Spanish 21 Blackjack
Spanish 21 first appeared in Nevada casinos in 1995 after being invented by Masque Publishing, a Colorado-based gaming company. Unlicensed versions of the game are popular and played under the name Spanish Blackjack. The game has also extended beyond the borders of the United States, and in Malaysia and Australia it can be played under the name Pontoon (although with a significant number of rules differences).
If trying an offshoot of the world’s most beloved casino banking game sounds like fun, this article should help you get started. I’ve included a section on how to play Spanish 21, as well as details on Spanish 21 odds and probability. All you need to do is read the article, practice until you’ve got the basics down, and then find a land-based or online casino that offers Spanish 21 and start playing.
How to Play Spanish 21
Spanish 21 is a blackjack variant, so the object of the game is the same as its predecessor. The player must collect two or more cards in an effort to get a score of 21 (or as close as possible). The dealer will be trying to reach this goal, as well, so the player must also beat the dealer’s score without busting (going over 21). All card values are the same as regular blackjack.
If a player or dealer’s first two cards equal 21, they are said to have a “natural blackjack.” This instant winner pays out at 3:2, which means you’ll win $3 for every $2 that you wagered.
Six or eight decks are most commonly used, but all 10-cards are removed from each 52-card deck. The absence of these cards give a distinct advantage to the house, but there are a series of variant rules and bonuses that help the players and actually make Spanish 21 one of the best bets in the casino. These include the following:
- If the player reaches a total of 21, they always win. This is unlike some versions of blackjack, in which a matching dealer 21 will result in a push.
- The dealer is required to hit on 16 and stand on 17, although some casinos require the dealer to hit on a soft 17 (a hand equaling 17 but containing an ace). In most cases, however, the dealer will also stand on a soft 17, as hitting increases the edge for the house.
- A natural blackjack is always a winner and always pays 3:2, regardless of the value of the dealer’s first two cards.
- Players are allowed to split cards until they have a total of four hands. This rule also applies to pairs of aces.
- Once cards have been dealt, the dealer always checks his hole card for a blackjack if he’s showing an ace or face card. A dealer blackjack results in an immediate loss for all players who don’t have the same (in which case they automatically win).
- The player may always choose to double down, regardless of the number of cards or the total.
- Late surrender is offered in most games of Spanish 21. This means that if the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, players can choose to stop playing their hand and get back half of their initial wager.
- Players can also choose to surrender after doubling down. If this occurs, the player keeps the doubled portion of the bet, but the dealer gets the original wager. This is known as “concede,” “double-down rescue” or “forfeit.”
- Some casinos allow the player to double down twice after initially doubling down. When done correctly, this can give the player a major advantage over the house.
- Players can purchase insurance against a dealer blackjack, and it pays out at 2:1.
- Getting 21 with 5 cards pay 3:2, while 6 cards pay 2:1, and 7 or more cards pay 3:1. Splitting or doubling down cancels out these potential bonuses.
- Getting 7-7-7 or 6-7-8 of a mixed suit pays 3:2, while cards of the same suit pay 2:1. If the cards are all spades, the payout is 3:1. These bonuses are canceled if a player splits or doubles down.
- If the dealer has a 7 card face-up and the player gets a suited 7-7-7, a bonus of $1000 is paid on bets under $25 and $5000 on wagers over $25. Other players at the table also receive a $50 “envy bonus.” This bonus is eliminated if the player doubles down or splits.
- Some casinos offer a “match the dealer” side bet. If one or both of the player’s first two cards match the dealer’s up card, the payout is 3:1 for a non-suited match in an 8-deck game and 12:1 for a suited match.
Spanish 21 Odds and Probability
Buying blackjack insurance in Spanish 21 should be avoided, as the lack of 10-cards reduces the chances of a dealer blackjack when showing an ace to just 25%. This gives the house an edge of 24.7% on insurance, which is sure to rank among the worst bets at any casino.
Otherwise, Spanish 21 odds and probability tend to be favorable to the player. In games where the dealer stands on a soft 17, the house edge is 0.40%. If the dealer is required to hit on a soft 17 and redoubling is allowed, the house edge increases to 0.42% (in a six-deck game). Without the possibility of redoubling, the house advantage increases to 0.78%.
The lowest house edge comes in a six-deck game where the dealer stands on a soft 17. This lowers the casino advantage to just 0.37%.
The odds of hitting the super bonus are small. In a six-deck game, the chances are just 1 in 668,382, while it increases to 1 in 549,188 for an eight-deck version. Depending on the number of players and the amount of the wager, the house edge can be lowered further by this side bet.
Like other blackjack variants, Spanish 21 delivers just enough differences from the original version of the game to provide players with a fun and unique gambling experience. Thanks to the additional rules and bonuses, it also happens to be one of the best bets in the casino (sometimes even better than regular blackjack). So if you’re looking for a new game that provides a decent expected return, find a casino that offers Spanish 21 and give it a try.