Spanish 21 Frequently Asked Questions
What is Spanish 21?
Developed by Masque Publishing, a gaming company based in the United States, in the early 90’s, this blackjack variant is modestly popular in some areas and is a unique blend of the traditional game with some exciting differences in the rules. You’ll find Spanish 21 in many live casinos, however, there will usually only be one or two tables running at a given time.
The game can also be found at most online casinos, along with similar variants that have slight differences in relation to betting, rules, and side bets. The game is sometimes called Spanish blackjack and is also referred to as Pontoon in some parts of the world. In Australia, pontoon has several different rule variations which make the game almost entirely different.
Spanish 21 follows similar rules to traditional blackjack in respect to hand ranking and players being dealt two cards with the aim of achieving as close to 21 as possible while beating the dealer’s hand.
The main difference between the two games is the removal of tens from the deck, you can double down at any time, you can double after splitting, a 21 always wins regardless of what the dealer has, you can re-split aces and double down or hit after doing so, you can surrender after doubling down, a five card 21 pays 3 to 2, a six card 21 pays 2 to 1, a seven or more card 21 pays 3 to 1, if you get 6, 7, 8 or 7,7,7 you’ll be paid out at 3 to 2, or 2 to 1 if they are the same suit, and there’s a major prize for getting suited 7, 7, 7 if the dealer also has a 7 face up.
As you can see, the game is different with respect to bonuses and payouts; however, it follows blackjack for the most part. All of the extra wins a player can get are offset by the advantage the dealer gains by removing the four tens from each deck.
How Do I Play Spanish 21?
Like standard blackjack, Spanish 21 is very simple to play. You need only take a seat at the table, place a bet, and away you go. The complexity of the game arrives when you’re faced with a decision based on the first two cards that you’re dealt. This decision could be whether to stand and not receive any more cards, hit and receive another card, double down and receive one more card or split your hand into two separate hands and begin the whole decision-making process over again, which also happens sometimes when you hit.
Once you initially place a bet you’ll be dealt two cards from the dealer. Usually, in Spanish 21 the dealer will give themselves 2 cards, with one face up and the other face down. However, this can change from casino to casino as sometimes the dealer will only take one face up card.
Once you’ve finished your decision-making process as outlined above, you’ll either bust and lose your wager because your card count went over 21, or you’ll stand with a hand to face off against the dealer. If you achieved a 21 then you’re a winner and will be paid out immediately, no matter what the dealer has. This is a really cool difference in the game when compared to blackjack. Many players say there’s nothing worse in a blackjack game when you hit a 21 and end up pushing with the dealer.
The difficulty comes into the game when you’re dealt marginal hands against a strong dealer up card. This is where basic strategy can assist you in consistently making the correct decision so that you’re keeping the house edge as low as possible in the game. More information on basic strategy is outlined in the strategy frequently asked question below.
What is the House Edge and How Does it Compare with Other Games?
First, we will explain just what a house edge. On a long-term timeline, the house edge represents what percentage the house will win from a player. If you were to wager $100 then the house edge as a percentage is the true value in dollars that you would give to the house. So for a game that has a house edge of 4%, which is terrible by the way, then the casino keeps $4 and the player keeps $96.
When you implement the flawless basic strategy in Spanish 21, the house edge is 0.4%. It can fluctuate marginally depending on whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17, and whether you’re allowed to re-double in certain hands. A blackjack game with excellent rules has a house edge of 0.28%, although this will be hard to find. Baccarat has a house edge of 1.06% on the banker bet, roulette is 2.7% on a single zero table, and craps is 1.36% on the don’t come and don’t pass line.
In this respect, Spanish 21 is very low and is a great game to choose if you’re looking for a game with a very low house edge. Quite often you’ll only be able to find blackjack tables with not so great rules, meaning that Spanish 21 could actually be your best bet when it comes to the lowest house edge. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you implement poor strategy, or no strategy and just play on a whim, then the house edge will deteriorate further for you. So be sure to always have a basic understanding of the house edge so that you can keep this in check.
Is There a Basic Strategy I Can Follow for Spanish 21?
