If you’re planning on gambling in Asia or travelling to one of Southeast Asia’s new super casinos, it’s wise to know what you’re in for. While many casinos in Asia provide the usual Western games of roulette, poker and blackjack, there are also plenty of Asian traditional games and variations on offer.
One of the most popular is Chinese blackjack. Also known as ban-luck or ban-nag, Chinese blackjack is often played by most people at some point during Chinese New Year. Outside of New Year celebrations, it has also proved popular in plenty of Southeast Asian casinos.
The game is very like traditional or Western blackjack, in that players are dealt hands and can hit, stand or go bust depending on whether they reach or go over 21 points, it can be played online through websites such as M88 or Sbobet but these websites are illegal in some SE Asian countries
Unlike traditional blackjack however, which requires a dealer to play with separate — and often less fair — rules to the other players, Chinese blackjack was developed in ancient villages where games would often be played by groups of friends. In order to make the game just and not single out one person as dealer, Chinese blackjack players take turns to be the dealer for three rounds each.
Chinese blackjack also has its own idiosyncratic rules that differentiate it from the version foreign gamblers may be familiar with. Firstly, certain ‘special’ hands can double the amount won for a player. Ban ban (two aces), ban luck (an ace plus a 10, jack, queen or king), pairs or a combination of three sevens can lead to automatic wins or an increase in earnings. Getting 15 points in one hand is also considered a special ‘burn’ rule, whereby a player can choose whether he would like to continue playing that particular round.
In Malaysia, the game is known as Kampung blackjack and has different rules still. The 15 point rule in Kampung blackjack allows for a player to double their original bet and draw a fresh hand of cards. Players must also reach 16 or more points in one hand or face a penalty such as paying out a certain sum to each of the other players. A participant can even opt to show a small part of their hand to someone else in an attempt to unnerve their fellow players.
While it’s useful to be familiar with all these rules, it’s also worth noting that house rules can often vary from casino to casino. As long as you make sure that you’re aware of the exact house rules being played at your table, playing Chinese blackjack in Southeast Asia can be a fun and lucrative experience.