets can be placed until the next game. In this regard, Sic Bo is actually simpler to follow than Craps.
Is Sic Bo a Fair Game?
Compared to poker for example where you can bluff your way into winning money, or blackjack where, if you are really good, you can count cards to a degree to try and gain an advantage, the game of Sic Bo is completely fair and random.
Obviously there is a house edge involved which means the player is always at a disadvantage, but in terms of the actual gameplay it’s about as fair as it can get.
This is because the dice are placed into a mechanical cup which is shaken independently of any person, so there is no human factor to consider – the outcome cannot be manipulated. There is no way to gain a competitive advantage for the player or the casino, and as such it is a completely fair game of chance.
What is the Best Advice for Playing Sic Bo?
Firstly, if you have never played the game of Sic Bo before it is highly recommended that you read up on the rules and make sure that you fully understand them before laying down any money.
Secondly, have some practice games online for free to make sure that you are comfortable, and then decide a budget and stick to it. These are both pieces of advice that can be applied to any gambling game.
Sic Bo has a number of 50/50 bets (or as close as you can get what with the house edge) such as the big and small bets, so you could try applying gambling systems to these bets to try and build your balance. These are all ultimately flawed but can work in the short term.
It would also be wise to stick to the higher chance lower odds bets to begin with to eek out your bankroll and get your experience levels up. More experienced players sometimes spread their bets across the table to give themselves the best possible chances of winning, but that can get a little complex and is for another article.