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Deal Me In: Chuck A. Luck wagers a buck

22 January 2016

Dear Mark: Decades ago I played a now extinct game called Chuck-a-luck at the Nevada Club in Reno. All I remember now is that three very large dice were shaken out of a large cage. Could you refresh my memory as to its history, the rules and the odds of the game? Dennis S.

Chuck-a-luck is a game that originated in English pubs. The game was also known as Crown and Anchor (because the six sides of the dice are inscribed clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, crown and anchor). Originally, it was called Sweat Cloth, and it found its way to the U.S. around 1800 as just Sweat. Other names associated with Chuck-a-luck are Chuck-Luck and Chucker Luck, along with just Chuck during the mid-to-late 1800s. It was not until 1900 that it was called Birdcage, and eventually, as you saw it at the Nevada Club, Chuck-a-luck. Like you, I too remember playing the game decades ago both at the Nevada Club and its sister property at the time, The Nevada Lodge (today called the Tahoe Biltmore). You can see the game played by Lazar in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, something that might delight gamers who are also film buffs.

Initially, Dennis, the game was played with a cup and three dice that were tossed across the table. To deal with allegations of cheating by operators who used both weighted dice and the practice of trick throwing, the cup was replaced with a birdcage-like device.

Chuck-a-luck is a simple enough dice game in which the player has various wagering opportunities on the outcome of the roll of three dice. The game’s gambling apparatus consists of three over-sized dice in an hourglass-shaped cage known as the birdcage and a table layout with several betting options.

After all the wagers are placed, the birdcage is flipped several times by the dealer with the result displayed once the cage stops moving and the dice drop and rest.

Wagers are paid based on the possible combinations that appear on the three dice. Those bets include:

Numbers Bet: Here you bet on any single number (1-6) and are paid according to the number of dice that land on your chosen number. If you bet on the number "6" and one die shows a 6, you are paid even money (1 to 1). If two dice come up with a "6," you are paid 2 to 1. If all three dice appear "6," you are paid 3 to 1, although on some layouts it can be significantly higher.

Field Bet: The “field wager” is a bet that the sum of the values on the three dice comes to 3 through 7 or 13 through 18. This bet pays even money (1 to 1). If the dice total is 8 through 12, you lose.

High Bet (Over 10): A bet on "high" is a wager that the sum of the three dice will be over 10. A High Bet pays even money. If the dice total is less than 11, you lose, and, if all three dice are the same (three-of-a-kind), you also lose.

Low Bet (Under 11): A bet on "low" is a wager that the sum of the three dice will be under 11. This bet pays even money. If the aggregate of the dice is over 10, you lose. Again, you also lose if a three-of-a-kind appears. This wager can also be labeled Under 10/Over 11 with the same payoffs.

Any Triple: A bet on "Any Triple" is a wager that all three dice will be the same. This bet pays 30 to 1.

Yes, Dennis, Chuck-a-luck still exists, except now you will only find it at carnivals and casino night fundraisers for charities.

Finally, Dennis, Chuck-a-luck, with a house edge that averages 7.5%, is/was a game, charity aside, that all Deal Me In readers should chuck.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “People in the rest of the world merely go broke and die broke. In Vegas, you live broke.” – Sherlock Feldman, The Green Felt Jungle (1965)
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.