How to Play Sic Bo

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Sic Bo is the Asian version of the classic casino game craps, but as with most ancient pursuits, this game likely spawned the dice games we know today. Although craps has overtaken Sic Bo in terms of overall popularity, the game is making a rebound of late, as Western players gain greater exposure to alternative table games via the online casino industry.

Both Sic Bo and craps utilize a table lined with betting squares and rolled dice, and they both are games of pure chance in the end. The objective of the game is simply to guess the result from three dice being rolled simultaneously.

Just like craps, you’ll find a dizzying array of betting options on a Sic Bo table, but as is true in craps; a few basic bets, form the game’s foundation. Of course, you can always take a chance and try the more lucrative bets on board, but when you do the odds are tilted in the house’s favor.

Sic Bo is the perfect gambling game for players looking for a good time without taxing themselves mentally. It may appear counterintuitive to play casino games in which you have little to no control over the outcome, but games of chance have long been a staple of casino gaming.

The reason for this is most players approach casino games as a lark, and they just want to have a little fun while chasing a big score along the way. So if you aren’t too concerned with applying proper strategy, and instead want to savor the thrill of a pure game of chance, Sic Bo is the dice game for you.

The following walkthrough is intended for players who are unfamiliar with Sic Bo, so basic game-play elements, rules, terminology, and pay-outs will be covered. The goal here is to take Sic Bo novices who may have only discovered the game yesterday into proficient players capable of hitting the table without breaking stride.

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How to Play

When sitting down to a Sic Bo table for the first time, you’ll likely notice how the table layout resembles that of a craps table. A large grid is lined out on the felt, and various squares featuring words, numbers, and illustrations of dice fill in the grid. With several dozen distinct betting areas on the table, Sic Bo can seem quite intimidating for beginners, but breaking the grid down into sections is a great way to get started. For a visual tour of the standard Sic Bo table, head here for a quick four minute lesson on Sic Bo betting.

The actual game-play of Sic Bo is relatively straightforward, and all you need to do is place your bets on the betting squares you prefer. Obviously, selecting these bets requires knowledge about the various differences between each bet, but once you’ve mastered those basics, placing your bets is all that will be required of you. And after a long session at the blackjack tables, where studying exposed cards and determining the optimal play for each scenario can be mentally taxing, sometimes putting your brain on autopilot for a fun game of Sic Bo can be a refreshing change of pace.

To play Sic Bo, you’ll need to know what the betting squares and their associated symbols really mean. For starters, we’ll consider the game’s most commonly placed bets: Small and Big.

The upper left-hand and right-hand corner of the betting grid are large squares featuring the words Small and Big. This simply refers to the amount of the three dice that the dealer will roll once all bets have been made. A bet on Small means you’re guessing that the three dice will total anywhere between 4 and 10, while a bet on Big means you think the total will reach 11 through 17. Think of this bet like the red and black bets on a roulette table, because both sides offer the same odds of right around 50 percent. Obviously, because the number ranges leave off one possible total for each bet (3 on the Small bet and 18 on the Big bet), your odds of winning are slightly lower than even money. This is much like the 0 and 00 spaces on a roulette wheel.

Most players, from novices to experts, stick to these Small and Big bets because they offer the most favorable house edge. When betting either Small or Big, you’ll always face a house edge of 2.78 percent, and a win probability of 48.61 percent. Should the dice roll in your favor and reach the total you’ve chosen, either Small or Big, your wager will be paid out at 1 to 1.

Other bets to consider include the Double and Triple bets, which require you to guess which (if any) dice will roll out to the same number. Double bets are depicted on the grid directly next to the Small and Big bets, with rectangular shapes featuring images of two dice showing matching totals (1 – 1, 2 – 2, 3 – 3, and so forth). Triple bets are shown in between the Double betting rectangles, and these feature images of three dice showing matching totals.

When betting Doubles, you can bet on any pairing you’d like, or multiple pairings simultaneously, but you can’t bet that any Double will occur. In other words, Doubles bets must be specific (two 1s, two 2s, etc.), but you can bet as many of these as you want. On the other hand, Triple bets work the same way, but a special square is also included allowing players to bet that any triple will occur.

Sic Bo Table

A winning Double bet pays out at 8 to 1, an exact winning Triple bet pays out at 150 to 1, and the any Triple bet pays out at 24 to 1, and while these payout structures are standard online, they can improve slightly in brick and mortar casinos. The house edge on Double bets is 33.3 percent when the 8 to 1 payout is used, and the house edge on exact Triple bets is 30.09 percent, while the any Triple bet carries a house edge of 30.56 percent.

You’ll also notice a horizontal line of squares featuring numerical values running across the center of the table. These are for betting on the exact total of all three dice combined. You can bet that the dice will render a total of 4 or 17 (50 to 1 payout, house edge 29.17 percent), 5 or 16 (18 to 1 payout, house edge 47.22 percent), 6 or 15 (14 to 1 payout, house edge 30.56 percent), 7 or 14 (12 to 1 payout, house edge 23.61 percent), 8 or 13 (7 to 1 payout, house edge 22.22 percent), 9 or 12 (6 to 1 payout, house edge 18.98 percent), and 10 or 11 (6 to 1 payout, house edge 12.50 percent).

A combination bet involves guessing that a single two number combination will occur among the three rolled dice. For example, you can bet that a 1 – 2, 1 – 3, 1 – 4, 1 – 5, 1 – 6, 2 – 3, 2 – 4, 2 – 5, 2 – 6, 3 – 4, 3 – 5, 3 – 6, 4 – 5, 4 – 6, or 5 – 6 will show up when the three dice finish rolling. If your chosen combination appears, your bet is paid out at 5 to 1. These bets are also called domino bets because the two dice symbols on the betting grid resemble dominoes. Combination bets carry a house edge of 16.67 percent.

Underneath the combination betting line you’ll see six squares featuring each of the individual dice faces. You can bet that a number will show up among the three dice rolled, and if it shows up once you’re paid out at 1 to 1. When the number shows up twice, however, you’ll be paid out at 2 to 1, and the payout climbs to 3 to 1 for all three numbers. The house edge on the single number bets stands at 7.87 percent.

Proper Strategy

As a pure game of chance, there’s no preset strategy for excelling at Sic Bo. When it’s all said and done, the randomized roll of three dice will always determine winners and losers, and you can never control that level of randomization.

Fortunately for players looking to win, however, Sic Bo resembles another game of chance predicated on guessing; baccarat. And when you adapt proper baccarat strategy (sticking to the most favorable bet on the board at all times, in this case the Small and Big squares), you can reduce the house edge on Sic Bo to just under 3 percent making it one of the more favorable games in any casino.

The trick is exercising discipline and resisting the urge to splash chips around on the various bets begging to be made all across the board. And sure, you’ll occasionally watch a player hit the perfect roll and win big, but nine times out of ten these alternate bets just won’t hit pay dirt. By sticking to the Small and Big bets when playing Sic Bo, you should be able to extend your bankroll into several hours of enjoyment without fear of going broke.

If you simply must try your hand at some of the more disadvantageous bets, the best strategy you can employ is selective aggression. Don’t become attached to certain bets, and always keep in mind the gambler’s fallacy. Just because the previous rolls didn’t show any Triples doesn’t mean a Triple is due to arrive. Every roll of the dice is a wholly independent event, and the odds are always the same each time the dice hit the felt. If you keep that maxim in mind, Sic Bo can provide an enjoyable entertainment experience, and perhaps even a little profit to boot.