Spanish 21

Written by: Cliff Spiller , Online Casino and Game Expert
Spanish 21 Blackjack Variant Cards and Flag

Spanish 21 is an exciting blackjack variant with a surprisingly low house edge. It has fewer cards, bigger payouts, and a few unique rules that stack the deck in your favor. Pontoon, Pirate 21, and Spanish Blackjack are just a few of the other names you’ll find this game under at the casino.

Our Spanish 21 guide explains the rules, gameplay, and strategy adjustments to beat the house and win more often. We’ll also show you the best places to play this famous blackjack variant online for real money.

Spanish Blackjack

Everything You Need to Play & Win

What is Spanish 21?

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Spanish 21 is a casino card game invented in 1995 by casino equipment vendor Masque Publishing. They started tinkering with the standard rules of blackjack to preserve the essential structure and gameplay but add entertainment value.

It has a unique payout structure and one creative change to the deck; there are no tens. Today, you’ll find Spanish 21 with a house edge as low as 0.4% in several land-based and online casinos.

Spanish 21 Rules

The rules of Spanish 21 are similar to standard casino blackjack. Your goal is to beat the dealer by getting closer to 21 without going over. Anything above that is a bust that results in an automatic loss, so be careful!

Spanish 21 vs. Blackjack

While the rules are similar, there are a few key differences between the classic blackjack you know and love and the Spanish 21 variant. The addition of these rules paired with a dealer hitting on soft 17 can drive the house edge down to a meager 0.4%.

No Tens

Spanish 21 uses several 48 card decks, and there are no tens in the shoe. There are still face cards, but you can hit more often and bust less frequently with fewer high cards. Getting a blackjack is also more difficult.

Player Blackjack Wins

If both the player and the dealer have blackjack on their first two cards, the player wins the hand. The payout is a standard 3:2.

Bonus Hand Payouts

There are several bonus hands in Spanish 21. A five, six, or seven-card 21 earns additional payouts. Also, any 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 have special prizes depending on the suits. See the paytable below for more details.

Double Down

You can double down on any number of cards in hand. You can also double after splitting.

Re-Split Aces

If you split a pair of aces and get another ace, you have the option to split the new pair again.

Surrender Any Time

While classic blackjack limits your surrender option to only the first two cards, Spanish 21 allows you to surrender at any point in the hand.

Spanish 21 Payouts

The unique hands in Spanish 21 have extremely favorable payouts. Several conditions award you with a 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1 prize. That’s one of the most significant factors that nudge this game’s house edge down even lower than standard blackjack.

Keep this table handy when making decisions on hitting and standing. It helps remind you of the hands that are unique to this variant.

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A Game of Many Names

If the site doesn’t have a license agreement with the original developers of Spanish 21, Masque Publishing, then the game will be listed under a different name. Pontoon, Pirate 21, and Pirate Blackjack are some of the title changes, but the base rules carry over.

Look for the following logos for the same exciting action. Just know that some versions might have slightly different rules.

Pontoon Blackjack Logo
Pirate 21 Blackjack Logo
Spanish Blackjack Logo
Spanish 21 Blackjack Logo

Play Spanish 21 Online for Free

Practice your tactics right here for free. Use the Spanish 21 strategy cheat sheet on this Pirate 21 game below to understand the rules before playing for real money. They have the same cards and payouts, but this version has a match side bet.

How to Play Spanish 21

A hand of Spanish 21 plays just like traditional blackjack. Below we’ll show you how a hand progresses from the initial bet to the payouts. You can also check out the differences between blackjack and Spanish 21.

  1. Place Your Bets

    To see your hand and the dealer’s up-card, you need to make a wager. Move your chips to the betting area to indicate you’re ready to play.
  2. Dealing the Cards

    At the start of a hand, the dealer passes out the cards. Just like regular blackjack, you’ll get two face-up cards, and the dealer will get one face-up and one face-down. Remember, you won’t see any tens.
  3. Hit, Stand, Double, Split, or Surrender

    Now that you have your cards, you need to make some decisions before setting your hand. You can hit for more cards, split pairs, pay more and double down, or surrender to reclaim some of your initial bet.

