A look at Spanish 21

If you’re a fan of blackjack, you’ll probably already know that one of the attractions is that there are numerous variants. These variants all put their own twist on the game and keep things fresh and exciting. One of these variants is Spanish 21.

There are some variants where the rules are very similar to the traditional game, but they come with an array of side bets to keep things interesting. Spanish 21 is different in that the changes mean that even the basic strategy of play is different here. 

If you enjoy blackjack, there’s a great chance that you’ll love all that Spanish 21 has to offer. If you read on, we’re going to let you know all about this game, how it compares to traditional blackjack, and if you should spend your time playing it.

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Spanish 21

What is Spanish 21?

Spanish 21 was invented back in 1995. It very quickly became a firm fixture in many land-based casinos before it also began to spread online. Some of the key facts that you need to know about Spanish 21 are:

  • This is a variant of the traditional blackjack game
  • All ten-spot cards are removed from the deck meaning that this casino game is played with 48 cards
  • It can be played both at online casinos and at land-based casinos
  • The 10s being taken from the pack mean that the house edge is higher than it is in traditional blackjack 
  • To make up for this higher house edge, the game has some great bonus hands as well as liberal rules
  • If you can master Spanish 21 basic blackjack strategy you can get the house edge as low as 0.37%
  • Without basic strategy, the house edge is around 2%

Despite these differences, the aim of the game is the same as that in traditional blackjack: you need to have a hand that is higher than the dealers without going bust in the process.

Spanish 21 vs. traditional blackjack 

In an attempt to simplify things, we’ve listed and compared Spanish 21 and traditional blackjack. To make things clear we’ll refer to Spanish 21 as S21 while TB will be used for traditional blackjack:

  • TB can be played with one, two, four, six, or eight decks. S21 is only played with six or eight
  • TB sees cards being dealt from a dealing shoe, by hand, or by using a continuous shuffling machine (CSM). 21 uses with a CSM or a dealing shoe
  • With both games, the dealer receives a hole card
  • Both games state that the dealer has to hit on 16 or less as well as stand on 17-21. What happens with a soft 17 is down to the blackjack rules of the individual casino 
  • TB sees a player’s 21 beat a dealer’s, but it would lose to a dealer’s blackjack. In S21 any player’s 21 will beat any dealer’s 21. The exception is that it loses if the player has 21 from more than two cards while the dealer has a blackjack 
  • The games have identical rules for hitting and standing
  • In TB, you can only double down when you’ve received your initial two cards. In S21 you can double down regardless of the number of cards that you have
  • With TB, Aces can usually only be split once whereas other cards can be split either three or four times. With S21 you can split up to four times and this also includes Aces
  • In TB, there are times that late surrender is allowed whereas when playing S21 it’s always allowed
  • With TB insurance pays 2:1. This is also true with S21 however, with the 10s missing it takes the house edge to a whopping 24.7%, making it a bet that you should avoid at all costs 
  • S21 has numerous bonus hands

Basic strategy changes 

A look at the rules above makes Spanish 21 more than just a little appealing. However, if you enter the game and try and play it just as you would traditional blackjack, the chances are that your bankroll won’t last for long. With the 10 cards missing from the deck, the ratio of low to high cards differs from that in the traditional game.

With the traditional game, four out of every 13 cards are worth 10. When it comes to Spanish 21 this reduces to three out of every 12. Alongside this, you need to remember that a 21 in traditional blackjack doesn’t guarantee you a win, whereas in Spanish 21 it practically always does. These differences mean that you need to learn how basic strategy differs in Spanish 21 and not attempt to use the usual basic strategy.

Why you need to learn basic strategy 

The reality is that, despite the bonus hands, the removal of the 10s makes the house edge lousy. At 2% it makes this a game that you’d usually be right to avoid. However, if you make the time to learn how basic strategy works for Spanish 21, you can have a huge impact here and make the game much more favorable.

While the house edge varies depending on the rules, the biggest impact still comes from you knowing how to implement basic strategy. Getting this right can see the house edge coming right down and varying from 0.79% to as low as 0.37%.

Can you play Spanish 21 online?

If you want to try out Spanish 21, you’ll find that it’s extremely popular at land-based casinos. When it comes to playing online, you may find some casinos that offer it. Typically, you’ll find it being offered under other names, such as Pirate 21 for example.

The big thing is to check out the rules before you start to play and be sure that it is actually the game that you thought it was.

Final thoughts

Spanish 21 offers a great alternative to traditional blackjack. There are some great bonus hands to be enjoyed and you’ll find the game is hugely enjoyable. However, just be sure to approach the game realizing that it differs from blackjack and never, ever, take out the insurance side bet.

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Spanish 21