Understanding Spanish 21 Blackjack Strategy
If you’re interested in online gambling and in table games, then you’ve no doubt heard of the game blackjack, often referred to as 21. You’ll also likely know that the reason why it’s referred to as 21 is because the aim of the game is to get a hand with a value of 21, or as near to it as possible, while not going over 21 and ending up ‘bust’.
But have you heard of Spanish 21? It’s a twist on the traditional blackjack game and one of the many variants you may find in casinos. It’s therefore worth getting to know how the game works, and how it differs from other variants you might have played before. If you’ve ever played the blackjack variant known as Pontoon, it has some similarities with this version of the game, but also a few important differences.
You’ll increasingly find Spanish 21 available to play at various casinos, both online and off. Just be aware that not every casino offers it, so check before signing up if you really want to try playing Spanish 21.
So, what’s the difference between traditional blackjack and Spanish 21? If you know how to play one of these variations, can you easily switch to the other? And is one less complicated to play than the other? Let’s dig into the details and find out.
What is Spanish 21?
As a variant of blackjack, Spanish 21 has the same basic aim as the traditional game. Each player is trying to get a hand that is as close as possible to 21, without going over. The official version of the game was developed by, and is in fact, owned by, the gaming company Masque Publishing. You may well come across other unlicensed versions of the game at some point, which are often just referred to as Spanish blackjack.
Much like other variants of blackjack, the game starts with the dealer dealing each player (and themselves) two cards. Usually, one card is dealt face down and the other face up. Players can then decide to hit, meaning that they will receive another card, or stand, meaning that they will keep the hand they have and not get any more cards.
Players can hit multiple times to try to get as close to 21 as possible, but if they go over 21, they are bust and have lost the game. As usual, if the dealer gets 21, then they win. If not, the win will go to the first player to get to 21, or the player who gets closest to it.
As the game progresses, however, there are some key differences to be aware of, and some rules that are different from those you may be used to. This is why your Spanish 21 blackjack strategy may be a little different from how you usually play the game.
Spanish 21 Basics
The first important difference between traditional blackjack and Spanish 21 is that when playing Spanish 21, there are no 10s in the deck. This reduces the amount of cards in a deck from 52 to 48, which can make the game a little tricky and interesting. However, this is not the only difference. In Spanish 21 blackjack, there are different betting odds, which means that the game will pay out according to the type of hand you are holding if you win.
There are different payouts depending on the exact cards you are holding and how many of them you have. The payouts even differ according to the suit of the cards you are holding and whether they match. As a result, there’s a little more to look out for than with regular blackjack. In a traditional game of blackjack, with the exception of landing a natural 21, you will always receive 1:1 payouts. Here’s a list of the payouts in Spanish 21:
- If you hit 21 with five cards in your hand: 3:2
- If you hit 21 with six cards in your hand: 2:1
- If you hit 21 with seven or more cards in your hand: 3:1
- If you are holding a six, seven and eight (of mixed suits): 3:2
- If you are holding a six, seven and eight (of the same suits): 2:1
- If you are holding a six, seven and eight (of spades): 3:1
- If you are holding three sevens (of mixed suits): 3:2
- If you are holding three sevens (of the same suit): 2:1
- If you are holding three sevens (of spades): 3:1
As with other versions of blackjack, you do have some other options besides simply hitting or standing. You can choose to opt for a late surrender if you really don’t have a good feeling about your first two cards, and simply don’t want to continue. This means that you’ll give up half of your bet, but you’re guaranteed to keep the other half. You essentially forfeit that hand and cut your losses.
You can also double down at any point during the game. This is when you double your bet amount during game play. In traditional blackjack, this can only be done after you’ve received your first two cards. Obviously, this strategy is for players holding a hand that they feel has a good chance of reaching 21.
There is also the possibility to split your hand if you are dealt a pair as your first two cards. This allows you to effectively play two hands at the same time. Your initial bet is placed on just one of those hands, and you continue to play them independently, alongside each other.
Remember that if the dealer happens to deal themselves an ace, you can choose to take an insurance bet. Many players are wary of taking an insurance bet, but others think that it’s worth it. If the dealer does go on to win, this bet pays out at 2:1.