Yes, there’s a basic strategy that you can follow in Spanish 21. It’s very similar to a basic strategy in blackjack, it just takes into consideration the rule changes between the games. The basic strategy for Spanish 21 instructs you when to hit, when to stand, when to double and when to hit, on a chart which as your hand value on the y-axis, and the dealer’s up card on the x-axis. You’ll be able to find hundreds of these charts online. The charts that work best are the ones that take into consideration the rule variations that can occur in Spanish 21 across different casinos.
You can find basic strategy cards in casino gifts shops, or even on apps for your smartphone. Just be sure to check with the pit boss at the casino you’re playing at to make sure they allow this.
Some online casinos will even have basic strategy charts built into their user interface for the game. This is truly awesome and allows you to quickly make decisions online. This is just another reason why online play is so good and favorable for the player. More information on this is available in the following question.
Some bad strategies that should be avoided in Spanish 21 include copying the dealer and never busting. These are similarly as bad in blackjack and should never be followed as they significantly increase the house edge and you’ll lose much more in the long run.
The Wizard of Odds has additional strategy details for Spanish 21.
Can I Play Online?
Yes, you can play Spanish 21 online. This is excellent for you, the player, as it means you’ll have access to a wide variety of games with better payouts and a lower house edge. Sometimes the game may be called Spanish blackjack or Pontoon, so be sure to keep an eye out for it under those names.
Calling it by these names is a way for online casinos to get away with not paying the game developer licensing fees. Online games also have much lower table minimums, which means you’ll be able to play at stakes that are more comfortable for you if you’re a low roller or a beginner to the game. This offers excellent choice and flexibility. As we touched on above some online casinos also offer basic strategy charts built into the game.
This is a far cry from some live casinos which actually won’t allow players to use a basic strategy card while playing on the table. Most live casinos do allow strategy cards,but they have the right to make their own house and table rules.
One other great innovation that online casinos have recently introduced is live dealer games. In these games, you’re connected with a real dealer and table on a casino floor. The cards are dealt as if you were actually sitting at a particular spot on the table; however, you make your bets digitally via an overlay on the video feed.
This is truly an awesome innovation that online casinos are now making available to players in a number of games. It means you can still get that real live casino feeling from your computer or another compatible device. The minimum bets will be a little bit higher than a fully digital online game; however, they will still be lower than if you were in a real casino.
Online play is a great way to go for all the reasons we listed above, and more. Don’t be turned off by myths about online casinos, just do a little bit of research when you’re choosing one. You’ll be able to find many reputable online casinos that have good customer service departments, excellent systems, generous bonuses, and ultra-fast withdrawal options.
Should I Play?
Pretty much all casino table games give the house a significant advantage which can never be beaten by the player. So the only way to determine if you’d like to play a game is by trying it and seeing if you enjoy it and if it’s entertaining for you.
If you enjoy traditional blackjack, then there’s a very good chance that you’ll also enjoy Spanish 21. It offers some different dynamics as tens are removed yet a variety of improved payouts and decisions are offered to the player to make up for this. You’ll still need to follow a basic strategy to keep the house edge as low as possible and improve your chances of having a winning session, which will still be largely based on luck.
Realistically speaking, you won’t find many games with a better house edge than Spanish 21, so if you’re looking for a game with a low edge, then you can’t do much better.
If you’d first like to try the game at lower stakes, then online play is always the best option. You’ll be able to find online games with bet minimums far lower than in any live casino. This is excellent as you can try the game relatively risk-free before you take the step up to live play.
As outlined in the above question about playing online, you can also find games with a lower house edge as a result of better payout ratios and favourable rules. On top of this, the gaming environment and condition are often much better for the player online. Some of the draconian rules that casinos have on players in a live casino just don’t exist online.
After you’ve tried the game at low stakes, if you enjoy it you could progress onto live play and see if the fun and excitement of a table environment with other players is for you. Or you could even look at playing online in a live dealer game, which gives you that real live experience from the comfort of your own home, or wherever else you’d like to play.
If you want to try your luck with counting cards, and hopefully not getting caught doing so, then you’ll have to play in a live environment, as this simply can’t be done online. This includes in live dealer games as they just make it too hard to track cards. Counting cards probably isn’t a great idea, in general, so proceed with caution if you want to go down this path, and keep in mind also that between six and eight decks are used in this game so it can be tough to keep track.
We think that Spanish 21 is an excellent game which can be a great alternative to blackjack while staying true to some of the traditional gameplay of this popular card game.