Chinese blackjack, also known as ban-nag or ban-luk, is available across casinos in South East Asia and bears some similarities to the conventional version of the game. With that said, there are many major differences between the two but this makes the Chinese version all the more exciting and challenging.
A similar variant is played across Malaysia where the game is called Kampung or “Village” Blackjack. Chinese blackjack is widely played during the Chinese New Year, which is believed to bring people new luck and prosperity. Let’s have a closer look at the differences in the rules between the Chinese version and conventional blackjack.
How to Play Chinese Blackjack
Chinese blackjack may be a bit confusing to players who are accustomed to the standard version of the game. It utilizes one or two full decks of cards and can be played by multiple players. In home games, one of the players assumes the role of a dealer. The dealer position changes once a player deals or wins three rounds.
When played in an actual casino, the cards are dealt face-up and the dealer must draw until they reach a total of 16 or higher. Players, on the other hand, can hit their hands as many times as they wish until they are either satisfied with their total or bust. Respectively, the objective is to attain a total as close to 21 as possible without going over.
Chinese blackjack bears some semblance to the traditional version of the game but it also has several rules that give it a unique twist. The game starts with the players posting their bets in the corresponding betting spots.
The cards are then shuffled well to prevent cheating and a player cuts the pack. The top portion of the pack is placed to the side and each participant receives two cards. Once the initial deal is over the cut cards are added back to the deck.
The values of the cards are almost the same as in conventional blackjack but an exception is made for hands consisting of four or five cards, in which case the Aces are counted as 1. Respectively, when a three-card hand contains an Ace, it is counted a 1 or 10. In two-card hands, the Aces have a value of 11 or 10. Face cards are assigned a rank of 10 whereas all the remaining cards are counted as their pip value.
Certain combinations of cards earn players higher payouts. A pair of Aces is called ban-ban and offers a 3-to-1 payout unless the dealer has also obtained a ban-ban to push with the player. A hand consisting of an Ace and a ten-value card is known as a ban-nag and returns at a rate of 2 to 1. A dealer with a ban-nag beats all hands with the exception of ban-bans.
A rule similar to the five-card Charlie in regular blackjack is also in place. Provided that the player draws five cards without busting, they have what is known as a five-dragon. This hand pays out 2 to 1 but if the five cards total exactly 21, the payout is higher at odds of 3 to 1.
The interesting thing here is that players are required to double their wagers and pay the dealer, if the dealer has a five-dragon themselves. If the total of the dealer’s five-dragon is exactly 21, it gets even worse for players as they must triple their wagers to pay the dealer.
Another unique aspect of Chinese blackjack is the escape hand, which has a total of 15. The player faces two options in this instance. They can either continue playing the hand or forfeit it to receive their full original stake back. The same applies when the dealer has an escape hand but in this case, the round ends for everyone at the table should the dealer choose to fold.
Extra payouts are awarded for hand totals of 21 that consist of three 7s. The payout may range between 5 to 1 and 21 to 1 depending on the fixed rules of the house.
Similarly to standard blackjack, here the dealer plays according to a set of fixed rules. These, however, are fundamentally different than those in the conventional game. A dealer with a hand total under 16 must hit in an attempt to improve their situation.
When the dealer has a hand total between 16 and 20, the rules allow them to reveal a number of players hands before they make any hitting or standing decisions. Provided that the dealer draws to 21, the round ends badly for all players because they lose their initial bets. Should the dealer exceed 21, the players win and receive even money.
House Edge and RTP
At this stage, it is pretty much clear that the house and its representative in the face of the dealer hold a significant advantage over the players in Chinese Blackjack. Because of this, people take turns to act as the dealer when they play the game at home.
The probability of players ending up with a ban ban is as low as 0.56% whereas the overall likelihood of them winning is 42.4% as opposed to the 49% chance of losing. Ties occur around 8.5% of the time.
The house edge is increased here because of the rule that requires the players to pay twice or thrice their original stakes when the dealer has a five-dragon hand. Even following an optimal strategy to the tee does not lead to a significant reduction of the edge this game yields to the house.