Macau, a peninsula, located in the south of China, and sometimes known as the ‘Monte Carlo of the East’, is the most popular destination for gamblers in south-east Asia. With over 40 casinos and several sports betting options available, there is something for everyone.

Ancient Chinese Gambling Games

Many gambling games that we commonly play in the West find their origin in Ancient China. It is a widely held belief that playing cards were first used there in the 9th century.

Nowadays, gamblers can still play classic card games online, like Poker, as well as try their luck on roulette or play daily free spins on Wonder Wheel. However, we can also see direct influence from Ancient China with online games such as Chinese Treasures or Lucky Mahjong for gamblers to play.

For those gamblers who would prefer to play offline, they can sample Chinese casino games. Macau, the gambling capital of Asia, offers the chance for visitors to play a range of ancient Chinese gambling games.


Fan Tan

If you like buttons, cups and wands, then this is the game for you. Dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries in China, this game has spread in popularity, mostly due to the Cantonese emigration of the mid-1800s.

Operated by the ‘Tan Kun’ and the cashier, a table is marked out with a square in the middle with sides numbered one to four. The banker puts a large handful of objects in the middle of the table. This is where the buttons come in, but the objects can be anything, including coins, beads, or anything small. The cashier then covers them with a bowl.

This is where it gets interesting, the Tan Kun then removes four objects at a time with a stick, until the final batch is reached, and the winnings are paid out to whoever bet on the correct remaining amount. A game based on luck, but with a difference.

Pai Gow

Literally translated as ‘card nine’, reflecting the highest score in the game, Pai Gow is believed to be the first type of dominoes and uses specially designed tiles. Played by between two and eight players, the rules of the game can seem complex to begin with. In Pai Gow, players are dealt four tiles, which they divide into two hands, one high and one other. Players play their best hand first and try to beat the dealer.

Sounds simple? Maybe not. Tiles can have slight differences based on dot placement, while there are also 16 names for pairs of tiles to learn. Something to get used to, so maybe before you play with the locals in Macau, try a few practice games first.

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Sic Bo

Another ancient Chinese game, this one using three dice, is popular in Macau casinos, so if games involving dice are your thing, then this is one for you. To play Sic Bo, players place bets on a Sic Bo, which shows all combinations of outcomes. Players have plenty of options, they can bet on the sum outcome of the three dice, on a number they think will show on one, two or three dice, or a specific combination of all. If the three dice land in the way you predicted, you win.

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Macau is not the largest gambling venue in the world, but if you want something different, and to sample games that are thousands of years old, while playing with the locals who have no doubt been playing for years then maybe Macau and these games are for you.