Most players who have been around the gambling world will know by now that China is a country that loves to gamble. The oldest forms of gambling in China can be traced back as far as the First Dynasty, some 4,000 years ago. Modern China doesn’t permit gambling on the Mainland, but in nearby Macau, a former Portuguese colony, more relaxed gambling laws have seen the “Las Vegas of Asia” overtake its namesake in almost all metrics that matter when it comes to being the gambling capital of the world.
What this means is, there’s a big market out there for Online Casinos to market to, and as the rise of modern Chinese gambling has coincided with the rise of Online Casino gaming, we can see more and more new, exciting games based on Chinese classics on offer to gamblers who are looking for something a bit different than their regular slots or Blackjack. Here are 3 modern online casino games, and the classic Chinese games of chance that they are based on.
Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker can be considered a gateway into the world of Chinese gaming culture. It’s a hybrid between Poker and the classic Chinese game ‘Pai Gow’ which is loosely translated to ‘make nine’.
Traditional games of Pai Gow are played with Chinese dominoes. Each player (up to 7) is dealt 4 dominoes, which they make into 2 hands of 2 dominoes each. The total number of pips in each hand is added up, and the tens digit is dropped. This means the highest score in Pai Gow is nine, hence the name.
Each player, and the dealer, has a front hand and a rear hand. The front hand is the hand that is lower scoring, the rear hand is the higher scoring hand for each player. Each player’s front hand is first compared to the dealer’s, then each player’s rear hand is compared to the dealer’s. If someone wins both of these matchups, they win, if they lose both, they lose, and if it’s split one hand each, the bet is pushed.
There are many more nuances to the ancient game of Pai Gow, but for our purposes, this is what you need to know – because these are the characteristics that have been passed on to the modern version.
How to play Pai Gow Poker
Just like in Pai Gow, each player, including the dealer makes 2 hands. Instead of 4 dominoes, however, the hands are made from 7 cards. Everyone makes one 5-card hand, using standard Hold ‘em poker hand rankings, and everyone has a leftover 2 card hand which makes either a pair or High Card.
Each player’s hands are individually compared to the dealer’s respective hands, just like in Pai Gow. If the player wins both, they win their bet. If the dealer wins both, the player loses. If the win is split, the bet is pushed! Ties go to the banker, which does give the house a slight edge here.
Keno is a game for the ages. All histories agree that it originated in China, but the name is derived from the Latinate word for ‘five winning numbers’ ‘quine’. Macau, as earlier mentioned, was a Portuguese colony, and licensed the first recorded lottery in 1847. However, anecdotes give Keno a much longer history in China.
Keno is a popular gam, and has some high payouts, but it also comes with a very low RTP%, so be warned!
How to play Keno
Keno is a lot like a lottery. Players choose numbers between 1 and 80 (usually). After wagers are made, 20 numbers are drawn at random – either using a Random Number Generator or, for more theatre, a Ball Machine, just like the Lottery!
Payouts vary from casino to casino and are based on the ‘paytable’ of each game. This sets up how successful you can be – a bad paytable can have a house edge of almost 35%!
Payout is based on how many of your numbers ‘hit’, how many numbers you chose, and your initial wager. Some casinos will pay out on big odds if you manage to get 0 out of 20 though, so be aware that the paytables really do change the game a lot!
Translating to ‘Precious Dice’, Sic Bo is an ancient Chinese game that can be enjoyed in Online Casinos, now, in a pretty similar form to how it has been played for centuries.
In one sentence, Sic Bo is like an Asian mashup of Roulette and Craps. Players place their bets onto a table, where different areas on the table denote the different bets they are making, just like in Roulette and Craps.
What the players are betting on is the outcome of one roll of ‘3d6’ or three six-sided dice. Possible scores range from 3-18, but there are many other possible bets to be taken with corresponding odds and payouts.
So just like craps you play at a table and the outcome is based on the roll of some dice, but unlike craps, there’s just one roll at a time. In this way, and in the way that players can choose to go for simple bets with close to 50/50 odds (minus house edge), Sic Bo can also be compared to Roulette.
The actual gameplay involves a well-timed betting round, followed by the dealer placing the 3 dice in a small chest, shaking it, placing it down and then opening the chest to reveal the score. Winning bets are paid out and losing chips are taken by the house.
If you find yourself keen to try something new and understand more about the oldest continuous gambling culture in the world, then hopefully this short guide has given you the interest to dip your toe in the Modern world of Ancient Chinese Gambling! Have fun, and play responsibly!