Guide to Winning Ban Luck (Blackjack): Should You Draw or Should You Hold?
Chinese New year (CNY) celebrations would not be complete without testing our luck over a game of “Ban Luck”.
As the world searches for a scientific measurement of “luck”, we can use our winnings for a night of Blackjack to gauge our luck for the year.
While Seedly believes in helping Singaporeans make better personal finance decisions, once a year during CNY, we go down the “dark” path of gambling too (Come on! We are true-blue Singaporeans too).
Having lost quite a bit of my fortune over the past years to “Ban Luck”, I am determined to at least win some back this year with the help of Mathematics and Statistics.
TL;DR – How to increase your chances of winning Ban Luck this Chinese New Year
Instead of depending on your zodiac’s luck this year, we are here to give everyone a fighting chance.
Whenever we play Ban Luck (Chinese Blackjack), the common dilemma we face is whether we should continue drawing cards or should we stop and be satisfied with our hand.
What if I told you that we can improve our chance of winning using probability?
- The odds of getting a Ban Ban (Ace pair) is 0.56%
- The odds of getting a Ban Luck on your first hand is 4.83%
- For players: if you have 16 points, the probability of bursting is 62%.
Hence, it is really risky to draw another card at 16.
- For dealers: Chances of ending with a final hand of more than 16 points with bursting is 66.81%.
Editor’s note: If you are unsure of how to play Ban Luck, we got your back! We have a guide at the bottom of this article for you!
Probability of getting a good hand
Firstly, we look at the big picture and analyse the probability of winning.
Ultimately, the odds of a player winning in Ban Luck is less than 50%, far lesser than what most Singaporeans think.
To break it down even further, here are the odds for each hand:
- The probability of getting 2 ACEs (Ban Ban) is only 0.56%
- The probability of getting an Ace with any card of value 10 (Ban Luck) is 4.83%
- There is a 30% chance that the initial hand will be between 17 to 20 points.
Given that each player needs a minimum of 16 points to play, here are the odds of getting 16 points and above:
|Value of initial hand||Probability|
|21 (Ban Luck)||4.83%|
“I got 16! Should I draw?”
Assuming your initial hand is 16. Should you continue to draw?
Based on the rules of the game, every player needs a minimum of 16 points to play. On the other hand, 16 will be the smallest hand in the game.
With this, we analyse the probability of each hand “bursting” should they draw 1 more card.
Burst refers to the total points exceeding 21 points.
|Total value of hand||Probability of exceeding 21 points
(or just surrender)
From here, we can tell that the odds of a total hand value of 16 “bursting” on the next draw is 62%. Unless your zodiac is really lucky this year, you may wish to think twice about drawing a card.
Using the dealer’s final hand’s probability to decide your move
For the dealer, it is a different ball game.
Most dealers will:
- Draw a card should he has 16 points, given that 16 is the lowest.
- Stand on 17 points, hoping that there are players holding on to 16 points.
With this, we break down the odds of what your final hand will be if you are the dealer.
For players, you can use this as a gauge to decide if you should draw.
|Final Hand Of The Dealer||Probability of getting it|
(Ace + 10)
(More than 2 cards)
(below 21 points)
(more than 21 points)
- With this, the probability of a dealer ending up with 17 points and more is 66.81%
- We exclude Ban Ban and Ban Luck as these contribute to immediate wins for dealers.
Food for thought:
- For players, the odds of bursting at 16 points are pretty high at 62%.
- Should a player not draw at 16 points, the dealer has a 66.81% chance of winning.
- The difference is the advantage that a dealer has.
- Hence, depending on the risk profile of the player, you decide your own fate this Chinese New year.
Further Reading: How To Ban Luck (Rules of Chinese Blackjack)
Here’s a quick recap of the rules of Ban Luck.
Dealing of cards in Ban Luck.
- The dealer first shuffles the deck (usually 1 deck of cards is required)
- After the dealer shuffles the card, one of the players will ‘cut’ the deck, splitting the deck into two. This is to ensure fairness in the game.
- The dealer will then give out two cards to each player, including himself.
- Unlike blackjack in the casino, Singaporeans usually deal with 2 cards facing down.
Point counting in Ban Luck
- Card ranging from 2 to 9, the points are pretty straightforward. The number on the card represents the point.
- For 10, J, Q and K, they all represent 10 points.
- The value of Ace changes with the number of cards in hand.
If one has a total of 2 cards in hand, Ace can be 10 or 11.
If one has a total of 3 cards in hand, Ace can be 10 or 1.
If one has more than 4 cards in hand, Ace is equalled to 1.
- Each player must at least have 16 points to play.
- Any card combination of lower than 16 points will mean that the player or dealer has to hit.
- Should a player or banker has exactly 15 points in his first two cards, he can choose to surrender.
Hit represents drawing card from the pile when it is your turn.
- The objective is to get a hand of higher points without exceeding 21 points.
Special combinations of Ban Luck
- There are special combinations which allow dealer or players to get back more than 1X of their bet amount.
- Ban Luck (Ace with J, Q, K or 10): Player to win 2X his bet unless the dealer has 15 points or Ban Ban. This is the same for the dealer.
- Ban Ban (Ace pair): Wins 3X the bet amount.
- 7-7-7 (Triple 7): Wins 7X the bet amount.
- Dragon (obtain 5 cards without exceeding 21 points):
Should a player wants to hit after receiving his fourth card, he will have to reveal all his 4 cards.
Should his total points of all 5 cards not exceed 21 points, he receives 2X his bet.
- Chinese New Year (CNY) Card Games Guide: How to Play Ban Luck, In-Between and Poker
- Singaporean’s Guide to Mahjong Winning Hand’s Probability, Scoring and How to Mahjong
- Singaporean’s Guide to Poker Winning Hand’s Probability
- Guide to Winning In-Between: Probability of Hitting ‘Tiang’ & Card Being on the “Outside”