The game referred to, as “Chinese Blackjack” is also called 21-point or Hokkien. It is extremely similar in its basic design to traditional casino Blackjack. The game needs a dealer who uses one or two fifty-two card decks of standard playing cards, and there can be any number of players who are working to beat the dealer in a one on one game.
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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.
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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:
Each player gets two cards face down. The cards are dealt by the dealer.
- K, Q, J = 10
- 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 = as numbered
- If hand is of two cards, then Ace = 11 or 10
- If hand is of three cards, then Ace = 10 or 1
- If hand is of four or more cards, then Ace = 1
Special card combinations
In case the player has a special combination of cards, his hand is considered to fall into special rules. These hands are:
- Ace + (10/J/Q/K) = ban-luck
- Ace + Ace = ban-ban
- 15 points hand = a free hand
- Ban-Luck (also called ban-nag)
If a player has a hand with a ten-valued card and an Ace, this hand is a ban-luck and pays 2 to 1. However, if the dealer’s hand is also ban luck, a ban-ban or a free hand, the outcome changes. If the dealers hand is a ban luck, it is a tie, in case it is a ban-ban the player loses, and in case if it a free hand, it is an escape.
If the dealer has a ban-luck, all the players lose with the exception of those that have a ban-ban (dealer loses), ban-luck (a tie) or free hand (escape).
If the player is dealt two Aces, he has ban-ban. Which gets a payout 3 to 1. If the dealer has also has ban-ban it is a tie, and a free hand is an escape. When the dealer has a ban-ban, the game is the same but vice versa.
15 Points (Free or Escape hand)
If the player has a hand of 15 points, this is called a free hand. The player that has this hand has a chance of either continuing playing or stopping the game. If the player chooses to stop the game, all cards are collected, re-shuffled and dealt again. If the Dealer has a free hand, he can do the same thing.
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