Gaming with stones, tiles, and dice has been enjoyed in China for nearly 2,000 years, and many of their games continue to be played in their original forms or modern variations. One of these games is called sic bo, which translates to ‘Precious Dice,’ or Dai Siu, which translates to ‘Big Small.’ Originally played with wooden blocks with numbered sides, sic bo evolved to be played with three six-sided dice over time. The game’s objective remains the same: to bet on varieties of numbers that will be rolled correctly.
In the 19th century, Chinese manual laborers traveled to the US to work on the transcontinental railroad and brought with them a variety of games and traditions, including sic bo. While immigrants gambled on the game in work camps, European-American settlers were interested in it in the 20th century. Meanwhile, the game became popular in Macau with Portuguese colonies, who later introduced it to Europe.
It was not until the 1920s and 1940s, when two more waves of Chinese immigrants arrived in the US, that European-American settlers began to notice sic bo. The game was adopted by American carnivals and called Chuck a Luck, with the cage being referred to as a birdcage. It took another 40 years for the game to become popular in US casinos.
In Macau, sic bo was an instant success in the 1970s and continued to gain popularity among Chinese gamblers visiting Las Vegas. In the 1990s, non-Chinese gamblers began to play the game, and it finally made its way to the main floor of casinos in Las Vegas, thanks to wealthy Chinese tourists.
Although sic bo has been slow to gain popularity in Europe, the UK, and Canada, it has recently found success thanks to online casinos. Many consider the ability to gamble online as sic bo’s much-deserved big break, and the game can now be found at leading operators and mobile casinos.