Occupying the largest percentage of the world's population (a staggering 60%!), Asia too makes for the biggest betting community. And while Asia follows up with the iGaming world, which keeps progressing left and right, rapidly replacing the old with the new, they also remain firm on keeping their traditional forms of gambling alive, primarily classics that used to be played for centuries on the Asian continent.
A lot of modern casino games have origins in games played in ancient east Asia, or have been influenced by Asia in one way or another. Asians are know for celebrating their tradition, so the fact they've managed to keep traditional Asian games alive and even give them a cool spin - surprises none.
Here are the most popular Chinese casino games and Asian gambling games today:
- Sic Bo
- Pai Gow (and Pai Gow Poker)
- Chinese Poker
- Niu Niu
- Yee Hah Hi
- Tien Gow
- Dou Dizhu
- Baccarat (and Dragon Tiger)
What is Mahjong and How to Play it?
Mahjong is a traditional Asian table game still played at brick and mortar casinos and somewhat popular outside of the Asian continent. It is played among four players with 136 tiles and dice. A dice roll determines who will end up in the role of a dealer, and the game develops from there.
One of the most famous ancient Asian gambling games, Mahjong is a strategic game with an accent on a sharp focus. To this day, the game has remained an essential part of the Asian culture.
How to Play Mahjong
The goal of the game is to build a wall of tiles. Before the tiles are dealt, players place bets; players are allowed to place new bets after each round. Then, all 136 tiles are placed face down, with each player receiving 13 tiles from the dealer (who was determined by the roll of a dice). Players then turn their tiles face up, pairing them into sets of three of four dominos.
During each round, players get to choose one additional tile from the table; if the selected tile adds up to a winning hand of 14 tiles, to win the game, the player should announce "Mahjong". If the tile doesn't score a winning combination, a player is to discard one of the tiles face up in the middle of the table and wait for the next round. Players are allowed to use the revealed tiles of their opponents to complete their own sets. The winner is the first player to announce "Mahjong".
What is Sic Bo and How to Play it?
One of the real veterans of Chinese gambling games, Sic Bo is a fast-paced game of pure chance as its name suggests (Sic Bo translates to 'precious dice'). Being an important part of the Chinese identity, Sic Bo has stuck around for thousands of years, establishing its place in Asian casinos across the continent.
Interestingly, Sic Bo has reached western and international gamblers too, as it can be found on casino floors in Nevada, as well as plenty online casinos around the world; when choosing the next online, whether it offers Sic Bo or not, make sure to follow our online casino guide for the best experience.
How to Play Sic Bo
Sic Bo is a traditional Asian game played with three dice. It has two main game aspects – dice rolling and betting, both of which take place on a Sic Bo table (similar to a roulette table).
The winning outcome is defined by the sum of the three values generated from the three dice; still, the final result will also be influenced by the bets.
Sic Bo allows for up to 50 different bets per player, with the option of wagering on various combinations of just two dice or the sum of all three dice.
The way to place a bet is to place a chip on designated sections of the table and wait for the dice roll. The only factor in Sic Bo is the luck of the roll, which makes it free from any strategic tension. As this is one of the most popular Asian casino games, there are live dealer versions available online.
What is Keno and How to Play it?
Another ancient Chinese gambling thrill, Keno is an incredibly important part of Chinese history. As legend would have it, the game of Keno came about during wartime, with people needing to raise money. What's even more interesting is that there are stories of the Great Wall of China being founded through Keno. From the modern perspective, Keno resembles the lottery and bingo. The game of Keno takes 10 to fifteen minutes, for a single round.
How to Play Keno
Ranking as one of the most popular Chinese gambling games, Keno is played with a ticket, or a card containing numbers from 1 to 80. A player can choose any number of cards from one to 20 numbers on the card before placing the bet. The point is for the player to select their numbers and try their luck. There are three wagering options:
- Straight-ticket (a single bet, betting on all marked numbers)
- King ticket
- Combination ticket
The winners receive their respective payout proposed by the casino's paytable. Live Keno is also available to play on the internet and is one of the most popular types of online gambling.
Pai Gow (and Pai Gow Poker)
What is Pai Gow and How to Play it?
