The History of Sic Bo

Great Wall of China

Dice are some of the oldest game-playing tools in existence, dating all the way back to 3,000 BCE, which makes them more than 5,000 years old. Most ancient dice games have fallen into obscurity, but one game survives to this day, and that game is Sic Bo.

Sic Bo originated in ancient China and is often claimed to be the oldest casino game in the world. The English translation of its name is “precious dice” but it goes by many other names, as you’ll read below.

Today, Sic Bo is available all over the world, including at social casinos like McLuck.com. This unique game is played with not one, not two, but three dice. To celebrate adding this game to our collection, we’ve gathered everything we know about its long and illustrious history.

The Origins of Sic Bo

Like with so many old things, we can’t say for sure where Sic Bo originated. We don’t have a specific year or a single document that points to its invention. Instead, we know they played Sic Bo with bones, shells, and rocks. Historically, these are popular replacements for today’s manufactured dice. If a small object was throwable, it was probably used to play Sic Bo.

The term Sic Bo translates to several phrases. As well as “precious dice”, it can mean “lucky pair” and even “two bricks.” That last one has led to theories that the earlier game was different. Instead of using three small dice, two larger bricks may have been thrown instead.

Games develop organically over time. When communication wasn’t widespread, rulesets changed depending on where you were. Why? Because they were delivered via word of mouth, leaving more room for misremembered rules or varied interpretations. Every province and even individual cities may have had their own specific ways of playing Sic Bo. Over time, a few ways of playing it would beat the rest in popularity.

Sic Bo may have originated from China’s educated classes. In most ancient civilizations, the royalty, their close subjects, and religious leaders were the ones with a working knowledge of math. It would likely then have migrated into the wider population, until everybody played their own versions of the game. When you play online there’s just one version of the rules, however, and our guide on how to play Sic Bo will tell you everything you need to know.

While Sic Bo is still popular in China today, it enjoys popularity in other Asian countries, too. The Philippines is one of them, where it’s called hi-lo instead. Another variation, dai siu, is popular in Macau.

Reaching the West

If you’re looking to play Sic Bo in person today, Southeast Asia is still the place to go. That said, in England, a very similar game called “grand hazard” (or “chuck-a-luck”) emerged, some time ago. Grand hazard is very similar to Sic Bo, leading some to theorize that it was inspired by English relations with Macau in the early 1600s.

Historians have a pretty clear idea of how Sic Bo reached America, however. This would have happened during the 1800s when the Wild West was in full swing. Back then, the western half of the country lacked infrastructure compared to the east coast. But it was trading with China and that’s partly what led to America welcoming its first waves of Chinese migrants in 1815.

By 1850, the Californian gold rush saw many workers travel westward. To accommodate this travel, the US government needed to build the transcontinental railroad. This brought many immigrant workers from all backgrounds, though Chinese laborers were most common.

This new immigrant population brought their own culture to America’s melting pot, including games. And as dice games like Sic Bo are versatile – you can play them with random objects, just like in ancient times, if you want – they were the perfect import for lower-class laborers. Something similar would happen in the next century, when craps exploded in popularity with World War II soldiers.

Going Online

That brings Sic Bo to the modern day, where it’s enjoyed by people all over the world, thanks to online and social casinos like McLuck.com.

After the internet hit the mainstream in the ‘90s, the world saw the first online casinos start offering games like poker, blackjack, and simple online slot games. While those are crowd-pleasers, the industry grew over time to include other games. Websites providing these games wanted to have every type of game covered, to attract more people and keep them satisfied. Soon online casinos discovered that they could platform less well known games and introduce them to new audiences. Many Americans wouldn’t have played Sic Bo had it not become available on the internet.

Now in the 2020s, McLuck and other social casinos can offer Sic Bo to players in a free-to-play format. That covers everything you need to know about Sic Bo’s history and how it arrived at your screen today. If you want to find out more about the game, consider trying it out right here at McLuck.com.

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