GREEN TEA AND whisky may seem like a foul concoction to some, but it's popular in local pubs, and Candy Chow Hoi-yan has a jug of it in front of her - along with one of whisky and soda. As usual, the 20-year-old is shaking the dice, playing drinking games with patrons at the Tsim Sha Tsui tavern where she works four nights a week. Unlike the swanky bars of Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo, drinking games are an integral part of the culture in the city's down-home taverns. And to stay competitive, pub managers have been hiring more women such as Chow in the past couple of years. Some Causeway Bay bars targeting 'office ladies' have even introduced drinking-game boys. Chow is one of 16 drinking-game girls at M & W Bar in Prat Avenue. 'I'm not into watching TV or shopping, but I like going out with friends for a drink. Then I started to think about working in a pub after work to earn extra money and have fun at the same time,' says Chow, an office worker who joined the bar a year ago. Although she had some reservations at first, Chow soon found there was nothing untoward involved. 'There's nothing special. It's just a job like sales,' she says, although some patrons can be unpleasant. 'It's inevitable that we occasionally have to deal with drunk and filthy customers.' Assigned to different tables to mingle with customers, Chow and her colleagues engage them in dice and hand games where the penalty for losing, naturally, is to quaff your drink. 'It's what people do in pubs - drink and play games,' she says. 'Every one suffers stress from work and life. This bar is a place for people to relax and have some fun. It's just a form of entertainment.' Lucky and Liar are among the most popular games: both require six dice and at least two players. In the former, the person who rolls the lowest points loses. Liar requires players to take turns to bid on the total points on the faces of dice lying under a cup. A player can challenge the previous person's bid, but loses if the dice are revealed to show that the call is correct. Hand games such as 15/20 and Fat Choi, which involve lots of shouting, are also popular. Played in pairs, one person calls out a number while the other makes hand signs representing different figures. The player who raises a hand sign corresponding to the number called out must drink. Other contests featuring oddball chants and hand signs evolved from television game shows and janken, the Japanese version of Rock Paper Scissors. The lively bar pursuits inspired film producer Michael Mak Dong-kit to investigate the development of drinking games - and to make a film built around local pub life, the recently released Nothing is Impossible starring Dayo Wong Chi-wah. 'People used to think that drinking games were only played by uncouth men. But now it's become a trend,' says Mak. 'It boosted the business in bars and it's a means for people to meet new friends. Now even OL [office ladies] and professionals play these games. 'Maybe Hong Kong people are under greater pressure now; more people are going to pubs after work and changing the drinking culture.' Hence the renaissance of drinking-game girls. They first emerged seven years ago when bar owners brought in the service to boost patronage amid a glut of small clubs. The return of discos later cut into bar takings, but a pub revival in the past couple of years has boosted demand for the girls. Tung-tung Yip was among the pioneers. Like Chow, she enjoyed drinking and hanging out in pubs. So when a pub-owner friend asked her to help out in 1999, Yip, then an 18-year-old shop assistant, didn't hesitate. 'When I first started, people weren't used to playing games with us. We just sat and waited for customers to approach us. We didn't have to take the initiative like today,' says Yip, who now runs her own pub in Prince Edward. 'But we've never had to do anything indecent. We're just company for the guys who want to hang out; nothing else.' At first, about one in five pubs in Prince Edward employed drinking-game girls. Now, almost all bars in the area do. 'Bar managers realised it was good for business. Customers are motivated to come more often, stay longer - and order more drinks,' says Yip, who employs nine girls at her pub. Totti Lo Ka-leung, 20, can vouch for that. He and his friends have more fun and drink more if there is a girl to play drinking games with. It makes little difference if they go out in a big group, 'but when I'm with just a couple of friends, we won't stay long without a drinking-game girl', he says. The same goes for men who enter pubs on their own. While most pub owners don't have specific criteria for employing a drinking-game girl, pleasant looks and a sociable disposition are crucial, says M & W Bar manager Syan H.Y. Wong. 'What customers want is service. A drinking-game girl is there to enhance the atmosphere,' says Wong, herself a former drinking-game girl. 'We don't test the girls during an interview, but I'll observe them for the first couple of days to see if they're capable. They just need to know some basic dice games and should not get drunk too easily.' Lo agrees. 'It's fine if the girls are not very sexy or good at playing drinking games. But they need to be cheerful and playful,' he says. While women such as Yip can down a dozen beers a night, Wong insists the job doesn't require a great capacity for alcohol. 'You can't keep drinking. Even if you only work four hours, it's impossible,' she says. Chow says she's seldom inebriated at work unless 'I drink a lot in a very short time and mix different drinks'. She avoids doing that 'but sometimes you can't really control the situation if the customers ask you to do it'. With many of these bars doing a brisk trade, managers are always on the lookout for new girls and recruitment notices are a common sight on pub doors. However, the constant search for staff is also due to the high turnover rate. 'Many people have to take some time off once in a while,' Chow says. 'It's tough to drink like that all the time.'