Cho-Han, what's the deal?

edited May 2009 in Story Games
The little I can gather from googling and wikipedia, this is a very simple dice game. Players bet on even or odd result of a toss of two dice. From movies and comics it would appear to be very popular in Edo period Japan.

What's the big deal? What's the draw?


  • Its gambling and has been popular in the mobs?
  • Maybe I didn't make myself clear.

    Most other gambling games I can think of involve some aspect of strategy, as it were, playing the odds. Cho-Han is always even odds. Always. What is it that makes it such a popular game?
    Was Cho-Han the only game offered in early gambling dens? Is it the utter simplicity?
    Why is it popular?
    Or is it's popularity overstated in movies and comics? Like Poker and the old west.
  • China has a bunch of dice games like this too, where people dice off to see whose dice are highest (remember the beginning of To Live where the guy loses his estate this way?). If early gambling parlors are any indication, they were wildly popular, even though there's no strategy really. Not sure why they're so popular.
  • Faro was a hugely popular game in the west. Wyatt Earp made a good living as a Faro dealer.

    Faro works like this: Bet on a card. Two cards are flipped. If your card is flipped first you lose, if your card is flipped second you win. If your card is neither of those two cards...flip two more. Its played in a fashion similar to craps with lots of betters placing bets on numbers but with a chute and frequent reshuffles...its pretty darn random.

    But that's why its called gambling. And why serious poker players hate it when you refer to poker as gambling. Gambling is random. There is no strategy to gambling, because any strategy that could swing the odds in your favor has already been built into the rules of the game or the payout ratios.

    Check out the rules for Baccarat sometime...big money passes hands in that game...and its rules pretty much boil down to an elaborate version of cutting cards to see who wins.
  • edited May 2009
    Valamir has nailed it. Answer why people play games like roulette or craps, and you'll answer why they play cho-han.

    In answer to your follow-up question about whether Cho-Han was the only game offered in gambling dens, Hanafuda apparently had some popularity as well. I was also going to mention Mah-Jong, but I'm not sure when that really took off in Japan.

    The difference between those games and Cho-Han is telling, though. Cho-han just takes a cup and some dice, and a hand lasts a few seconds. It's like Craps in that you can play it fast, and play it anywhere. In a culture and historical period where the government periodically came down hard on gambling, and the running of gambling establishments was a criminal occupation, presumably the criminals would choose the quickest, easiest game to run. It also helps that the house gets a share of every hand!
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