Gambling in the Far East

Gambling has been part of China since the late part of the imperial dynasty from 1644 to 1912. The areas famous for liquor and gambling then were Canton, Macao, Shanghai and Hong Kong which were inhabited by foreigners (Americans), mostly males. Not only were the Americans involved in gambling as the Chinese natives also joined in. Currently though, not all states in China have legalized gambling. Only Macao allows gambling of any kind while Hong Kong only allows horse racing at its Jockey Club.

China’s popular gambling games are Mah Jongg and Pai Gow. Mah Jongg is an ancient game originally developed for the rich sector. This game, which means sparrow, is believed to have been invented by a fisherman who wanted to prevent sea sickness while in the middle of the sea. Though it went through several variations, Mah Jongg was standardized in the 1990s.

It consists of 136 to 144 tiles and is somewhat similar to rummy. The tiles bear unique names such as “heavenly peace,” “moon from the bottom of the sea,” and “thirteen orphans.” Mah Jongg uses two dice and chips and needs four players. Although banned in Communist China before, this game is now the most widespread form of Oriental gambling around the globe.

Pai Gow makes use of a bank that has one woodpile. One of the players perform the banking duties while the others get four tiles of the woodpile. The aim is to group the tiles in pairs of two so that the player’s pair has a greater value than the bank. Pai Gow is actually a Chinese domino game. Baccarat is based on this Chinese game.

Sci Bo is another gambling game that means two dice. The game is played with three dice and players bet on the total of their dice. The dice are placed inside a cup and are shaken after which the cup is turned upside down. Players then place their bets before the dice are revealed. The casino has its own mechanized version with a table marked with numbers for the bets. A vibrating platform shakes the dice and the results are shown on a screen.

Keno is a bingo-type game that traces its roots in China. It is now a common game in lotteries and casinos around the world.

Pachinko is a pinball type of game that has become so popular in Japan.

Fan-Tan is a traditional game of counting pebbles. Fan actually means to turn over a bowl or a certain container that holds the stones while Tan means to spread out the stones.

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