Cockfighting in the Philippines, traditionally known as sabong, has been a national pastime since before the islands were colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s. As a result, Philippine legal sabong betting is widely available throughout the islands, and it is a government-regulated pastime.
In fact, the sport is so popular that the Philippines are home to the World Slasher Cup, which is a sabong derby commonly characterized as the “Olympics of Cockfighting.” While the sport is outlawed in many countries, sabong is unlikely to meet that fate in the Philippines, and legal cockpits bring in a good deal of gambling revenue for the government.
If you live in the Philippines and wish to wager on cockfights, regulated sabong pits are available throughout the country. However, many bettors want to wager on the sport over the Internet, which is something that is currently not offered by any domestic operator. Further, even though Filipinos have access to robust legal online gambling sites for all kinds of sports betting, the structure of sabong actually prevents most books from being able to offer it.
This isn’t a moral judgment, either. It is simply due to the fact that sabong is an intimate sport where wagers are taken on-site, often by informal and unrecorded methods. There are other combat sports that are covered by our recommended Philippines friendly sportsbooks, such as forms of martial arts betting, boxing, and others.
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What Is Sabong?
Sabong, or cockfighting, is one of the oldest betting sports in the Philippines. Though most countries have banned the “bloodsport,” its history in the islands has upheld the pastime as more or less sacrosanct, and it’s a tradition that millions of Filipinos participate in on a daily basis.
Cockfighting is a combat arena sport that pits two roosters, or cocks (aka gamecocks), against one another in a ring. These birds are typically chosen based on size and aggression similarities, and they have blades (single-edged or double-edged) affixed to their left legs. Per owner agreement, however, some fights feature blades on the right legs or both legs of the animals.
Once primed to fight, the cocks are loosed into the sabong pit (aka the cockpit), and they attack one another with beak, blade, and talon. The referee can call the fight at any time, as it’s usually clear which bird has won the fight after only a few minutes.
Many uninitiated observers tend to think these fights are over in just a few seconds, but that’s not true. A typical cockfight can last up to half an hour, depending on the birds’ defensive instincts and energy levels. Fighting cocks are bred specifically to be aggressive, though as with boxing, there is sometimes a definite “dance” that takes place in the pit.
Is Betting On Sabong Legal In The Philippines?
Yes, it is. The Philippine government has long regulated sabong in the country, and the agency in charge is the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). However, sabong gambling is only allowed at regulated cockpits themselves, though underground sabong – called tupada or tigbakay – is a well-known part of the scene.
While the government discourages illegal cockfighting, clamping down on it hasn’t been a priority historically, so such black market fights are easily accessible nationwide.
Can PH Residents Legally Bet On Sabong Online?
Not right now. Filipino residents are barred from online gambling via domestic operators (aka POGOs), but illegal sabong pits often have online components, locally called e-sabong (as detailed below). All that said, if offshore operators ever wish to post sabong odds, it would then be legal for Filipino gamblers to wager on them through these services.
Online Sabong Betting – e-Sabong
Off track betting (OTB) on horses in the Philippines is perfectly common, and the pastime is regulated by PAGCOR. Horseplayers simply visit a kiosk offering action on the day’s races and place their wagers. This isn’t done online, of course, as all online gambling in the islands is outlawed for Filipino residents.
However, while PAGCOR nominally has the authority to offer OTB solutions for sabong, the agency has never deployed it. This has given rise to unauthorized online sabong betting, known in the Philippines as e-sabong.
Effectively, unregulated cockfighting rings run websites advertising their scheduled fights and odds, and fans of the sport can log in, place wagers, and get payouts. This is underground gambling, and it is unambiguously illegal. And though sabong is a national sport with a rich history in the islands, PAGCOR – and the PH federal government – have taken legislative steps to outlaw e-sabong and sabong off-track betting.
House Bill 8910 was passed unanimously in 2019, but President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to sign off on the ban. While HB 8910 does not ban sabong at government-approved cockpits, it does explicitly disallow OTB and online wagering for the sport.
How Does Sabong Work?
Sabong matches take place in fighting pits, but the fights themselves, like their Philippine boxing counterparts, take place in three stages. These are the ulatan, the ruweda, and the fight itself.
- Ulatan – The ulatan is the pre-fight “tale of the tape,” or faceoff. Here, the fighting fowl are paired up based on their physical characteristics. These include height, size and weight, wingspan, and so on. For fair contests, the gamecocks should be similar in these attributes. This is also where the knives or blades are fitted to the animals’ left legs. Blades can be of varying sizes, and they can be single- or double-edged. Depending on agreements between owners, blades can be attached to the cocks’ right legs or even both legs.
- Ruweda – The ruweda comes next, as the birds are primed for entry into the arena, or cockpit. The owners of the cocks hold their birds in the ring, allowing the audience of fans and bettors to get a look at the animals’ temperaments in order to make informed sabong betting decisions. The announcer, called the casador, declares the terms of the fight, and the referee – who is also the sole judge (aka the sentensyador or koyme) – stands ready to oversee the fight and declare the winner. Bets are taken by a third person called a kristo, who takes wagers from the crowd and often remembers the terms and payouts from memory, though many use handwritten ledgers for this purpose.
- Fight! – After the bets are taken and the terms are set, the birds are simply dropped into the ring and duke it out, pecking with their beaks and slashing at one another with the blade or blades attached to their legs. The referee will call the fight when an obvious winner emerges, and there are no appeals allowed. Contrary to popular belief, sabong bouts are not always “fights to the death.” Often, the losing bird survives in the ring, but due to their injuries, they are almost always killed afterwards. The winning bird may also suffer terminal injuries during the fight.
Where To Bet On Sabong In The Philippines
The only place you can bet on sabong in the Philippines is at a local cockpit. These sabong pits can be regulated, and if you want the best experience, this is obviously the route you should take. However, illegal cockpits are also commonly available, and matches are held every day all around the country.
While it is fairly safe to wager at illegal fights, we recommend that you stick to regulated contests. There is no dearth of these, and the risk of illegal sabong simply isn’t worth it.
Sabong Betting Odds Explained
If you want to know how to bet on Sabong in the Philippines, the process is relatively simple: Basically, you go to a cockfight, observe the birds slated to spar, and then give your pesos to the kristo.
Once the referee, calls that fight, the bets are all paid out accordingly from the pool after the house takes its cut. The types of wagers you can place are the following (though the listed odds are approximate):
- Parehas: Even odds, +100 (1/1)
- Lo Dies: +125 (5/4)
- Walo-anim: +133 (133/100)
- Onso: +138 (69/50)
- Tres: +150 (3/2)
- Sampu-anim: +167 (167/100)
- Doblado: +200 (2/1)
History Of Philippine Sabong
Cockfighting is itself an ancient sport, going back at least 6000 years and appearing in regions worldwide. However, the sport was first documented by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler and archivist, when the famous explorer made landfall in what is now the Philippines in 1521. Thus, the Philippines, for the modern lineage of the sport, is Cockpit Zero.
Ever since then, sabong has been a popular pastime in the islands, and it shows no signs of slowing down. According to reports, sabong is a billion-dollar industry in the Philippines, and there are some 2500 dedicated stadiums that host these fights in their cockpits. Cockfighting is estimated to kill some 30 million roosters in the islands each year, with winners often succumbing to their injuries as well. It is widely regarded as untraditional to eat these birds after their fights, and they are typically discarded.
While the sport is decried as barbaric and inhumane by many critics, that hasn’t stopped its popularity among Filipinos, nor has it prevented cockfighting from being commonplace throughout the rest of the world. With such a rich history, sabong is clearly here to stay.
Bet on it!