Chinese Blackjack is all the rage in China and Southeast Asia, although it’s much less popular in western parts of the world. It is known by many names in various regions, including Kampung Blackjack, 21-Point, Ban-nag, and Ban-luck. But no matter what you call it, rest assured that Chinese Blackjack will keep even the most experienced player on their toes thanks to a complicated series of rules, as well as numerous house variants.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to play Chinese Blackjack, as well as take a look at various odds that players can expect to face. While mastering the game will be no easy feat thanks to its variations from traditional blackjack, it should still provide numerous sessions of gaming enjoyment.
How to Play Chinese Blackjack
Chinese Blackjack is played with two decks of 52 cards. Any number of players can participate, although one will have to act as the dealer. Since this game is often played in informal settings, players usually take turns being the dealer, often rotating after every three hands.
There are two objectives in Chinese Blackjack. The first is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going bust. The second is to get one of the special winning hands.
Players place their bets to begin the game. Then, the dealer shuffles the cards and asks another player to “cut the cards” by removing a certain number from the deck before dealing (these cards are then set aside). In keeping with the casual nature of the game, the dealer has the option of distributing cards in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, and the dealer may receive his cards first or last. Each player—as well as the dealer—receives two face-down cards. The leftover cards are then put back with the cards that were set aside before the deal.
Face cards are worth 10 points, while numbered cards are worth the value displayed. The value of the ace, however, differs depending on the number of cards in a player’s hand. If the player has two cards, the ace is worth either 10 or 11 points (their choice). A three-card hand makes an ace worth either 1 or 10 points, while four cards or more cause an ace to drop in value to just 1 point.
Before the game progresses, both the players and dealer check their hands for any special card combinations. The four most common hands of this type include the following:
- Ban-Luck – This hand is comprised of an ace and either a 10, king, queen, or jack. If the player or dealer has a Ban-Luck, he wins double his bet (or the player’s bet) unless the opposition has a ban-luck (tie), ban-ban (opponent loses), or free hand (opponent is allowed to cancel the hand).
- Ban-Ban – This special hand is made up of two aces. If the player or dealer has a ban-ban, they win triple their wager (or triple the player’s bet). The only counters are another ban-ban (tie) or a free hand (allowing for an escape).
- Free Hand – Two initial cards that total 15 points. If a player or dealer has this hand, they may choose to continue with the round or immediately stop. If the dealer chooses the latter option, cards are collected from all players and reshuffled.
- Pairs – If a player has a pair in his initial hand, he wins double his wager.
While they aren’t checked immediately after the deal, other special hands also exist in Chinese Blackjack. The most notable is called 7-7-7. This occurs when the player has a pair of sevens to begin with and then obtains a third seven. When this occurs, the player wins 21 times their initial wager.
If a player receives five cards without busting (known as a “5 Dragon”), he wins double his bet. If the five cards add up to 21, then the winnings are tripled. If, however, a player has 5 cards and goes bust, they must pay double their wager to the dealer. If the dealer gets 5 cards without busting, players must pay them double their wager (or triple if the five cards add up to 21).
Once special hands have been determined, players may choose to hit or stand. If their total is less than 16 points, then they must hit. If a player or the dealer reaches 5 cards in their hand, they must immediately reveal them to everyone else.
Once all players have acted, the dealer then takes their turn. They must hit if their total is below 16. If they have between 16 and 21, they can also choose to reveal the hands of some players before hitting again. When a player’s hand is revealed by the dealer, the card values are compared and the outcome is resolved according to the rules.
If the dealer has exactly 21, they reveal the cards of all other players. If the dealer ends up with 5 cards but less than 21 points, they lose double the wager of any player whose hand has yet to be revealed (even if the player has busted). When the dealer busts, they pay any player who hasn’t also went bust.
After all wagers are settled, the cards are gathered up and reshuffled for another hand of Chinese Blackjack.
Chinese Blackjack Odds and Probability
With most versions of blackjack, it’s not difficult to locate online tables that list the winning percentages for various hands. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when searching for Chinese Blackjack odds and probability. I utilized both Google and Bing and turned up nothing. Then I hit the gambling forums, and my searches for “Chinese Blackjack Odds” or “Chinese” just revealed anecdotes about Asian players. I’m guessing that some Asian version of the Internet may contain such information, but unfortunately my Mandarin is more than a little rusty.
Playing Chinese Blackjack will provide a welcome change of pace from the traditional version of the game. Once you’ve become familiar with the rules, you may even find that you prefer the fluid nature of the game and the opportunity to routinely double or triple the size of your wager. If nothing else, it’s an excellent way to experience what people on the other side of the globe may be doing for fun.