Sabong: A Tradition, Recreation, and Entertainment in the Philippines

Cockfighting, locally known as sabong, is an established tradition in the Philippines. If one wants to study the country’s gaming culture, ‘sabong’ will undoubtedly crop up in the conversations. A bloodsport that involves two fighting cocks, the game’s history and popularity dates back to early Spanish colonization or even earlier. In this game, two roosters or cocks face each other for a fight, with blades fitted on their feet. Bettors will then make bets on which cock wins at the end of the round. 

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Cockfighting, or derbies, typically happen in land-based cockpit arenas, smaller ‘tupadas,’ or neighborhood betting centers. And with the popularity of mobile apps and internet betting, betting on this game is now possible through e-sabong sites. Online sabong is heavily regulated by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) in the Philippines. 

This sport is under heavy regulation and the subject of intense scrutiny, so it’s crucial for any bettor to know its background first before betting in real money.

History of Sabong in the Philippines 

Sabong has a rich history, and it’s been part of Filipino culture and tradition since the time of colonization. The game has been part of Philippine history since the 1500s. Details were documented by Italian diarist Antonio Pigafetta who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition in 1521. 

Through the years, Filipinos have played and wagered on sabong. During fiestas and other traditions, towns often host tupadas. Under the management of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), this blood sport has become a billion-peso industry. While perceived to be brutal, it has not stopped its popularity in the country.        

Why is Sabong so Important? 

Sabong is arguably a standard and traditional form of entertainment and recreation among Filipinos. It helps enhance the national identity of Filipinos as a driving factor to preserve native heritage while improving social relationships. As a result, it has become a colorful part of Filipino culture. Fiestas and other celebrations in many towns and cities in the country are only complete with a derby or tupada. 

Also, it supports plenty of jobs and a growing niche industry, thanks to breeders, ‘parapataya,’ and ‘Kristo.’ 

Besides being a test of luck, cockfighting allows companionship amidst heightened emotions during the game. This blood sport also suggests Filipino culture’s survival of the fittest. 

The Difference Between Sabong and Tupada/Tigbakay 

Sabong is the local term for cockfighting. Legal cockfights occur in cockpits or sports arenas weekly. Sometimes, these cockfights feature wealthy breeders from different parts of the country.

In the Philippines, tupada or tigbakay are illegal. These cockfights are held in secluded cockpits where the authorities cannot conduct raids. Tupada or Tigbakay is not limited to land-based but can also be participated online via e-sabong. Bettors caught participating in Tupada or Tigbakay is often arrested for violating the Anti-Illegal Gambling Act. 

Best Breeds for Fights 

Cockfighting involves the best rooster breeds and gamefowl. They are trained and have different characteristics and abilities. 

One of the most expensive breeds is the Peruvian gamefowl. The Peruvian are generally tall, heavy, and quick. Therefore, most of the fights against Peruvian breeds are fast-paced. In addition, the Kelso breed boasts a brilliant fighting style, along with other breeds such as Sweater, Hatch, Roundhead, and Lemon. It is one of the best varieties of American gamefowl by American breeder Walter A. Kelso. 

Meanwhile, the Claret breed is another famous breed, one of the keenest cutting gamefowls. Other best breeds for fights are Old English Game, Cornish (Indian Game), and White hackle. When you bet on cocks, check on the physical attributes of each fighting gamefowl in terms of their weight, beaks, and feathers. In addition, some players look at the bird’s stance or how well it positions itself before the fight.

Sabong Tournaments  

Joining and betting on cockfights is easy, thanks to dozens of annual cockfighting tournaments. One is the World Slasher Cup, known as the Olympics of cockfighting, which started in 1963. The event is participated by breeders from the U.S. and Asian countries, including the Philippines. 

Another tournament is the Derby, also known as Pintakasi. Here, cocks are paired based on their weights and participated by cockfighting enthusiasts with a team name and an entry fee. In addition, bettors can participate in the Master Breeders’ Cup in the Philippines. 

Lastly, the World Pitmasters Cup is another cockfighting tournament internationally conducted in Manila. It is participated by bettors and participants from all over the world. 

Online Sabong and Betting on it 

Sabong operations have three phases which include Ulatan, Ruweda, and Fight! 

During the Ulatan, fighting cocks are paired based on physical characteristics such as size, weight, height, wingspan, and others. During the Ruweda, the owners of the cocks stand in the ring. The referee explains the mechanics of the game. The cock owners hold their cocks close to each other until the cocks start pecking. Finally, Fight! phase shows off the aggressive behavior of two cocks.  

Unlike the sabong operations in the physical cockpit arena, online sabong is easier and more convenient. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) oversees this game’s rules and regulations. With online derbies, there’s no need to worry about complicated hand signals during fights when you bet online. 

Most gambling apps that offer a derby deliver a simplified betting menu. When playing using the app, you simply set the wager and choose between two betting options– Meron o Wala.

 With online betting, you can enjoy a premium experience where you can participate and view live fights using your mobile phones or desktop computers. In online sabong, bettors can securely make their bets online. First, you must find a reliable betting site and register an account. Then, you can start cashing in or out to your online sabong account via e-wallets. The most popular methods are GCash or PayMaya.      

Types of Sabong Betting Odds 

If you are new to sabong and need to learn how to bet, just go to the cockfight arena and observe how the game is going. When you bet on sabong, it is essential to choose better odds to determine the profit you can get after betting. The greater the odds, the higher the gains you get.

In cockfighting, the odds begin with ‘sampu-siyam,’ giving you 10% odds. You can also advance to ‘walo’ with 20% odds and ‘anim’ with 30% odds. Sometimes, it can go all the way to ‘doblado,’ giving you 100% wins. 

Here are some of the bets you can place in online betting.

  • Bet on Llamado (Meron). The highly favored rooster is on the Llamado side, which offers smaller odds. 
  • Bet on Dejado (Wala). If you are a risk-taker type of bettor, this can give you higher payouts. 
  • Bet on Draw – Both Dead. Here, you wager on a draw. If the two roosters die, a draw is declared. 
  • Bet on Draw – Full Time. A full-time draw happens if the roosters cannot defeat each other in a specified fight time. 

Picking the Right Place to Bet on Sabong 

Sabong tournaments can be more fun if you are physically present in the cockpit arena. However, another convenient option is to bet on fights online through your mobile device. However, with several online betting sites for cockfighting, finding the best sites could be challenging. Therefore, you should always choose the ones recognized by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).  

We recommend picking reputable sites and signing up for an account. Registration may take up to a few minutes and requires your complete information, including a local payment facility. Once the account is ready, you can deposit funds and start betting on the favorite or the underdog. Most betting sites offer a seamless betting menu where you only choose between two betting options- Meron o Wala.


The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation ensures all operations comply with the rules and regulations. Betting on cockfights can be done on-site cockpit arenas or online live betting platforms. But, the best way to enjoy sabong betting is to participate in legal sabong operations. The challenge is to choose a legitimate betting site as the number of operators continues to increase.