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Guide to Spanish 21 – A Blackjack Variant

Spanish 21 was one of the earliest blackjack variants to be spread in a casino. It has seen a revival in recent years. However, the rules are not as generous as they once were.

Spanish 21 is a difficult game to learn by most standards. The strategy varies drastically from most other blackjack variants.

There are two reasons for this. One is because there are no tens in the deck. Jacks, queens, and kings remain. Another is bonus pays that have to do with making hands that equal 21.

It is difficult to find Spanish 21 these days. Venetian and Palazzo offer it in Las Vegas. Most Atlantic City casinos spread it.

Otherwise, it is nearly extinct, apart from at many online casinos, though it is sometimes referred to by another name.

Differences Between Spanish 21 and Traditional Blackjack

There are many differences between Spanish 21 and the traditional version of the game.

The most obvious difference is the absence of tens in the deck. Other 10-value cards are in there. This makes each deck 48 cards. Live Spanish 21 games use six or eight decks.

A player blackjack always wins, even if the dealer also has one. If a player draws to 21, the hand wins immediately.

Double down is permitted on any number of cards. Players may surrender at any time, even after a double down. This is referred to as double down rescue. Split aces may be hit, re-split, and doubled.

There are special payouts for certain 21 hands.

  • A 21 with a 6, 7, and 8 or with three 7s receives 3-2 if it is not suited
  • A 21 with a 6, 7, and 8 or with three 7s receives 2-1 when suited (excluding spades)
  • A 21 with a 6, 7, and 8 or with three 7s receives 3-1 when all spades
  • A five-card 21 pays 3-2
  • A six-card 21 pays 2-1
  • A seven-card 21 pays 3-1

None of these bonus payouts occur if the player doubles down.

How to Play Spanish 21

The first step in playing Spanish 21 is making a wager.

At a live casino, place your wager in the betting circle in front of you. You may play more than one hand for double the minimum bet.

At an online casino, click the denomination of chips that you would like to use. After that, click the betting circle the number of times that equals the bet that you would like to make.

Once your bet is established, each player receives two cards. The player’s cards are dealt face up. The dealer has one card placed up and the other down.

If the player has a blackjack, it is paid 3-2 immediately. If the dealer shows an ace, insurance is offered. It pays 2-1.

Insurance is an even worse bet than normal since there are no tens in the deck and the payout remains the same. We recommend never taking it.

The dealer will check for blackjack if showing a jack, queen, king, or ace. If the dealer has blackjack, all players still in the hand lose. Player blackjacks are already paid at this point. If the dealer does not have blackjack, the hand continues as normal.

Players have the option to hit, stand, double down, or surrender. To hit, or draw a card, tap the table in front of you at a live Spanish 21 game. At an online casino, click the hit button.

You may hit until you make a 21 or six-card charlie and automatically win or until your count is 22 or higher, which is a bust. If you bust, your bet loses.

To stand at a live game, wave your hand above your bet. At an online casino, there is a button that does this. This means that you are satisfied with your point total and do not want more cards.

To double down, meaning taking one card and standing, place an equal bet to the original one next to it. Simply click the appropriate button at an online version of Spanish 21.

You may double down on any number of cards, keeping in mind that bonus 21 pays do not apply if you do.

To surrender, run your finger in front of your bet. This option is also available at online casinos. You may surrender on any number of cards. It is also permitted after a double down.

Split is available if you are dealt a pair. Place an equal wager to the original bet to do this. This is the same live and online. This will turn your pair into two hands with a new card placed on each.

Double down and surrender are available after splitting on any number of cards. Aces may be hit, doubled, or re-split.

If the player makes a 21 at any time, it is paid immediately. Players cannot push on 21. Some 21s have bonus payouts, as previously outlined.

Once all players have acted, the dealer shows its hole card. If the dealer has 18 or higher, or hard 17, it stands. If it has 16 or lower, or soft 17, it hits. A soft 17 is an ace plus one or more cards that total 6. A hard hand is one that can bust.

Once the dealer’s hand is established, it is compared to each player’s cards.

  • If the dealer has a higher total than the player, the player’s bets lose
  • If the player has a higher point total than the dealer, even money is paid unless the hand qualifies for a special payout or 21 is made. Those are paid instantly
  • If the player and dealer have the same hand that is not 21, the hand is a push, and the bet is returned to the player

Spanish 21 Strategy

Spanish 21 strategy differs substantially from the standard version of the game. This is due to the lack of tens in the deck and bonus payouts. Follow the list below for the best strategy to win at Spanish 21.

Spanish 21 Strategy with Hard Hands

  • 4 through 8: Always hit
  • 9: Double down against a 6; otherwise, hit
  • 10: Double down against 2 through 8; otherwise, hit
  • 11: Always double down
  • 12: Always hit
  • 13: Stand against 6; otherwise, hit
  • 14: Stand against 4, 5, or 6; otherwise, hit
  • 15: Stand against 2 through 6; otherwise, hit
  • 16: Stand against 2 through 6; surrender against ace; otherwise, hit
  • 17: Surrender against ace; otherwise, hit
  • 18 and higher: Always stand

Spanish 21 Strategy with Soft Hands

A soft hand is one with an ace that cannot bust. Play those hands according to the following list.

  • Soft 13 and 14: Always hit
  • Soft 15: Double down against 6; otherwise, hit
  • Soft 16: Double down against 5 and 6; otherwise, hit
  • Soft 17: Double down against 4 through 6; otherwise, hit
  • Soft 18: Stand against 2, 3, 7, and 8. Double down against 4 through 6; otherwise, hit
  • Soft 19 and 20: Always stand

Spanish 21 Strategy with Pairs

A player dealt a pair may split. The list below shows how to play them.

  • 2s and 3s: Split against 2 through 8; otherwise, hit
  • 4s and 5s: Never split
  • 6s: Split against 4, 5, and 6; otherwise, hit
  • 7s: Split against 2 through 7; otherwise, hit
  • 8s: Always split, except surrender against an ace
  • 9s: Stand against 2, 7, 10, and ace; otherwise, split
  • 10s: Always stand
  • Aces: Always split

Strategy Changes After Hitting

There are several strategy changes once a hand is hit. The reason that changes is because of the payouts for winning 21 hands and six-card charlies.

The following rules apply to hard hands after hitting.

  • 10: Hit against 8 on three cards, 7 on four cards, and 2 and 3 on five cards
  • 11: Hit on three cards against 10 or ace, four cards against 2, 7, 8, and 9, and five cards against 3 through 6
  • 13: Hit against a 6 with four or more cards
  • 14: Hit against 4 on four cards and on 5 cards against 5 and 6 cards
  • 15: Hit against a 2 on four cards and against 13 through 15 on five cards
  • 16: Hit against 2 through 4 on six cards
  • 17: Hit against 8, 9, or 10 on six cards

A soft hand is when a player has an ace, and the hand cannot bust. Follow the list below when you hold a hand like this after three or more cards.

  • Soft 15: Hit against 6 on four cards
  • Soft 16: Hit against 5 on three cards and 6 on four cards
  • Soft 17: Hit against 4 on three cards, 5 on four cards, and 6 on five cards
  • Soft 18: Hit on four cards against 2 through 4 and 8 on five cards against 6 and 7
  • Soft 19 and 20: Always hit on 5 cards

Where to Play Spanish 21

Spanish 21 is spread at most Atlantic City casinos. The list includes Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Harrah’s, Resorts, and Tropicana.

It is also found live at Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas. Most online casinos spread the game.

Our Pick

If you are in Atlantic City, we feel Borgata is the best choice for Spanish 21. That is because comps at Borgata have a higher value than most of its competitors.

If you prefer to play Spanish 21 at an online casino, Microgaming ones are the best. Many bonuses permit blackjack at a lower clear rate.

Summary

Spanish 21 can be a fun change of pace from traditional blackjack games.

If you are skilled enough to learn the strategy for it, we recommend it. If you are not, we feel that you are better off playing one of the more traditional versions of the game.