Fan Tan in Macau

(Last updated: February 6, 2024)

Perhaps the oldest casino game of ALL-TIME, Fan Tan was invented in China sometime in the 3rd or 4th Century. It used to be the overwhelming game of choice in Macau as recently as 1900, when the city had over 200 Fan Tan saloons. It was also very popular with the Chinese diaspora, who brought the game overseas to far-flung locales like London, San Francisco and New York.

Nowadays Fan Tan is a shell of its former self, with only 6 casinos still offering it: Casa Real, Jai Alai, Lisboa, Oceanus, Ponte 16 and the Sands. In 2023, it accounted for 0.23% of all Macau gaming revenue, ranking 9th ahead of Three Card Baccarat, but behind Texas Hold ‘Em.

Fan Tan in Macau: Fan Tan buttons and wand

Fan Tan in Macau: How to Play

Right up there with War and Roulette, Fan Tan might be the simplest game to play in the entire casino. It starts off with a huge pile of buttons that the dealer divides into groups of 4 with the aid of a black wand. At the end, there will either be 1, 2, 3, or 4 buttons remaining, and the object is to correctly guess how many will be left over.

There are no side bets in Fan Tan, only the following 5 wagers:

Fan: Choose 1 number to win. Pays 3-1.

Tim: Choose 1 number to win, and 1 to push. Pays 2-1.

Kwok: Choose 2 numbers to win. Pays 1-1.

Nga Tan: Choose 2 numbers to win, and 1 to push. Pays 1-2.

Sheh Sam Hong: Choose 3 numbers to win. Pays 1-3.

All winning payouts are subject to a 5% commission.

Fan Tan in Macau

Fan Tan in Macau: Strategy and Advice

What’s the golden rule of gambling? Stick to the bet with the lowest house edge and hammer that all night long, baby! For Fan Tan, that means Nga Tan or Sheh Sam Hong, which both sport house edges of only 1.25%. Don’t touch Fan, which is a rather unpalatable 3.75%, while Tim and Kwok are both 2.50%.

A useful way to attack Fan Tan might be to bet the same Sheh-Sam-Hong numbers again and again, for example, 1-2-3, and hope that there is a long dry run for the number 4. While this strategy will in no way decrease the house edge or increase your chances of winning, you are guaranteed to turn a sweet sweet profit if the number 4 doesn’t come up for a good long while.

To learn all about Sic Bo in Macau, just click the link below.

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