Whenever you have a popular table game like blackjack, there are always going to be people who say, “Yeah, I like that game, but wouldn’t it be better if we tweaked a couple of these rules?” And that’s how blackjack variations come about. Some variations are created because the casino wants to raise or lower the house edge. Some are added to make the games more fun for players who are competing against each other. Some might be the result of people remembering the rules wrong, playing the game incorrectly, and having their version stick (just a theory of mine). But whatever the reason for their creation, blackjack variations are all over the place.
One popular variation is Chinese blackjack, which is also called 21-point or ban-luck. In Malaysia, there is a game very similar to Chinese blackjack that is known as kampong, which means “village.” Chinese blackjack is more often played in friendly games than in casinos and it is believed that its rules were developed for that purpose. In friendly games, many players don’t want to be the dealer because they have to obey a strict set of rules and don’t actually get to make a decision. In Chinese blackjack, the dealer has as many options as the players.
Automatic Winning Combinations
In Chinese blackjack, the dealer and players both have their cards dealt face down. Once the cards are dealt, there are 5 specific combinations that the players and the dealer will check for. They are a pair of aces (called a ban-ban), an ace and 10-value card (called ban-luck), a hand totaling 15 points (a free hand), any pair of cards, and three sevens.
If a player has a ban-ban, he wins automatically and has his bet tripled, unless the dealer also has a ban-ban or has a free hand. If the dealer has a ban-ban, he wins triple all player bets unless they also have a ban-ban or a free hand.
If a player receives a ban-luck, he automatically wins double his bet, unless the dealer has a ban-ban, ban-luck or a free hand. If the dealer has a ban-luck, he automatically wins double the player bets unless the players have a ban-ban, ban-luck or free hand.
If the player or dealer has a free hand (total of 15), he can choose whether or not to continue with the game. If he opts not to continue, the original bet is not lost.
As for pairs, if the player receives a single pair, he automatically wins and has his bet doubled. If the player has triple sevens, though, that is the big payout, with the player automatically winning 21 times the wager. As in traditional blackjack, a two-card 21 pays out 3:2.
In traditional blackjack, the dealer doesn’t get to make decisions. In Chinese blackjack, however, there are options for the dealer, some of which have been outlined above. In addition, if the dealer has 16 or greater without busting, he can either hit or make the players reveal their hands before making a decision. The hand values are the same as in traditional blackjack, as are the rules for ties and busting. In addition, there are different rules for hands of five cards. If the players or dealer get five cards for a total of 21, they win triple the bet automatically. If they get five cards for any other amount without busting, they automatically win double the bet.