Chinese ‘Drop Pan’ fascinates Jamaicans, Trinidadians

Despite its illegality, Drop Pan is still a very popular game in Jamaica and the Caribbean. It is one strong indicator of the diversity of the Jamaican culture.

Chinese Drop Pan is illegal in Jamaica, is played across Caribbean, and in some cases new versions such as the Jamaica Cash Pot created.

In Jamaica, interest has been renewed in the ‘ole-time’ favourite past time game ‘Drop Pan’. It’s more commonly played through a new and improved version – ‘Cash Pot’. Drop Pan originated in China. The Chinese brought the game to the Caribbean between the 1920s and 1930s. It is played with tickets numbered from 1 to 36, with each number being assigned one or more meanings.


As with other ‘imports’ to the island, the game has been ‘Jamaicanised’. The meanings associated with the figures in the game are now from Chinese and Afro-Jamaican origins. Where numbers are assigned to every part of the human body it’s considered to be Chinese in origin. On the other hand, interpretations such as parson, John crow, coolie and rum are evidently Jamaican in origin.


A ‘banker’ runs the game. Individuals wager different amounts in placing their bets on their chosen number(s). Originally, the tickets would be dropped into a pan and a winning ticket selected.
There are two draws per day, each play being referred to as a ‘pan’. A winning number is considered to be dead for the next two pans, which means it is not played for two consecutive draws once it has been played.

Drop Pan is a game of chance, where players choose their numbers by way of one of three methods, by dreams:
1. By ‘rake’ – an omen; something that foreshadows what is to come, like a vision.
2. By ‘dreams’ –
NB: Dreams and ‘rakes’ are thought to be very symbolic in the Jamaican culture. They are usually interpreted and translated in terms of the numbers and symbols in the game.
3. By ‘guessing’ – making a selection based on studying and ‘analysing’ the pattern of the game (how the numbers have been played over a period of time).

Here is a table of some of the Drop Pan meanings that have been collected:

MEANING In Jamaica

Numbers and Their Meanings
1. Ghost, milk, clothes, rice, anything white
2. Anus, sitting, bed, crab
3. Dead, duck, tongue
4. Egg, blood, wine, breast, sexual intercourse
5. Thief, dirt
6. Strong man, iron, running
7. Married woman, hog
8. Belly, belly woman, hole, bag, ring
9. Married man, cow, ol’ dead, brain
10. Small house, car, gaol, small boat, animal pen
11. Boy, dog
12. Head, common horse
13. Knife, cutlass, policeman, butcher, old man, fisherman
14. Mouth, undertaker, wild puss, doorway
15. Weak, rat, running coolie woman
16. oung gyal, grass, tree, bees, anything green
17. Chineyman, drop-pan player, gambling, brown man
18. Doctor, race-horse, tame puss
19. Silver, coolie man, hair, scale
20. Sick, bed, food, meat, naked
21. Whore, mule, bad
22. Nurse, white woman, pigeon, coffin, bird, queen
23. Black man, monkey
24. Fresh water, medicine
25. John crow, crowd, paper money
26. White man, king, Jesus
27. Fire, accident, gun, madman
28. Road, fowl, pasture, commons, graveyard
29. Parson, bull, ram, male of any species, right foot
30. Fish, flowers, rum, mud
31. Pulpit, kaki, wood, small rope
32. Gold, ****, ripe fruit, beggar
33. Big house, hospital
34. Gyal-baby, soldier
35. She-goat, ******, bible
36. Hong Kong, foreign country, old lady, donkey


Meanings in Trinidad are as follows:

Numbers Meanings Numbers Meanings
1. Centipede 19. Horse
2. Old lady 20. Dog
3. Peacock 21. Mouth
4. Dead man 22. Rat
5. Ground worm 23. Big house
6. Belly 24. Queen
7. Pig 25. Morocoy
8. Tiger 26. Fowl
9. Cattle 27. Little snake
10. Monkey 28. Red fish
11. Police, corbeau 29. Drunk man, drugs
12. King 30. House, cat
13. Crapaud 31. Parson wife
14. Money ear 32. Lo-lo
15. Sick woman 33. Spider
16. Jammet woman 34. Blin’ man
17. Pigeon 35. Big snake
18. Water boat 36. Donkey

There is an apparent difference in the meanings and their corresponding numbers in Jamaica and Trinidad.


The game Drop Pan has been illegal for a long time. The Gambling Law, which was amended in 1926, included the games Drop Pan and Peaka Pow by name as being illegal. Without the proper license, anyone caught selling numbers can be arrested and fined.

Despite its illegality, however, Drop Pan is still a very popular game in Jamaica, and another strong indicator of the diversity of the Jamaican culture.

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