I don’t know when I last saw a live sic bo table outside Las Vegas or Atlantic City. It’s just not a common game in the U.S., even though it’s very popular in Asia and draws big play in Macau.
But electronic tables in brick-and-mortar casinos and virtual games online have opened the door to players who want a dice game with a difference. My email in the last couple of months included two questions about sic bo best bets. One came from a reader who found it on an electronic table in a tribal casino. He found he could choose among blackjack, roulette and sic bo by touching the screen. The other came from a player who had found sic bo online.
As traditionally played, three dice are contained in a large, hourglass-shaped birdcage. To roll the dice, the dealer flips the cage upside down and the dice tumble to the end now at the bottom.
Electronic tables can be set up a couple of different ways. In casinos that use a live cage and dealer, video of the roll can be streamed to tables at remote locations around the casino. More commonly, an image of the cage or just of the dice are rolled onscreen, with results determined by a random number generator.
Online, expect virtual dice and an RNG.
Players have dozens of betting options. Here are some of the most common. Payoffs used here are normal in Atlantic City live games. If your electronic table or online game has lower payoffs, understand that the house edge will be higher than listed here.
Single numbers: You can wager on any number 1 through 6, and if any of the three dice land on your numbern you’re paid even money. If two dice show your number, you’re paid 2-1 and if you get all three, you’re paid 3-1. House edge: 7.9 percent.
Triples: You’re betting that all three dice will land on the same number. If you specify a number — for example, betting all three dice will be 4s — the true odds of winning are 215-1. I’ve seen payoffs at 180-1, meaning a house edge of 13.9 percent. You also can bet a triple without specifying a number. Then you win if all three dice are the same regardless of number. Again, payoffs can vary. At 30-1, the house edge is 13.9 percent.
Small: You’re paid even money if the total of the three dices will be 4 through 10, although you lose on triples. Three 2s and three 9s are not winners here. It’s that triples rule that gives the house its 2.8 percent edge.
Large: You’re paid even money on totals of 11 through 17, except triples. As on the small bet, the house edge is 2.8 percent.
Specific totals: You can bet on any total of the three dice from 4 through 17 — note that the totals 3 and 18 are both triples bets.
When my wife Marcy and I went out to play one stormy July morning, I didn’t expect my focal …
Payoffs differ with the total, so here are the combinations with payoff and house edge: 4 or 17, 60-1, 15.3 percent; 5 or 16, 30-1, 13.9 percent; 6 or 15, 17-1, 16.7 percent; 7 or 14, 12-1, 9.7 percent; 8 or 13, 8-1, 12.5 percent; 9 or 12, 6-1, 19 percent; 10 or 11, 6-1, 12.5 percent.
I wouldn’t even consider anything but the large and small bets, with their 2.8 percent edges. If you want to take a chance at a large payoff such as the 60-1 on 4 or 17, understand that the house edges on the big payers are very high.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).