Playing Fan Tan: A Traditional Chinese Dice Game

Fan Tan is an incredibly popular and fun gambling game. 

Fan Tan is an easy game to understand and play and can be enjoyed by players of all ages. 

The main objective of Fan Tan is to guess the number of coins in the pot, and the player who guesses correctly wins. 

This game is fast-paced and exciting and can provide hours of entertainment.

Fan Tan is a gambling game that is a long-standing favorite in many countries and cultures. It is usually played on a gaming table with a dealer and four players. 

But we’ll talk about this in a more categorized manner in this blog. So let’s read about what Fan Tan is, history of Fan Tan, betting in Fan Tan, odds and payouts in the game of Fan Tan, rules for play in Fan Tan, and certain winning strategies that you could apply to increase your chances of winning at the game of Fan Tan.

What does Fan Tan mean?

Fan Tan, also known as Sevens, or card dominoes, is a traditional Chinese gambling game played with a set of four stacks of coins, each containing an equal amount of coins. 

The game is played with a deck of 52 cards and four players. The object of the game is for the players to get rid of all their cards as quickly as possible by playing them in a sequence. The first player to get rid of all their cards is the winner.

Players place their bets on which stack will have the most coins when the game is over. 

The game is typically played with pennies, but other denominations of coins may also be used. 

After all bets have been placed, the players take turns in turns selecting coins from the middle of the stacks and moving them to the sides. 

The game ends when one of the stacks is completely emptied. The winner is the player who has the most coins at the end of the game.

Is Fan Tan a game of chance or a game of skill?

Fan tan is a game of skill and chance. The element of chance is present as the outcome of the game is difficult to predict. However, strategy, experience, and luck also play a significant role in the game.

History Of Fan Tan 

Fan Tan is an ancient Chinese gambling game that dates back to the Shang Dynasty in the 15th century BC. It is believed to have been invented by a group of Chinese courtiers who were looking for a game that was based on the “four elements” of nature, namely fire, water, earth, and air. 

The game of Fan Tan has been popular in China for centuries and is still played today. It is played with a set of four coins, one for each of the elements, and a set of five counters, usually made of ivory or bone. 

In the West, Fan Tan has been played since the 18th century, first becoming popular in the gambling houses of London’s West End. It is still played in some parts of the United States and Canada, particularly in Chinese communities.

Fan Tan is a popular gambling game that was brought to the United States by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century. Fan Tan was a popular game in the gambling parlors of many Chinese-American communities by the early 20th century. 

It was also popular among Chinese sailors and merchants who visited American ports. During the California Gold Rush, Fan Tan was part of a gambling hall in San Francisco. 

Fan Tan is still played in some Asian countries, and it is gaining popularity in the United States in recent years. It is also featured in many online and mobile gaming platforms.

Betting In The Game Of Fan Tan  

Fan Tan is played with four or more players and a set of eight or more coins. 

The goal of the game is to be the last player to have coins in your hand. To start, the dealer will place four coins on the table in the center of the circle, and then take the coins one by one and place them in the middle of the circle, starting with the pile with the most coins.

He will then divide the remaining coins into four equal piles and place them on each side of the circle. The players will then take turns placing one coin from each pile in the center of the circle. 

The players can either bet on which pile will turn up the most coins, or bet on which pile will turn up the least amount of coins. 

The player who has the most coins in their pile at the end of the game is the winner. 

The betting in Fan Tan is usually quite intense, as it can be a very fast-paced game. Players will often bet more heavily on the piles with the most coins, as these piles have the highest chance of winning. 

However, this can be a risky strategy as the player with the least coins could still win the game. It is important to remember that the outcome of the very game is unpredictable and that betting should be done with caution.

Odds And Payout In Fan Tan

The odds of winning in Fan Tan depend on the version of the game being played. In the most common version of Fan Tan, the house edge is around 2.5%. This means that the casino has a slight edge over the player. 

The payout for a winning bet is usually 7 to 1, but this can vary depending on the specific rules of the game.

The odds of winning the game also depends on the number of players, the number of cards used, and the type of game being played. 

Generally, the odds of winning in fan tan are 1 in 6.

Rules For Play In Fan Tan

The following rules are to be followed while playing Fan Tan.

  1. Each player is dealt four cards in a clockwise direction. 
  1. Each player must then look at their cards and arrange them into two piles, one with two cards and one with two cards. 
  1. The two piles must be kept separate and each player must then declare which pile they are “playing”. 
  1. The dealer then deals out the remaining cards in a clockwise direction until all players have four cards. 
  1. The player who is playing the two-card pile can then play any card they wish, discarding it face up in the center of the table. 
  1. Going around the table in a clockwise direction, each player must play a card that is either the same suit or one rank higher than the card previously played. 
  1. If a player cannot or does not wish to play a card, they must discard it face up in the center of the table. 
  1. The game continues in this manner until all of the cards have been played. 
  1. The player who played the last card takes the entire discard pile, which is their “fan”. 
  1. The player with the most cards in their fan wins the game.

Winning Strategies In Fan Tan

Although Fan Tan is a game of chance, some strategies can be used to increase the chances of winning. 

For example, it is advisable to observe the game for a few rounds before joining in, so that the player can get a feel for the game and the strategies employed by the other players. 

It is also important to remember that the sequence in which the coins are removed from the piles is important, as this can affect the outcome of the game.

You can try the following strategies in Fan Tan, to increase your chances of winning.

  1. Make sure you are familiar with the rules: Fan Tan is a game of strategy, which means that it’s important to know the rules and be familiar with them. In the game, each player has a set of seven seeds and attempts to capture as many of their opponent’s seeds as possible. 
  1. Plan your moves: Before you make any move, it’s important to think about what your opponent might do in response. This requires careful planning and calculation in order to ensure that you’re getting the most out of each move. 
  1. Go for the win: Don’t just settle for capturing a few seeds; try to capture as many as possible. This will put you in a better position to win the game. 
  1. Pay attention to the board: Keep an eye on the board and be aware of how the seeds are distributed. This will give you an idea of your opponent’s strategy and will help you plan your own. 
  1. Be aggressive: Don’t be afraid to make bold moves and take risks. This can be the difference between winning and losing. 
  1. Stay focused: Fan Tan is a game of strategy, and so it’s important to stay focused throughout the game. Any lapse in concentration could cost you the game. 
  1. Have fun: Don’t forget to have fun. Fan Tan is an enjoyable game, and so it’s important to relax and enjoy it.


Fan Tan is a popular gambling game. 

Fan Tan  is a relatively simple game with a few simple rules and can be a lot of fun. 

While Fan Tan can be an entertaining way to spend an evening, it is important to remember that it is a game of chance and therefore it is important to play responsibly. 

It is not recommended to bet more money than you can afford to lose, and it is advisable to set a limit and stick to it. 

Players should also be aware of the risks associated with gambling, such as problem gambling and addiction.

natalie lee
Natalie Lee

Natalie Lee, an Anthropology scholar from Harvard University, embodies an unmatched passion for dice-based games. Her expertise spans traditional classics to modern adaptations, enriched by a profound understanding of their cultural significance. Natalie's research sheds light on gameplay intricacies, histories, and societal contexts of various dice games worldwide. She offers enthusiasts a comprehensive understanding of strategies, histories, and the cultural impact of these games across diverse societies.

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