If you consider yourself a bona fide real money blackjack specialist, but you’ve never played Spanish 21 before, boy, are you missing out.
This relatively new addition to the blackjack family tree branched off in 1995, when Masque Publishing decided to take its shot at the hybrid table game fad.
These days, Spanish 21 is largely relegated to the best US online casinos, but you can still find it kicking around at the Venetian and Palazzo casino resorts in Las Vegas. Smaller regional casinos across the country, especially in the Pacific Northwest, also spread Spanish 21 tables alongside their traditional blackjack games.
1 – Full Basic Strategy Chart Outlining Optimal Play for All Possible Scenarios
One of the saddest sights you’ll see in the table game pit is a blackjack player trying to use their basic strategy skills in Spanish 21.
When they see a pair of sixes to start against the dealer’s three, these players will split ‘em up, as per blackjack basic strategy. Little do they know, however, that Spanish 21 basic strategy says to take a hit with 6-6 against a dealer’s three.
Same goes for something like a 17 versus the dealer’s seven, which is a clear hit in regular blackjack. In this game though, the book advises sharp players to stand.
Little wrinkles like this aren’t readily apparent, leaving even blackjack experts to flail around like tourists trying table games for the first time.
If you want to add Spanish 21 basic strategy to your gambling repertoire, look no further. To begin, just remember that many plays are no-brainers that don’t require any thinking at all.
When you have a hard total of 8 or lower, just take your free hit and proceed from there, as you’ll never run the risk of going bust. And with a hard 17 or higher, simply stand and avoid the 69% chance of busting that a hit will incur.
Those are the easiest plays anybody can make, so you’ll need to study the tables below to master more complicated Spanish 21 spots.
|Hard 9||Double against dealer’s 6. Hit against everything else.|
|Hard 10||Double against 2-7. Hit against 8 or higher.||Hard 11||Double against 2-8. Hit against 9 or higher.|
|Hard 12||Hit against any dealer total.|
|Hard 13||Stand against 6 (except with 4+ cards). Hit against all other totals.|
|Hard 14||Stand against 4-6 (except with 4+ cards). Hit against all other totals.|
|Hard 15||Stand against 2-6 (except with 4+ cards against 2-5). Hit against all other totals.|
|Hard 16||Surrender to Ace. Stand against 2-6 (except w/ 4+ cards vs. 2-4). Hit vs. all others|
|Hard 17||Surrender to Ace. Stand against all others.|
|Soft 13 or 14||Hit against any dealer total|
|Soft 15||Double against 6 (except with 4+ cards). Hit against all other totals.|
|Soft 16||Double against 5-6 (except with 4+ cards). Hit against all other totals.|
|Soft 17||Double against 4-6 (except with 4+ cards). Hit against all other totals.|
|Soft 18||Double vs 4-6 (except with 4+ cards). Stand against 2-3 and 7-8. Hit against 9-A.|
|Soft 19||Stand against all totals.|
|2-2 or 3-3||Split against dealer’s 8. Hit against 9-A.|
|4-4||Hit against all totals.|
|5-5||Same strategy as hard 10.|
|6-6||Split against 4-6. Hit against all other totals.|
|7-7||Split against 2-7. Hit against all other totals.|
|8-8||Surrender to Ace. Split against all other totals.|
|9-9||Split against 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9. Stand against 2, 7, 10 and Ace.|
2 – Primer on Why You Shouldn’t Place Match the Dealer Side Bets
Every so often, you’ll see a Spanish 21 player shout for joy as they collect a “jackpot” payout of between 4:1 and 18:1.
Or should I say, not very often… Spanish 21 offers an optional side bet called “Match the Dealer,” which pays out whenever one or both of your starting cards matches the dealer’s up card.
The best scenario is two suited matches, or something like the 8 of clubs + 8 of clubs for you against the dealer’s 8 of clubs. That’s clearly a longshot, but even a single eight (suits don’t matter here) matched with the dealer’s eight pays out at 4:1.
But, as you can see below, that minimum payout of 4:1 only comes around roughly 1 in 10 hands.
Spanish 21 Match the Dealer Hands and Payouts
|Two suited matches||18 to 1||0.02%|
|One suited and one non-suited match||18 to 1||0.21%|
|One suited match||9 to 1||0.37%|
|Two non-suited matches||8 to 1||3.22%|
|One non-suited match||4 to 1||11.58%|
Conversely, a whopping 85% of hands will result in a loss when playing Match the Dealer.
All told, this side bet carries a house edge of 3.05%, which is simply too high to chase when Spanish 21’s primary game is already so great.
3 – Online Casino Guide to Find the Best Spanish 21 Tables
Nowadays, Spanish 21 is largely relegated to the realm of online casinos.
That’s good news for fans though, as the best online casino platforms make sure to include Spanish 21 as a staple of their table games menu.
4 – The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21 and Australian Pontoon (2008) by Katarina Walker
When the game first hit casino floors, most gamblers assumed Spanish 21 was nothing more than a gimmick game like Triple Zero Roulette—something designed to separate suckers from their bankroll while smart players wisely avoided the additional action.
This misconception lingered until 2008, when advantage play specialist and casino game strategy writer Katrina Walker published The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21 and Australian Pontoon.
Walker herself posted insights to a popular online blackjack forum while explaining exactly why Spanish 21 is more beatable than standard blackjack.
And it’s no coincidence that Walker’s book was published just before the big casinos suddenly stopped spreading Spanish 21 as often, or at all. She really did crack the code for this game, so grab a copy of The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21 and Australian Pontoon and add this masterpiece to your gambling bookshelf.
Spanish 21 isn’t for everybody, but if you enjoy blackjack with a twist, it just might be the perfect game. Bonus payouts, automatic winners which should be pushes, and the freedom to make creative double down and split plays combine to make Spanish 21 a true player’s game.
Anyone can fly blind at the tables and find a few winners. But, armed with the four resources listed above, you’ll be target shooting accurately in one of gambling’s most player-friendly affairs.