If there’s one thing Asians are usually associated with, it’s their so-called “gambling addiction”. An unknown Chinese gambler once said: “If you don’t gamble, you won’t know how lucky you are”. And if we’re going to talk about blackjack, the Chinese gamblers have something to offer too: the Chinese blackjack.
Also known as Ban-Luck, Ban-Nag, and 21-point, the Chinese variation has major similarities to the classic American card game. But like any tweaked blackjack game, it has its own rule twists.
Forget about the stereotypical, high-roller Chinese gambler. Here, we’re going to explore the Asian variation and how it fares in the casinos around the world.
What is the Chinese variation all about?
This variation of blackjack is often played during the New Year’s Eve as the Chinese people believe that it will bring good luck. This card game is played with one or two decks and any number of players can join. Such a setup is an obvious deviation from the classic blackjack.
If played for fun in Chinese households, the dealer will be nominated and the other members will take turns on the position.
A round starts with the players placing their bets, the same with most blackjack games. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals it to his or her own hand and the players. The cards have the same value as the classic blackjack game except for the Aces.
When it comes to winning, the Chinese variation offers different ways. Basically, you’ll aim to beat the dealer by having a higher hand without getting busted. Also, a blackjack or Ban-Nag will be considered a win. Below, we’ve discussed the different winning hands that are unique to the Chinese version of the card game.\
You have to remember that the value of Ace cards changes depending on the winning combination. This is the biggest difference of the Chinese version to the classic rules. Instead of having the value of 1 or 11, the Ace card can be used in three different ways based on the hand combination (see below).
Also, there’s a massive difference on the dealer’s side. If he has a 16-20 hand from the initially dealt cards, the dealer can reveal more player cards before deciding if he’s going to hit or not. This increases the dealer’s playing decisions, not unlike the standard blackjack game.
Player hand options during the game
To make it clear, there are different ways to win in the Chinese version of blackjack. First, you’ll have a winning hand if your hand value is higher than the dealer without going bust. Second, if the dealer busts, all the players with non-bust hands will be paid even money just like how it goes with the standard card game.
But here, you have these four additional combination wins:
🎴Ban-Ban – In this combination, the player has a pair of Aces. When you have this hand on the Chinese version, you’ll automatically win and get paid a generous 3:1. But if the dealer also has a Ban-Ban or an Escape hand (discussed below), the game is a push and you won’t lose your stakes.
🎴Ban-Nag/Ban Luck – Ban-Nag is the Chinese term for a natural blackjack. When you have an Ace card and a 10-value card, you automatically win a 2:1 payout. However, if the dealer also has a Ban-Nag or a Ban-Ban, the game is a push and no one collects.
🎴Escape Hand – This combination is a hand with a total of 15 after dealing the initial cards. It’s called an escape hand because the player will have the chance to surrender his hand and reclaim 100% of his or her wager. The escape hand also applies to the dealer where s/he can decide to end the round and start another.
🎴5-Dragon – The 5-Dragon is equivalent to the 5-card Charlie rule that some casinos recognize. This is when you get five cards without getting busted. A 5-Dragon that’s lower than 21 will be paid 2:1 while an exact 21 will get a more lavish 3:1 payout.
These combination wins make the Chinese version an exciting game. Whether it has a high house edge or not, you’ll know below.
How the dealer plays the game
Now that you know how the game goes on the part of the player, it’s also important to understand how the dealer plays the game. Based on the information we’ve given below, Chinese blackjack dealers seem to have more freedom in making decisions about the game.
For example, if he gets an escape hand, the dealer can decide if he wants to end the round or not. This gives the casino an upper hand, especially if the hands of the players are winning hands.
Such a feature is also a sucker for card counters. Just when the shoe is rich, the dealer gets a 15 hand. And since he knows you have the chance of winning, he will end the round and collect your fat wager.
On this part, the dealer’s role is a massive deviation from the classic blackjack. If the dealer gets a hand lower than 16, s/he is required to hit. But once the dealer has a hand between 16 and 20, s/he gets the chance to reveal some of the players’ hands before deciding for the next move.