Spanish 21 Strategy
Just like other forms of blackjack, Spanish 21 is a game of chance, but players will tend to have their own strategies. Basic Spanish 21 strategies that many players agree with include the following:
- Always hitting on hands valued at four through to eight
- Always standing on hands valued at 18 or more
- Always splitting a pair of aces
- Never splitting a pair of 4s or 5s
- Never splitting 7s with the same suit if the dealer shows a seven
It is, of course, important to also consider whether you have a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ hand. Soft hands are those that include an ace, because the value of the ace can, of course, change, being worth either one or 11, depending on which will give you the best hand. Hard hands contain no aces, or aces that can only be counted as a value of one, so there’s no flexibility. Playing these hands gives you a little less leeway.
At this point, you may be wondering whether you can count cards in Spanish 21, and the short answer is yes. Card counting has long been a blackjack strategy that some players employ with varying degrees of success. What can make this strategy tricky to apply is the fact that there are no 10s in the decks used, and that the number of decks used can vary from six to eight.
Spanish 21 Strategy with Hard Hands
With a hard hand, you’ll have a little less flexibility when it comes to your Spanish 21 strategy, but again, if you’re used to playing another variant of blackjack, you’ll probably find that your regular strategy will work.
You’ll still generally want to hit with a hard hand that has a value of anything from four to around 12, and while you can pick where you choose to stand, most players will stand if their hard hand is around 16 and certainly if it’s 18 or more.
Spanish 21 Strategy with Soft Hands
If you have a soft hand, you generally have a few more options, because you’re holding an ace that can be valued as a one or as an 11 when it suits you and your hand. With a soft hand, you can afford to hit even if the total value is a 13 or 14, because if you would have gone bust (given that you’re valuing your ace at 11), you can simply revert to valuing it at one. In Spanish 21, your hand can actually pay out better if you have more cards, so this is something to consider.
Spanish 21 Strategy with Pairs
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to playing pairs in Spanish 21, or other blackjack variants, but as a general guideline, it’s a good idea to:
- Split a pair of 2s or 3s when playing against a lower card (two through eight)
- Hit with a pair of 2s or 3s when playing against a card of nine or higher
- Don’t split a pair of 4s or 5s
- Split a pair of 6s when up against a four, five or six
- Split a pair of 7s when up against a card with a value of two through to seven
- Split a pair of 8s, but consider surrendering if the dealer has an ace
- Stand with a pair of 9s if up against a two, seven, 10 or ace, but split against other cards
- Always stand with a pair of face cards (jack, queen or king)
- Always split a pair of aces (to create two soft hands and a lot more playing options)
How Does the Strategy Change After Hitting?
After a hand has hit, your Spanish 21 strategy should change slightly. You’ll be thinking hard about the card you’re hitting against here. Remember that the dealer always wins if they hit 21, so you need to keep this in mind and play according to the card that the dealer is holding.
With a hard hand, consider:
- Hitting against an eight, nine, 10 or ace on three cards
- Hitting against a six or seven on four cards
- Hitting against a four on four cards and against a five or six on five cards
- Hitting against a two or three on five cards
With a soft hand, once you have three cards, you’ll want to consider your options according to the exact hand you’re holding. A strategy for playing soft hands after hitting is:
- With a soft 15, hit against six on four cards
- With a soft 16, hit against five on three cards and six on four cards
- With a soft 17, hit against four on three cards, five on four cards, and six on five cards
- With a soft 18, hit on four cards against two through four and eight, and on five cards against six and seven
- With a soft 19 or 20, always hit on five cards
As we’ve already mentioned, all variants of blackjack are fundamentally games of chance, so there are no guarantees when it comes to devising a winning strategy. Even those with very little in the way of applicable strategy can potentially win with a little luck. If you’re curious about the difference between Blackjack and Spanish 21, we have a blog to explain it all.
As you get better at playing Spanish 21, you’ll no doubt develop your own practices and make a few tweaks to your strategy. The above guidelines are good to keep in mind as you get started with the game.