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Guide to winning Ban Luck (Blackjack): Should you draw or should you hold?

Guide to winning Ban Luck (Blackjack): Should you draw or should you hold?
PHOTO: Pixabay

Our Chinese New year (CNY) celebration is not complete without testing our luck over a game of 'Ban Luck'.

As the world search for a scientific measurement for '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 CNY

Editor’s note: If you are unsure of how to play Ban Luck (Chinese blackjack), we got your back! We have a guide at the bottom of this article for you!

  • The odds of getting a Ban Ban (Ace pair) is 0.56 per cent
  • The odds of getting a Ban Luck on your first hand is 4.83 per cent
  • For players: if you have 16 points, the probability of bursting is 62 per cent . 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 per cent.

Probability of getting a good hand

Do take note that the below examples are based on the assumption of only 1 deck of cards being used.

Probability of getting a good hand

Firstly, we look at the big picture and analyse the probability of winning.

Win 42.42 per cent
Draw 8.48 per cent
Loss 49.09 per cent

Ultimately, the odds of a player winning in Ban Luck is less than 50 per cent, 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 per cent
  • The probability of getting an Ace with any card of value 10 (Ban Luck) is 4.83 per cent
  • There is a 30per cent 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
Ban Ban 0.56 per cent
21 (Ban Luck) 4.83 per cent
20 10.26 per cent
19 6.03 per cent
18 6.48 per cent
17 7.24 per cent
16 7.69 per cent

'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
21 100 per cent
20 92 per cent
19 85 per cent
18 77 per cent
17 69 per cent
16 62 per cent
15 58 per cent
(or just surrender)
14 56 per cent
13 39 per cent
12 31 per cent
Below 11 0 per cent

From here, we can tell that the odds of total hand value 16 'bursting' on the next draw is at 62 per cent. 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
Ban Ban
(Ace pair)
0.56 per cent
(Ace + 10)
4.83 per cent
21 points
(More than 2 cards)
7.36 per cent
20 17.58 per cent
19 13.48 per cent
18 13.81 per cent
17 14.58 per cent
(below 21 points)
72.2 per cent
(more than 21 points)
27.8 per cent
  • With this, the probability of a dealer ending up with 17 points and more is at 66.81 per cent
  • 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 is pretty high at 62 per cent .
  • Should a player not draw at 16 points, the dealer has a 66.81 per cent 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 .

To play:

  • 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.

This article was first published in Seedly.

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