8 Investing Skills You Didn’t Know You Could Learn From Chinese New Year Games

Ching Sue Mae

Ching Sue Mae

Last updated 31 January, 2024
What can the likes of Blackjack, Mahjong, Dai Di and In-between teach you about investing? Here’s a look at the parallels between your Chinese New Year games and investments.

It's the CNY season once again — if you're not married, then we can all agree that the ang baos are the best part. Aside from that, gambling with relatives and friends are also highly anticipated.

Be it BlackJack, Baccarat or Mahjong, there are some key takeaways they offer, whether you choose to apply it to your real life or not. 

Here’s a look at the investing concepts to draw from four popular games played during CNY.


Should you stick to the same bet throughout or should you increase your bets during specific rounds? 

Option #1: Sticking to the same bet for all rounds 

In Blackjack, there will always be players that stick to their $2 bet every round, regardless of the banker or their run of luck. Sticking to the same bet helps to mitigate losses, reducing your risk of losing more at times when you bet more. It provides more stability in your wins and losses, while ensuring that your base capital doesn’t run out so quickly.

If you’re one that sticks to a single bet amount throughout the entire game, you’d resonate with dollar-cost-averaging.

Much like betting the same amount for the whole game, when you dollar-cost-average, you consistently invest the same amount every period. This could be weekly, monthly or quarterly. By investing the same amount regardless of market conditions and sentiments, it eliminates the psychological and emotional aspect of investing, ensuring that you don’t time the market. It also instills discipline, ensuring that you consistently and continuously make investments. 

It is the investment concept behind regular savings plans

Option #2: Choosing to increase your bet during specific rounds

In Blackjack, you might choose to up your bet depending on how lucky you feel, your current winning streak or who the banker is. This could increase your gains during winning rounds, especially if you’re lucky enough to draw a Ban-Luck, Ban-Ban or Triple 7. The opposite could also happen, where you lose more during rounds when you bet more. 

Choosing to inject money at specific points in time is akin to lump-sum investing

In investing, you could invest a lump sum when you have additional cash on hand or when there are market corrections you can capitalise on. Additional cash on hand can come at times when you receive a bonus, endowment payout or perhaps if your high-yield savings accounts are no longer earning you interest that will beat inflation.

Very often, lump-sum investing comes hand-in-hand with DCA. To illustrate, this means placing the same ‘base’ bet, but increasing your bet at times when you feel luckier in order to maximise your winnings. 

Find out more about DCA vs lump-sum investing in Singapore.


Should you go for a quick one ‘tai’ win or a bigger win such as the likes of a ‘ping hu’ or Pure Suit?

Whether you should go for a quick win or a bigger win depends on factors such as:

#1 Time-horizon (length of game)

How much time do you have left before the game ends? If you’re at the start of the game, there’s more time and opportunity for you to build your hand into one that’s worth five ‘tai’.

Similarly, in investing, the earlier you start, the longer your time horizon and hence greater opportunity for you to grow your portfolio, especially with the power of compounding. You can also take on more risk because time in the market allows you to ride out market volatility.  

If you’re near the end of the game, you have a short time-horizon and likely have to go for a quick, possibly smaller, win. The parallel when investing with a short time-horizon is to invest in products that are safer and give more assured returns, such fixed income products like Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB) or short-term endowment plans.

#2 Risk appetite

Going for a ‘ping hu’ comes with increased risk — you could draw a flower or an animal tile at any time, which would diminish your four ‘tai’ into just a single ‘tai’. Is this risk something you are willing to take on for the possibility of higher returns? 

When investing, higher returns can come with higher risk. Take cryptocurrencies for example, they can reward an investor with phenomenal returns. However, cryptocurrencies have been known to be extremely volatile and are far riskier than the likes of blue-chip stocks or fixed income products. If you are risk-averse, low-risk (and low returns) products such as bonds could be preferred.  

#3 Opportunity cost

Are you giving up a ‘ping hu’ just for a ‘kong’?

Similarly, are you holding back on your investments just to earn the low returns in your savings account? 

#4 Concentration risk

By having only a single mahjong suit in your hand — while it could help you win big — you become reliant on drawing that particular suit in order to build a winning hand. For example, if you’re looking to win with only ‘bamboo’ tiles, your chances of winning would be depleted should you fail to draw ‘bamboo’ tiles or if they’re limited in supply (when other players hold on to the tiles you need).

Similarly, when investing, you should avoid having a portfolio that is too concentrated on a specific asset class, industry or geography. For example, if the majority of your portfolio is invested in aviation companies, an event like COVID-19 would see your portfolio going under. 

Instead, you should diversify by having a good mix of investment products — a key value proposition offered by robo-advisors. 

Dai Di (Big Two)

In Dai Di, the way to winning is to keep the strong cards till the end. This means keeping your Di (two), Aces, Kings and more. It also means discarding the weak cards early on (i.e. all the smaller numbers). 

When investing, you adopt this approach and get rid of weaker stocks sooner rather than later. You should also hold on to stronger stocks, especially ones that have proven their worth, either by rewarding investors with dividends or having significant capital gains. 


How much should you bet?

The game of in-between highlights the importance of understanding risk and asset allocation

When drawing your cards for in-between, if the two numbers are far apart, the chances of you drawing a card that will be between the two numbers is high. With a high chance of winning, you’d increase your bet. 

Similarly in investing, you’d put more of your cash into investments which you are more certain will reap returns. Examples include high-yield savings accounts, bonds and dividend-yielding stocks. 

Conversely, if your in-between draws are just one to two numbers apart, there is a high risk that the next draw will fall out of this range. In such a scenario, you’d bet small or choose not to bet at all. 

When investing, if you recognise a high-risk product, you could similarly allocate a smaller proportion of your portfolio to it. Check out how these nine Singaporeans allocate their investment portfolio

Got a sudden windfall from your winnings and angbao money? Invest ‘em! 

After all the Chinese New Year gambling, who knows, you might just have a wad of cash that’s perfect for adding to your portfolio. 

Get started on your investing journey with more cool investment guides here. If you’re ready to put your money into the markets, start by opening an online brokerage account. 

A flat white, an adventure-filled travel and a good workout is her fuel. Sue Mae enjoys sharing knowledge on personal finance while chasing the dream of financial independence.


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