Chinese Gaming Numerology
by Desmond Lam

Chinese Gaming Numerology

Like many cultures, Chinese people place special meanings to the numbers around them. Each number from 0 to 9 can be combined to represent certain things. However, China is a big and diverse country. Traditionally, there were seven major Chinese dialects. Now, that has expanded to at least 14 subgroups. Despite such a diverse groups of dialects in China, the number 4 is almost universally considered ‘bad’ and the number 8 is considered ‘good’. To Chinese people, good numbers are created when they sound good – conversely, bad numbers are created when they sound bad.

The Cantonese is a major dialect group among Chinese people. They are found in the Guangdong region, some parts of Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macau. In fact, many visitors to Macau’s casinos are Cantonese speaking and come from Guangdong region. Similarly, many Chinese immigrants to countries like America, Canada, Europe and Australia originated from these regions and often brought with them their unique southern Chinese dialect, cultural values and cuisine. The following is a simple translation of what each number can potentially mean when spoken in Cantonese: 2 – easy, 3 – alive, 4 – die or dead, 5 – no, 6 – path/way, 8 – prosper, and 9 – a long time. The number 0, 1 and 7 are not included but they can be combined with other numbers to create symbolic meanings.

When combined and spoken, these numbers can have symbolic meaning to the Chinese. In a matter of fact, the ways the numbers are put together have significant results and implications. For example, ‘13’ – one’s lifetime, ‘14’ – definitely die, ‘18’ – certainly prosper, ‘24’ – easy to die, ‘23’ – easy to survive, ‘58’ – won’t prosper, and ‘98’ – prosper for a long time. Additionally, ‘104’ – definitely die, ‘108’ – definitely prosper, ‘138’ – prosper in one’s lifetime, ‘168’ – prosper all the way, ‘328’ – easily prosper when alive, and ‘664’ – dead in every ways. When four digits are combined, ‘1028’ – definitely easy to prosper, ‘1058’ – definitely will not prosper, ‘1308’ – definitely prosper in one’s lifetime, ‘1328’ – easy to prosper in one’s lifetime, and ‘9413’ – slim chance of surviving.

Past research has shown that Chinese people place more than symbolic meanings to these numbers. They are willing to pay extra for auspicious house numbers, car plate numbers and telephone numbers. Last year, the newspapers reported the car plate number AW6666 (means ‘smooth all the way’) was bought for US$34,000 in Guangzhou while AC6688 (means ‘prosperity in every way) fetched US$10,000. That’s why Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel opened on 08/28 while Beijing Olympic opens on 08/08/2008 at 8pm. The number 4 is taken out of baccarat tables in Macau and some Chinese hotels avoid putting up rooms on their 4th floor. One needs to note that the combination of these numbers is often more important than the meaning of individual numbers. Moreover, there are other ‘good’ numbers besides ‘8’. My research found that 3 and 6 can be more popular numbers than 8 among Chinese during betting and purchasing in some circumstances or contexts.

Date Posted: 18-Dec-2007

Desmond Lam is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau. He can be contacted at DesmondL@umac.mo.

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