In case the dealer gets a 21 or anything higher without going bust, all the players lose. If the dealer busts, the players get even money.
Another thing the dealer will enjoy is the 5-Dragon combination. When the dealer gets this, all the players will lose their wager and they’ll have to pay the dealer twice the amount of their original bets. If the dealer gets a 5-Dragon with an exact 21 value, all the players would have to pay three times their original wager.
Pros and cons
If you’re wondering if the Chinese version is worth the try, it helps to weigh the pros and cons. Here, we listed some points that will help you out:
If you’re planning to play the Chinese card game for business, you may want to reconsider. It has very unique rules and the fact that the dealer has a lot of power could be a direct threat to your bankroll. Even card counters may find this troublesome since it could be quite difficult to gauge when a dealer will get a 5-Dragon hand.
Lastly, most tables offering this game will shuffle the decks after every round. This makes card counting almost impossible to do.
Generally, the Chinese version is played at home for fun. If you’re willing to risk your money, you can try your hand on this card game.
Rules of the game
By now, you probably have a good grasp of the Chinese version. Below are more rules to make the game clearer for you in case you plan to try it with your friends or in an actual casino.
There might be variations in these rules or additional rules depending on the casino. Make sure that you ask first and take the rules by heart. The Chinese version is complicated and tricky. If you’re planning to play this with real money, I highly suggest that you stick to low stakes.
Considering the rules and the dealer’s power over the player’s bankroll, this variation is reeking with house edge. This is the reason why players opt for a house setting where they can take turns as the dealer. That way, they can gain their losses back by defeating multiple players at a time.
To give you an idea about the odds of getting winning hands, here’s a number soup to taste:
🎴Once you have a hand of 16, you have a 62% chance of busting when you hit
🎴Your chance of getting a Ban-Ban or a pair of Aces is 0.56%
🎴You have 30% odds of getting a 17-20 hand value
🎴Your odds of getting a blackjack (Ban Luck) on your initial cards are 4.83%.
How about your probability of getting a good hand while playing? With the above-mentioned rules, here’s your standing in the game:
*Chance of winning: 42.42%
*Odds of losing: 49.09%
*Chance of a draw: 8.48%
As you see, you’re more likely to lose in the game. Also, the longer you play, the more you lose. This makes chasing losses a no-no when playing the Chinese variation. The casino can easily milk your money away if you do so.
The payout is very lavish in the Chinese game. When the dealer busts, players will get even money. And when it comes to winning combinations, the biggest payout is 3:1. However, you should watch out since the dealer also enjoys the same thing. If the dealer gets a 5-Dragon with a total of 21, you’ll have to pay the house 3:1. In the classic blackjack, you’ll only lose your wager.
This makes the game a high-risk gambling venture. Some casinos will remove some of the taxing payout rules to make it more attractive for players.
There are no prominent side bets in Ban Luck given that the dealer power is already high. Still, some casinos may offer side bets on their discretion.
In some Ban Luck games, there’s the so-called 7-7-7. This isn’t a side bet but a house rule where a player’s wager gets 7 times bigger if he has a winning hand of three 7s. In some sub-variants, the bet can be multiplied up to 21 which make it qualify as somewhat a side bet.
How to increase your chances of winning on Ban-Luck
Practice is the key if you want to win in Ban Luck. As much as you can apply some of the strategies used on the classic card game setup, the massive rule variations could prove it to be less effective.
Due to the fact that the dealer will shuffle the cards every round, it dampens the chance for you to perform card counting.
I suggest that you observe a table before trying your hand on it. If possible, play it with your friends for fun.
If you really want to outwit the dealer, you need to know the ins and outs of the card game. Take every rule by heart and apply it to your hands. Much of your odds are murky, but you can still earn a little money if the cards are on your favor.
Where can you play Ban-Luck?
Some online casinos will offer this variation but it will be difficult to spot on brick-and-mortar casinos. The Chinese Blackjack is usually played at home that’s why it’s less known in major gambling houses.
If you want, you can organize a game with your gambler friends so you can take turns as the dealer. Still, don’t rely on this version to give you lots of money.
In a lighter mood, here are some “winning tips” if you’re playing the Chinese card game: