Spanish 21 is a Table-Comparing game offered by most large-scale casinos in the United States, though it is predominantly popular in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Colorado is the most popular place for this game.
Rightfully owned and Trademarked by Masque Publishing Incorporated, unlicensed but sanctioned versions of the game are simply called “Spanish Blackjack”.
Spanish 21 is a significant change to the traditional Blackjack formula, as all of the cards ranked 10 are removed from the deck.
How to Play Spanish 21?
Spanish 21 is played using the traditional 48-card Spanish pattern of cards. If this deck is not available, one could take the standard Anglo-American 52-card deck and simply remove the 10s from that deck.
Like any other game of Blackjack, multiple copies of the same deck are used. Most casinos will take six to eight copies of this Spanish deck, and combine them into a large single shuffled deck called a Shoe.
Once the Shoe is created, Players must make an Ante in order to participate in the hand.
Players have four betting boxes in front of them.
- The Ante
- The Super Bonus
- The Match Bonus
Once the Ante has been settled, Players are free to place any additional wagers of their choice into the other two bonus zones.
These are the Super Bonus, and the Match Bonus. Both of these side bets have their own payout tables below in the “Payouts and Side Bets” section.
Aside from these bonuses, there are also further “number-of-cards” bonuses explained below.
Once the Players have all placed their Antes, and any Side Bets that they choose to wager on, the procedure follows normal Blackjack.
Players have all the normal positions available to them: Stand, Hit, Split, Double Down. Players also have an additional position, the Surrender.
There are two types of Surrender, the Double Down Rescue and the Late Surrender.
Players that wish can Late Surrender on their turn if the Dealer does not have a Blackjack (Dealers can peek their hole card).
A Late Surrender forfeits half of a Player’s wager to the House, and returns the other half to themselves.
Double Down Rescue
A Double Down Rescue occurs after a Player has doubled down.
Players in Spanish 21 may Double Down up to three total times on the same hand, but they can only use the Double Down Rescue after they have only used a single Double Down.
The Double Down Rescue forfeits a Player’s Ante, but returns their Double Down.
As a further defensive option, Players are given the chance to buy Insurance if the Dealer’s top card is an Ace. This is insurance against a Dealer’s Blackjack.
- If an Ace is showing, Players make a wager equal to their Ante into the Insurance box.
- If the Dealer does have Blackjack, Players are paid 2:1 for their Insurance wager.
- If the Dealer does not have Blackjack, insurance is taken by the House.
Once Players have made their positions during their turn, either Standing or Surrendering, and all the requisite bonuses have been paid out, the Showdown begins.
The procedure of the Showdown is more or less the same as traditional Blackjack, though there are a few rule changes.
The Players 21 and Blackjacks in Spanish 21 always pay out, even if they tie with the Dealer. Blackjack pays 3:2, as in most games.
Number of Card
Spanish 21 also has a few “number-of-card” payouts.
If a Player has not Doubled Down or Split, their hand equals 21, and there are five cards in that hand, then Players win an automatic 3:2 pay out.
The same applies to six and seven-card hands with a payout of 2:1 and 3:1 respectively.
Furthermore, if a Player has a 6-7-8 hand, or a hand of 7-7-7, they will receive special payouts.
- If the hands are made of mixed Suits, Players received a 3:2 pay out for their 21.
- If the hands are all Suited, Players receive a 2:1.
- If the hands are all Spades specifically, Players are given 3:1.
Aside from those special circumstances, the Showdown is normal according to the traditional rules of Blackjack.
Once the Showdown has completed with each Player comparing their cards against the Dealer, and winning or losing chips as appropriate, the game ends.
A new game begins, with a new set of cards for each participating Player.
- Players can Split twice, such that they have four total hands played in the game at once.
- Players must make an additional wager equal to their Ante for each hand beyond the original created by Splitting.
- Players can Double Down up to three times per hand, with Split hands being independent of each other in this regard. A Player could theoretically Double Down up to 12 times if they Split twice.
- Insurance can be bought for a 2:1 payout, and Players can surrender half of their wager.
Payouts and Side Bets
- Blackjacks pay out 3:2 and Insurance pays out 2:1.
- The normal Ante Wager and modifications to it, such as a Double Down or Split, pay 1:1 after the Showdown.
There are two bonuses available in Spanish 21, aside from the number of card bonuses. These are the Super Bonus, and the Match Bonus.
The Super Bonus only pays out in one circumstance, and as such has no paytable.
If the Player receives a 7-7-7 that is all Suited, and then the Dealer’s top card is also a 7 (can be unsuited), players will receive two different payouts depending on the wager made onto the Super Bonus:
- Bets on the Bonus of less than $25 pay a $1,000 premium.
- Bets of more than $25 will return $5,000.
Match the Dealer Bonus
The Match Bonus does have a payout table, shown below for all relevant circumstances:
|Number of Matching Cards, and Suit||Payout (on a “to 1” basis)|
|Both Cards Matching, Suited||18x|
|Both Cards Matching, One Suited||13x|
|Both Cards Matching, Unsuited||8x|
|One Card Matching, Suited||9x|
|One Card Matching, Unsuited||4x|
Spanish Blackjack can be a great game for those who know how to play well. With a good strategy, the house edge can be as little as 0.4%.
However, it’s important to note that the house edge may change depending on the rules of the specific game.
Imagine the Dealer has the following top card:
And your hand is:
- You have an 18, meaning any Doubling or Hitting is more likely to help you than to hurt you.
- Still, the Dealer has an Ace, meaning their odds of a Blackjack are high. They are lower than in the traditional game, but Blackjack is still 3x more likely than any other possible hand.
This might seem to be the perfect time to Play insurance, as you’re going to surely lose to the Dealer’s Blackjack!
However, consider that Insurance only pays 2:1. Further, it only pays out on Blackjack specifically.
The Dealer might be dealt a 9, but this is still a 20 that beats your 18, and you lose your insurance. The House Edge on Spanish 21’s insurance is about 25%.
The Insurance’s measly 2:1 payout won’t even make a profit when the Dealer does have Blackjack, because players must pay to activate the insurance. Players can only break even using the Insurance.
Instead, it is far better to just Late Surrender in this specific scenario. You will save yourself money, and there’s no condition to Late Surrender so long as the Dealer doesn’t pull Blackjack.
Difference Between Spanish 21 and Blackjack
There are a number of differences between these two games.
Spanish 21 alters the odds and House Edge of Blackjack, and in optimal conditions has an even more favorable House Edge for the Player.
Spanish 21 is much more Bonus oriented than regular Blackjack.
Although the traditional might occasionally be found with a Match the Dealer bonus, Spanish 21 is a game intended and designed with many bonuses.
Further, Spanish 21 offers a number of automatic payouts. The number-of-card bonuses, the 7-7-7 and 6-7-8 payouts, in addition to the normal Blackjack and 21.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Spanish 21 Beatable?
Players can count cards in this game. It is actually very slightly more beatable than traditional Blackjack, as there are about 24 fewer cards in the Shoe.
With an optimal strategy, Spanish 21 is sometimes better than traditional Blackjack for the player.
Should You Hit 12 in Spanish 21?
While 10s are less likely than in traditional Blackjack, hitting on a 12 still carries the risk of busting.
It is true that Dealers hit on soft 17 in most Spanish 21 games, and as such might bust and reward a Player with a 12. However, it is probably safer to Hit on 12, rather than Stand.
Although you are 3x more likely to be dealt a 10 on a discrete statistical basis, overall there are more non-10 cards in the deck than there are 10s. Standing on 12 means you lose to anything that isn’t a Dealer’s bust.
How Many Times Can You Double Down?
Players can Double Down up to three times per individual hand. A Split hand allows a Player to Double Down 3 times on each hand.
Can You Split in Spanish 21?
Yes. Players may Split, and they may Re-Split up to two times.
What are the Disadvantages of Spanish 21?
Overall, Spanish 21 is a better game than traditional Blackjack, where Players have a higher chance of both optimal play, and Player’s Edge.
However, the Insurance is an abysmal mechanic, one that should be avoided every time.
Players that buy into the Insurance when it is available are playing sub-optimally, at a disadvantage. However, in most other ways, Spanish 21 is actually advantaged over Blackjack.