    There are fewer tens, so you can hit more often, but don’t take too many cards, or you might bust. When you’re happy with your hand, you can stand, indicating to the dealer that you are done.
  4. The Dealer Completes Their Hand

    When all players complete their hands, the game passes to the dealer. They must abide by house rules when hitting and determining when to stand.
  5. Deciding Winners

    Finally, they weigh all the player’s hands against their own to determine the winners. If your hand beats the house, then you’ll get rewarded based on the paytable.

Spanish 21 Strategy

The strategy in Spanish 21 is a little bit different from blackjack since there are fewer ten-valued cards in the deck. Let’s look at some of the changes to standard gameplay that help you stay ahead of the dealer.

Stand & Hit

Always stand when you hold a hard 18 or greater. The same goes for any soft hand equal or higher to 19.

You should always hit when you hold a hard 4, 5, 6, 12, or 13.

Doubling Down

You should always double down when you have a hard 11.

If the dealer shows a 4, 5, or 6, you should double with a hard 9-11, and when you have a soft 13 to 18.

Splitting Pairs

Always split a pair of aces and never split a pair of 4s or 5s.

When you hold a pair of 2s, 3s, 7s, or 8s, you should only split when the dealer shows between 2 and 7 up.

Note: Each Spanish 21 card game might have slightly different rules that affect the game’s odds. The house edge varies between 0.4% and 0.8% depending on how many the decks are in the shoe, when you can double, and whether the dealer has to hit on soft 17.

Basic Spanish 21 Strategy Chart

This Spanish 21 cheat sheet shows you the best decision in all starting situations. It is slightly different from the standard blackjack strategy chart since there are fewer cards in each deck.

Keep this Spanish 21 chart with you at the table so you can hit, stand, double, and split with the odds in your favor every time.

Spanish 21 Strategy Cheat Sheet Chart

The Spanish 21 House Edge is Better

Online Casino Player Approved

Spanish 21 is perfect for blackjack fans that want a slightly lower house edge of only 0.4%. The unique rule and deck changes combined with the bonus payouts mean big wins are in your future.

Sign up at one of the recommended casinos on this page to start playing today! They all have lucrative bonus offers with banking methods you can trust.

Spanish 21 Card Game FAQ

Below are a couple of common questions players ask about spanish 21.

Why is it called Spanish 21?

The Spanish 21 card game in casinos gets its name from the deck it uses. A “Spanish deck” is almost the same as a normal deck, except it only has 48 cards because the tens are removed. 

Is Spanish 21 better than blackjack?

With favorable rules and perfect strategy, the house edge of Spanish 21 is a touch lower (0.4%) than standard blackjack tables (0.5%). That said, they do have slightly different decks and charts, so make sure you study each game closely before you play.

Can you count cards in Spanish 21?

Yes, you can count cards in Spanish 21. Like other blackjack tables, you would assign number values to certain cards to determine a running count. This can help you predict if the next card in the shoe is likely to be a high or lower value.

However, these strategies don’t work at online casinos. The single-player nature of software-based games doesn’t give you much to count, and the shoe usually gets shuffled after every hand.

Is Pirate 21 the same as Spanish 21?

Pirate 21, or Pirate Blackjack, is the same game as Spanish 21. The name ‘Spanish 21’ belongs to developer Masque Publishing, so any site without that specific version uses different branding. The rules, house edge, and side bets are generally the same.

Additional Spanish Blackjack Online Resources

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Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller Online Casino and Game Expert

Cliff Spiller is a casino industry expert who enjoys writing relatable content and game guides for both beginners and experts. He's a history buff, poker player, and huge Dallas Cowboys fan.

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