Sunday, August 22, 2010

gambling to get food for free?

photo from national archives of singapore

in the 60s, we could gamble for our food. the ice-cream vendor offered us a chance to get a free ice-cream if we could draw out the coloured sticks in a certain order. there were two winning combinations for a complimentary ice-cream. he had ten coloured sticks - 5 red and 5 blue - in a narrow cylindrical container. we could either draw out the sticks in pairs or singly. when we got the combinations right, we won for ourselves a free ice-cream - a pontong or a scoop in a cone.

this was how you could win : let's suppose the first pair you drew out was a red and a blue. then subsequently, you had to repeat the pattern - a red and a blue or a blue and a red - till the end to win a free ice-cream. if you started with a mixed pair (red, blue) and the next pair was of the same colour, then you were out. if the first pair you drew out was of the same colour, then the subsequent ones had to be pair of the same colour, either both blue or both red. when you were out of the game, you paid the vendor 10 cents for your ice-cream.

the ice-cream seller would come around on his bicycle with the box of ice-cream strapped to the back of his bicycle in the afternoon. when children played this kind of game, we called it tikam tikam. another food vendor who offered the adults the chance of getting a free meal came a-calling in the morning. he sold braised duck. when adults played it, we considered it gambling.

so, the ice-cream was not the only food that was offered as (a) free food. the man who hawked braised duck also provided something along the same line. but, for your free braised duck, you had to play a game called 'see-gor-luck' with him. i had never quite understood the game of 'see-gor-luck' until i started finding out more about it to write this blog posting.

the game of 'see-gor-luck' involves three dice which you throw into a bowl. if you see the '4, 5 and 6', you win automatically. however, if you throw '1, 2 and 3', then you lose automatically. there are certain combinations that do not count. those that count are the first two mentioned and the triple. if you have a pair, then the odd one out is known as the 'point'. the higher the 'point', the better. for example, if you throw '6, 6, 2' and the other player throws '3, 3, 5', the other player wins because of his higher 'point' (5).

if you throw a combination that does not count, like '1, 2, 4', then you get to roll again until you get a valid combination.

it would seem that the blacks in the united states of america know how to play this game which they call 'cee-lo'. they learnt it from the chinese who migrated to america. here is a rap of the same name ('4, 5, 6') by the group kool g.

i do not know the amount that the adults placed for a wager to get a portion of the braised duck.


PChew said...

Playing 'si go luck' for braised duck cost more than playing for boiled duck eggs. Win or lose you still have to pay for your bet. Kids usually started playing for boiled eggs. If win, we double the bet for a quarter duck. The adults went straight for braised duck. When the hawker's luck was bad we took the advantage to double and double our bet until we get the whole duck. There were times the hawker lost all his eggs and braised ducks to us.

yg said...

philip, i have never played this game '4,5,6' but back in those kampong days, i used to hear clicking sounds, coming from my neighbour's house, when the dice were being thrown into a bowl and the shouts of '4,5,6'. i didn't know that they also played for the duck eggs.

i remember another way the 3 dice were played. they used a saucer and a tea cup. they would place the 3 dice on the saucer, cover them with the cup and then they gave the whole thing a shake. follwoing that, the players placed their bets.

yg said...

a friend who has been living in the east told me of how they used to play the coloured sticks game to win a gold fish in a packet. however, the teacher confiscated all their gold fish.

nah said...

Win or lose, you still have to pay for the bet, but the stake is so much smaller than if you were to buy that portion of the braised duck from him without betting.
You can choose either 'big' or 'small' to bet. 'Big' is 'see gor luck 4 5 6' and 'small' is 'yeo jee sar 1 2 3' If you have chosen 'big', you begin to shout for 'see gor luck' to appear when the dice are thrown. In the other combinations, like the triple and the pair, which you have mentioned, your number must be bigger than his in order to register a win. The difficulty is, you must beat him three times in order to get the free food.

yg said...

nah, i was told that the duck sellers were invariably teochew. is this correct?

Thimbuktu said...

Thanks for triggering me the memories of the Teochew uncle when I was very young growing up in Bukit Ho Swee kampung. Yes, I now remember.

With two baskets on each side of the bamboo carrier hung over his shoulder. Each basket holds the stewed ducks.

I once won a stewed drum-stick duck to throw 3 pieces of dice on a big porcelain bowl diced with a to bring home for my mother for dinner. Wonders if there's a photo of this peddler in Singapore during those days and share it on your blog. Thanks yg.

yg said...

james, sorry, i could not find any picture of the food peddler.

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