The two basic hardware components are the table and the wheel. The dabo table is large enough for half a dozen people to gather round, but still compact enough for players to comfortably reach the centre, which they do in order to place their bets. Many tables are decorated with colourful inlaid lights, and are situated on a raised platform. The second component, the dabo wheel, is operated by the game officiator, who announces the scoring results to the cheers of winners and the groans of losers.
Play begins with the placement of bets on possible combinations of winning symbols. ‘Double down’ and ‘triple over’ are among the wagers that can be made in dabo, and ‘pass 5’ is a possible outcome. After betting has taken place the dabo wheel is spun. The wheel revolves for several seconds, and gradually slows to a stop, randomly revealing a combination of symbols and colours. Players who guessed correctly are paid the amount of their bet, multiplied by the odds they took against picking the precise combination. Those who guess incorrectly lose their bets, and must choose to either play on or quit the table. After the winners are paid out, the betting begins anew. The game continues until closing time or until the ‘bank’ is broken, and the table can pay no more.
As with most games of chance, the odds are in the house’s favour, and few dabo players have the wisdom to quit after collecting sizeable treasures. As bar proprietor Quark noted: “Everyone knows the odds are against them, but they don’t care - they’re here because they want to believe they can win”. The dabo girl diplomatically enforces the rules, outwits potential cheats, gracefully collects losing bets, and instantly calculates winnings. She does all this without losing the appealing smile or bubbly personality that keep customers playing - and happily paying.