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Deal Me In: Is Chuck-a-luck worth chucking?

7 November 2014

Dear Mark: I have some recollection of a casino table game that featured a metal cage in the shape of an hourglass that contained three large dice. The dealer would invert the cage causing the dice to tumble and come to rest, revealing the winning combination. The game had some resemblance to three-card poker with payoffs based on the outcome. Do you know of this game, where it is played, and who was this Chuck guy anyway? Leigh H.

Chuck-a-luck, also known as Birdcage, originates from an old western cowboy game called Sweat Cloth. In British pubs, Chuck-a-luck is dubbed Crown and Anchor as the six sides of the dice are decorated with diamonds, hearts, clubs, spades, a crown and an anchor.

Chuck-a-luck is a simple 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 the bets 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 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 all 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.

Chuck-a-luck can sometimes be found at carnivals and casino night fundraisers for charities. The last place I remember seeing the game in a casino environment was in 2012 at New York-New York in Las Vegas. Today, it is not showing on their website under table games or in Steve Bourie’s excellent American Casino Guide, although possibly the game could still be there.

As for “who was this humanoid Chuck guy,” whoever you want him to be, Leigh, as the common name “Chuck” has no influence on the name of the game.

Finally, Leigh, Chuck-a-luck, with a house edge that averages 7.5 percent, is a game that, hopefully, all Deal Me In readers would chuck.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The dice goad like hooks and prick like whips; they deceive and torment. They are coated with honey.” – Bettor's Lament, Rig Veda Hymn
Recent Articles
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.