Spanish 21 Blackjack
Sometimes, Spanish 21 is referred to as Spanish blackjack, which is the same game. But in some countries – Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore – the game is referred to as Pontoon. However, there are a few differences from Spanish 21, so it’s important to know the rules before applying the same strategy to both games.
Spanish 21 is based on standard blackjack rules, but some blackjack casinos mandate that the dealer stands on a soft 17. Additionally, some casinos also allow players to re-double, which is positive for players.
How to Play
The biggest difference between standard blackjack and Spanish 21 is the deck of cards. Instead of a standard deck, Spanish 21 uses Spanish decks, which consist of 48 cards instead of the usual 52 cards. Spanish decks, however, are missing the ten (10) cards. Otherwise, however, the cards maintain the same values, and six or eight decks are dealt from a shoe, so it is important to learn basic strategy and rules for both.
Players will also notice a custom layout on the Spanish 21 tables that appears different from normal blackjack felt.
Traditional betting takes place before any cards are removed from the shoe. In addition, Spanish 21 allows players to make a “Match the Dealer” side bet. If the player receives a card that matches the dealer’s face-up card in rank only, players win 4:1 on their bet in a six-deck game and 3:1 with eight decks. But matching the rank and suit pays 9:1 with six decks and 12:1 in eight-deck games. The “Match the Dealer” bet adds 3% to the house edge.
The dealer receives a hole card and a visible one, and each player receives two cards. It is then that new rules apply and decisions must be made per the following guide:
- The dealer must hit on 16 and stand on 17, but a soft 17 will vary depending on the casino.
- A player with 21 – or blackjack – wins every time, no matter the dealer’s hand, and it pays 3:2.
- Insurance pays 2:1 but is largely considered the worst bet in a casino.
- Most casinos allow a late surrender, giving half of the bet back to the player if the dealer does not have blackjack, and the player must then fold his or her hand.
- Players can surrender after a double in a move called a forfeit, concession, or double-down rescue. The original bet is forfeited, but the doubling chips are returned to the player.
- Splitting is allowed to a maximum of four hands, and doubling after a split is permitted. Some Spanish 21 tables allow players to double up to three times. Splitting aces garner as many cards as the player desires, and re-splitting aces is
- Players can double on any total and on any number of cards.
- Reaching 21 with five cards pays 3:2, six cards pays 2:1, and seven or more cards 3:1. Players with 21 consisting of 6-7-8 or three sevens of mixed suits receive 3:2, though any repeated suits reduce the payout to 2:1. Bonuses pay on splits but not on doubles.
- The super bonus hits when a player has three suited sevens to reach 21 and the dealer holds a seven. The player receives $1,000 for bets under $25 and $5,000 for higher bets. Everyone else at the table receives a $50 envy bonus. No splitting or doubling is allowed to get a super bonus, though.
- If a dealer opens with blackjack, all players lose except those with blackjack.
Variations and Edges
Players should look for games that require dealers to stand on a soft 17, but it varies widely from casino to casino.
- If the dealer stands on a soft 17, the house edge increases by 0.4%.
- If the dealer hits on a soft 17 with redoubling allowed, the house edge increases by 0.42%.
- If the dealer hits on a soft 17 with no redoubling allowed, the house edge increases by 0.76%.
Insurance is always offered in Spanish 21 – and all blackjack variations – because of the high house edge.
- Insurance increases the house edge by 24.7%.
All Spanish 21 games offer the super bonus.
- On a super bonus bet of $5 or $25 for one player only, the house edge decreases 0.03%.
- On a super bonus bet of $5, the house edge decreases by another 0.001% for the envy bonus.
- The probability of hitting a super bonus is 1 in 668,382 with six decks and 1 in 549,188 with eight decks, and the reduction of house edge depends on the bet and number of players.
Some casinos limit drawing to split aces or surrendering.
- If splitting aces is not allowed, the house edge increases by 0.29%.
- If doubling is allowed only on the first two cards, the house edge increases by 0.16%.
Match the Dealer side bets are common in most blackjack games. However, the combinations, odds, and payouts vary greatly between six-deck and eight-deck games in Spanish 21.
- Two suited matches have 10 (6-deck) or 21 (8-deck) combinations with a 0.000244% (6-deck) or 0.000287% (8-deck) chance of hitting.
- Two non-suited matches have 153 (6-deck) or 276 (8-deck) combinations with a 0.003728% (6-deck) or 0.0033773% (8-deck) chance of hitting.
- One suited match has 1,320 (6-deck) or 2,464 (8-deck) combinations with a 0.032163% (6-deck) or 0.033683% (8-deck) chance of hitting.
- One non-suited match has 4,752 (6-deck) or 8,448 (8-deck) combinations with a 0.115787% (6-deck) or 0.115484% (8-deck) chance of hitting.