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Spanish 21 vs. Blackjack: Rules, odds, and best winning strategies

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Simon Young

November 19th, 2020

If you can find Spanish 21 games at your casino, then it is worth giving them a try. The game is a close cousin of blackjack and offers increased payouts but with a novel twist – all the 10 cards are removed from the deck.

This article will look at the rules of Spanish 21, the odds, and your best strategy.

The difference between Spanish 21 and blackjack

The fact all 10s are removed (the picture cards remain) means you are less likely to hit blackjack. However, other changes are in the player’s interest. Firstly, you can surrender in Spanish 21; effectively, you give up your hand, like folding in poker. When you do, you get half your bet back. While it’s obvious you cannot win following this move, the value derived from getting half your wager back is often better than keeping going and losing the whole lot.

However, be aware that in Spanish 21, only "late" surrender is allowed, which means you can only do so once the dealer has checked to see if he has a blackjack.

Another bonus of Spanish 21 is that you’re allowed to double down after splitting. You split and play on in most blackjack games, but the Spanish 21 version lets you double down – perfect if you split two aces. The aces advantage doesn’t end there – if you split aces and land another ace, you can re-split, getting even more money on the table in a favorable position. Setting aside the fact that the tens have been removed from the deck, the large number of picture cards still leaves you with many options to make 21.

The benefits of Spanish 21 keep coming. In blackjack, when you and the dealer make 21, you must push. But in Spanish 21, a player getting 21 wins automatically. The same applies if both player and dealer get blackjack – the player wins.

Another big bonus is the ability to double down after any number of cards dealt in Spanish 21. You can only double down after your first two cards in blackjack – for example, when you are dealt 8 and 3 to make 11. In Spanish 21, you might have 2 and a 6, take another card which is a 3, making 11 – now you can still double down. This is a big advantage, especially if the dealer is showing a weak upcard.

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Spanish 21 vs. blackjack odds

You always get a 1:1 payout in blackjack unless you hit a natural 21 with two cards. But in Spanish 21, you get larger payouts for specific events:

  • Make 21 with a 5-card hand pays 3:2
  • Make 21 with a 6-card hand pays 2:1
  • Make 21 with a 7-card hand pays 3:1
  • Make 21 with 6, 7, 8 pays: 3:2
  • Make 21 with 7, 7, 7 pays 3:2
  • Either of those three-card hands suited pays 2:1
  • Either of those three-card hands in spades pays 3:1

It’s worth noting that other variations, including the number of decks and whether the player must hit on soft 17, change from one casino to another.

The biggest house edge: Spanish 21 or blackjack?

Inexperienced players of blackjack can expect a house edge of anything up to 4.5%. But following a solid blackjack playing strategy can bring that down to a healthy 0.5%, one of the lowest of all casino games. It means for every $100 you wager, you will be expected to lose 50 cents.

In Spanish 21, the experts reckon the house edge is as low as 0.4% - but again, only if you follow a decent playing strategy. The good news is that much of the straightforward strategy is similar to blackjack – your aggression or choice to stand will depend on the dealer’s upcard.

The best thing to do is search online and print out a Spanish 21 strategy chart, which advises on the actions you should take in any given circumstance. Refer to the chart during play, so long as it does not slow things down for others.

Blackjack is more popular

You won’t find Spanish 21 as readily available in online casinos as other games. So if you want to play a variant of 21, then blackjack games are your best bet. You will find it at all online casinos, and it’s available to play for free at BetAmerica Casino. You can play with play money chips until you are confident about what you are doing. Then, you can make your first deposit and experience the thrill of playing for real cash.