Enjoy celebrity-status just like Sic Bo, Pai Gow is another Chinese gambling game that's close to Asian tradition as it has been played for thousands of years on the continent. Interestingly, to this day, Pai Gow is predominantly played exclusively by seasoned bettors and amateur gamblers of Asian descent. The game is a bit complicated one to learn, but dealers usually help out with guidance if they see the person is struggling.
Being one of the most popular Chinese table games, the fact the west took an interest in it doesn't really surprise much. However, western countries are in favour of playing Pai Gow Poker, which is an Americanized version of Pai Gow.
How to Play Pai Gow
The base of Pai Gow is a set of 32 dominoes or tiles. Every participant is handed four tiles, which need to be separated into two pairs (low hand and high hand), which are observed through ranking orders – pair, Wong, Gong and 9 to 0 points order. The game is similar to Baccarat when it comes to the scoring system.
What is Fan-Tan and How to Play it?
Fan-Tan, or fantan is a game of pure chance, very similar to roulette and predominantly played in East Asia. The Chinese love playing Fan-Tan, which is why you can find the game around local casinos and gambling houses, and, surprisingly, in some casinos in Nevada.
How to Play Fan-Tan
At the centre of a table a square is laid out, with every side marked 1, 2, 3, and 4. Any of these numbers hold players' bets. The banker terminates the betting process with their ring, then empties onto the table a double handful of coins, buttons, beans, and other types of small objects that had previously been covered with a metal bowl.
The total of collected objects should be around 200. The banker, then, uses a smaller cup to segregate about 60–100 of the collected objects; he/she uses a bamboo stick for separation to the moment there are only four or less left. The number that's left, wins!
What is Chinese Poker and How to Play it?
Chinese Poker is a unique Chinese card game casino where players get 13 cards instead of 2 which are traditionally dealt in Hold 'em. Despite its name, Chinese Poker doesn't resemble its traditional counterparts like Hold 'em, Omaha, or Stud poker in terms of gameplay. Even so, knowing how traditional poker is played can serve as good basis for learning how to play Chinese Poker and enjoy it!
How to Play Chinese Poker
At the beginning of each round, the player receives 13 cards, making 4 players the maximum number. However, it is not unusual to have only 2 or 3 people play, as well.
After players arrange their cards, they can either "surrender" (i.e. fold) or choose to play their hand. Players who stay at the table reveal their cards clockwise, starting from the dealer's left. This is how they score commences. Chinese Poker is possibly one of the favourite Chinese casino table games in existence.
What is Niu Niu and How to Play it?
Atypical for American casinos, Niu Niu is a true hit in the halls of southeast Asian casinos. As the history of online gambling progresses, more and more online casinos catering to Asian gamblers are offering the game with tremendous success.
How to Play Niu Niu
Niu niu resembles Baccarat in the card value; numbered cards are worth their ranking, aces are one point and the jack, king and queen are worth zero points. A two-card hand worth zero points and a three-card hand worth zero points is a Niu Niu. The second-best hand is a three-card hand worth zero points combined with a two-card hand worth more than zero points. The hand gets better as the number of points in the two-card hand increases.
Yee Hah Hi
What is Yee Hah Hi and How to Play it?
Yee Hah Hi is, in a way, a version of Sic Bo, just without all the counting. Also, each side of the dice has a picture on it.
There are three different colours for six different symbols on Yee Hah Hi dice.
- The Coin
- The Fish
- The Crab
- The Gourd
- The Scorpion
- The Rooster
The symbols come in the following colours.
Players can bet on things like "two of the dice are the same colour" or "all are the same colour". The house edge for Niu Niu is just 1.11%.
What is Tien Gow and How to Play it?
A famous Chinese casino game Tien Gow or Tin Kau is the game played with either a set of 32 Chinese dominoes or a pair of dice. In these games, there are two suits in which the players play: Military suit and Civil suit, with Heaven being the top rank of the civil suit, and Nine being the top rank of the military suit.
