The game of Spanish 21 is one of the most profitable casino blackjack variations. Especially in casinos where the dealer stands on "soft 17" or where players are allowed to redouble, the game is often a better bet than standard blackjack.
The first thing that differentiates Spanish 21 from other variations of blackjack is that Spanish 21 is played with six or eight Spanish decks. Spanish decks are 48-card decks that are just like regular 52-card decks with four tens removed. Of course, removing tens from the decks give the dealer an advantage. However, Spanish 21 makes up for this advantage by offering players a host of favorable rules and bonuses. These rules are as follows:
- A player with a hand worth 21 always wins, no matter what the dealer holds-a player blackjack always beats a dealer blackjack
- Players may double down on any initial 2-card hand, no matter the value
- Players may hit and double down after splitting any card values, even Aces (make sure to double check the rules, as some casinos do not allow this rule anymore)
- Players may surrender after doubling, forfeiting their original bet but keeping their double down bet (called "double down rescue")
- When a player wins with a 5-card 21 the payout is 3:2 (bonus does not apply if the player doubled down)
- When a player wins with a 6-card 21 the payout is 2:1 (bonus does not apply if the player doubled down)
- When a player wins with a 7 or more card 21 the payout is 3:1 (bonus does not apply if the player doubled down)
- A 21 hand consisting of 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of mixed suits pays out 3:2; of the same suit the payout is 2:1; and of spades the payout is 3:1 (bonus does not apply if the player doubled down)
- When a player obtains a suited 7-7-7 hand and the dealer has a face up 7 as well the payout is $1000 if the player bet from $5-$24 and $5000 if the player bet $25 or more. All additional players at the table receive a $50 "envy bonus." (Bonuses do not apply if the player doubled down)
In addition to these rules, several rules vary from casino to casino. It is important to read the rules at the casino where you are playing to find out the casino's take on the following rules:
- The dealer may either hit or stand on "soft 17" (Ace-6) depending on where you are playing
- Either 6 or 8 Spanish decks are used
- Some casinos allow players to redouble up to three times, while others do not
- Late surrender is allowed in some casinos
After familiarizing yourself with the rules of Spanish 21 you should familiarize yourself with the game's strategy if you want to win. For starters, it is important to remember that many of the game's bonuses do not apply to players that have doubled down. Therefore, it is important to consider whether or not you may be eligible for these bonuses before doubling. For instance, if you are dealt an initial hand of suited 7-7 and the dealer is showing a 7 as well then you should avoid doubling and hold out for the 7-7-7 bonus. You would also want to avoid splitting in this situation.
It is also important to familiarize yourself with basic Spanish 21 strategy. The charts below illustrate basic strategy for Spanish 21. Note that the first chart represents basic strategy for a casino in which the dealer hits on "soft 17", while the second chart represents strategy for when the dealer stands on "soft 17."