Three Chinamen were playing Fan Tan; one man comes running to them and screams – The world is about to end! First Chinaman says, “Well, I am going to pray”, the second Chinaman says, “I am going to buy the most expensive wine and enjoy” and the third one utters “I will finish the game first”. Such is the passion of the traditional gambling game of Fan Tan. It has a Chinese origin which dates back to 2,000 years and was introduced to America in the mid 19th century by Chinese immigrants as a ruling passion. It was so popular in San Francisco’s Chinatown that there were around 50 Fan Tan clubs with a number of tables as per the size of the rooms. It is mainly played in East Asia and in Macau and Nevada. Some casinos still offer this game.
The game itself is quite simple. The sides of the table are marked 1, 2, 3 and 4 while in the center of the table there is a square. The participants need to put their wagers on any of these numbers. The dealer then rings a bell to stop further bets and takes a bunch of buttons in an opaque container, usually a bowl. The dealer from that bowl removes buttons in a set of four with a small stick until the last remaining buttons are 4 or less. This is the final number on which the winner is decided. If one number is selected, the wager is paid off in 3:1 ratio, if two numbers are selected the wager is paid off 2:1 ratio after a commission usually being 5% of the total amount. Odd and even numbers bets are also allowed in some casinos.
Its craze has reduced over the period of time with the introduction of new casino games.