Here's a complete list of the ranks in the military suit:
- Nines (3-6 or 4-5)
- Eights (3-5 or 2-6)
- Sevens (2-5 or 3-4)
- Sixes (2-4)
- Fives (2-3 or 1-4)
- Final Three (1-2)
And here's a complete list of the ranks in the civil suit:
- Heaven (6-6)
- Earth (1-1)
- Man (4-4)
- Harmony (1-4)
- Plum Flower (5-5)
- Long Threes (3-3)
- Bench (2-2)
- Tiger's Head (5-6)
- Red Head Ten (4-6)
- Long Leg Seven (1-6)
- Red Mallet Six (1-5)
How to Play Tien Gow
The point of the game is to beat each other with a higher combination of the 21 possible ones. With 11 ranked in a "civil" suit and 10 in a "military" suit, the banker throws the dice into a bowl after the wager is set, and that's how the suit gets set.
If the banker throws the highest rank (Heaven or Nine), they'll automatically win; however, if they throw the lowest rank (Red Mallet Six or Final Three), they'll lose. The other players try to beat the banker for any other combination by throwing a higher rank of the same suit.
Whoever throws less than the banker has to pay them, but they also have the right to "follow suit" for every time they throw the wrong suit. When a tie happens, no money needs to be exchanged. The idea for the players is to keep throwing until one of them beats the banker and gets paid by him. Whoever's on the banker's right becomes the next banker with new stakes set. Everyone should take turns.
What is Dou Dizhu and How to Play it?
Dou Di Zhu or Fight the Landlord is a game primarily designed for three players, but also playable by four. The main player (aka the landlord) in each hand plays alone while others form a team (aka peasants) and play against him. The game is now popular all over China, and is also available online (and extensively played).
How to Play Dou Di Zhu
The game starts with a pack of cards, including the two differentiated jokers. Before teams are split, everyone bids for the position of the "landlord", after which teams split, as indicated in the paragraph above. The landlord's goal is to play out all of his cards first and in proper combinations. The team is also included; they play with the idea to play all their cards before the landlord, and if they do so – they win. The objective of the game is to have no cards left in your hands.
What is Pachinko and How to Play it?
When you hear someone talk about Asian slots games, they are probably talking about Pachinko. But, what is Pachinko, really?
Although technically not a slot game (it is similar to a pinball machine), Pachinko resembles a slot machine when used for gambling, with the outcome determined by a metal ball and where it lands. Pachinko parlours are very similar to mini Las Vegas casinos, as the atmosphere is hot and suspenseful.
How to Play Pachinko
At the beginning of the game, a player inserts cash into the machine to get small metal balls. The balls then get launched into the machine with a lever. Some balls will give the player a chance to win additional balls while others will fall out of bounds or land into bonus areas.
To play Pachinko:
- Put money in the machine on the left side
- Press' Play' (marked '玉貸")
- Turn the round lever, and keep holding it for the balls to keep shooting out
- Aim the balls for the upper left area of the board
Pachinko pays out in balls because gambling in Japan is illegal; however, these balls can be exchanged for prizes but not money.
Baccarat (and Dragon Tiger)
What is Baccarat and How to Play it?
The legend of Baccarat goes back to the Italian gambler Felix Falguiere who, centuries ago, created this game by using a deck of mystical tarot cards. The game developed into Baccarat which was, then, taken all over the world by travellers, sailors, and army regiments. It wasn't long before it reached ports on the Southern Sea of SouthEast Asia.
Baccarat is today the most played game in the Chinese dependency of Macau, with everyone flocking to local parlours to try their skill and luck.
How to Play Baccarat
As players sit around the table, players bet on either the "banker" (aka the dealer) side, the player's side, or for a tie. While cards 10, jack, queen and king have a value of zero, cards two through nine are face value. An ace is worth one.
All cards are dealt face up – two for the banker, two for the player – with the closest card to nine winning.
A few rules to help you ace a baccarat game:
- Both the player and banker stand if either is dealt a total of eight or nine
- The player gets another card if their total is five or less. Otherwise, the player will stand
- A tie or the final betting option pays out 8-to-1. Players have the option of keeping track of their score on the sheet
That the history of gambling has exciting and even mind-blowing roots testifies the fact that ancient Asian gambling games have lived and evolved through time only to satisfy the needs of the modern gambler. Knowing that most games we play today trace back to Asia adds to the beauty of the whole thing, making our gambling adventures even more exciting - after all, there’s something special about knowing we, too, make gambling history together.