fah-fee, noun

Forms:
fafeh, fa-fiShow more Also fafeh, fa-fi, fah-fhee, and with initial capital(s).
Origin:
ChineseShow more Unknown, perhaps Chinese.
An illegal but widely-played gambling game taking the form of a lottery with thirty-six numbers, the winning number being selected in advance by the banker and revealed to the bet-collector in exchange for the stakes collected and a list of the bets placed. Also attributive. See also doh-die, pull.
Note:
Fah-fee was apparently introduced by Chinese immigrants. The banker (usually a person of Chinese descent) employs runners to collect bets. Superstition, dreams, and symbolism play important roles in the game, each number having a name, a symbol, and a part of the body associated with it.
1909 Rand Daily Mail 2 Oct. 7‘Fah Fee’ is a game of chance beloved by ‘the heathen Chinese’ and has rapidly become an absorbing passion among the coloured servants, male and female, of the town (sc. Kimberley).
1938 Star 3 May 9Joseph Mareletsi, a Msutu labourer, and Lai Szi, a Chinese housewife pleaded guilty..to having assisted in the management of a fah-fee lottery.
1946 Cape Times in E. Partridge Dict. of Underworld (1950) 589Made a bit of money out of being a runner (contact man for a fah-fee game).
1956 L. Longmore in S. Afr. Jrnl of Science Vol.52 No.12, 275Although Fah-Fee is illegal the Chinese bankers manage to get into the Townships..each day...They leave their cars parked some distance from the ‘pulling house’ in order to avoid arrest.
1963 B. Modisane Blame Me on Hist. (1986) 49I jumped into a bus..a few yards from Nobeni’s shebeen, across the street from the shop which was a front for Sophiatown’s biggest Fah Fee, numbers game, pool.
1974 A.P. Brink Looking on Darkness 120Every few minutes a new visitor would arrive..to deliver or fetch contraband in small parcels,..to collect fafeh bets, to borrow money without security, or simply to chat.
1977 Sunday Times 27 Mar. 19It’s impossible even to guess the number of Africans who regularly place bets with the fahfee runners, but in Soweto alone it must run into tens of thousands.
1980 C. Hope A Separate Development (1983) 98Look, the Chinaman’s collecting the fahfee money. Let me take a ticket for you...Tell me your dream and they’ll give you a number.
1982 Grocott’s Mail 30 Apr. 12Bets are taken by ‘Runners’ — blacks who go around taking bets from a circle of clients whom they usually know personally...Dreams and superstitions play an important role in Fah Fee. Each number is represented by a symbol or image and it is believed that dreams can foretell the winning numbers.
1987 New Nation 3 Dec. 13To stay alive many women turned to illegal..ways of making money. Some bet their pennies in the gambling game of fah-fee.
1993 E. Prov. Herald 23 Apr. 7Fah-fee could have an annual turnover of R3bn to R5bn, the Howard Commission Report states...The evidence supported the conclusion that Fah-fee probably attracted as much money as horse-racing.
An illegal but widely-played gambling game taking the form of a lottery with thirty-six numbers, the winning number being selected in advance by the banker and revealed to the bet-collector in exchange for the stakes collected and a list of the bets placed. Also attributive.
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19091993