What Do You Know About The Spanish 21 Game?

Spanish 21 is a variation of blackjack that is one of the best bets in a casino. In locations where the dealer stands on a soft 17 or redoubling is allowed, Spanish 21 is probably a better bet than blackjack, depending on the specific blackjack rules. If you are looking for a change of pace from traditional blackjack but insist on a game with a low house edge you may find new excitement in Spanish 21.

 

The Rules

Spanish 21 uses six or eight Spanish decks, each deck consisting of 48 cards — the regular 52 cards less the four tens. Any card counter can tell you that removing any 10-point card from the cards moves the odds in favor of the dealer. To make up for this Spanish 21 gives to the player a host of bonuses and favorable rules. The rules are based on liberal 6-8 deck blackjack rules, including double after split, late surrender, and resplitting aces. In addition Spanish 21 offers the follows rule enhancements:

  • A player 21 always wins.
  • Player blackjack beats dealer blackjack.
  • Player may double on any number of cards.
  • Player may hit usually and double down after splitting aces (some casinos no longer allow this).
  • Player may surrender half of total bet after doubling down (known as “double down rescue.”)
  • A five-card 21 pays 3:2, a six-card 21 pays 2:1, a seven or more card 21 pays 3:1.
  • A 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of mixed suits pays 3:2, of the same suit pays 2:1, and of spades pays 3:1.
  • Suited 7-7-7 when the dealer has a seven face up pays $1000 for bets of $5-$24 and $5000 for bets of $25 or over. In addition, all other players receive a $50 “envy bonus.” This rule does not apply after splitting.

Notes:
1. Dealer usually hits a soft 17 .
2. All 21 bonus hands do not count if the result of doubling.
3. Usually 6-8 Six Spanish decks are used.
4. Some casinos allow redoubling, up to three times.

 

Strategy

Following is my Spanish 21 basic strategy when the dealer hits a soft 17. This strategy is based on a combinatorial analysis and is verified by an infinite deck model in Excel. In some hands the strategy is different than the one by Lenny Frome which appears in Armada Strategies for Spanish 21 by Frank Scoblete and Secrects of the New Casino Games by Martin Jensen. Unfortunatly Lenny has passed away and I can not challenge him on his strategy. However I believe he didn’t implement the double down rescue feature correctly and I stand firmly behind my strategy and believe all others to be in error.

Next is the Spanish 21 basic strategy when the dealer stands on a soft 17.

Finally here is the table if the dealer hits a soft 17 and redoubling is allowed. This table was developed by Jeff Wu and used with permission. Jeff and I independently agreed on the other two tables so I trust his work on this one.

The following is a key to the table. Capital letters denote the usual play for a hand unless there is a bonus exception. Exceptions are noted with an h, *, ‘, “, or $.

H
Hit
S
Stand
D
Double
P
Split
R
Surrender
Rh
Surrender on first two cards, otherwise hit
S3
Stand, unless hand is composed of 3 or more cards then hit
S4
Stand, unless hand is composed of 4 or more cards then hit
S5
Stand, unless hand is composed of 5 or more cards then hit
S6
Stand, unless hand is composed of 6 or more cards then hit
D3
Double, unless hand is composed of 3 or more cards then hit
D4
Double, unless hand is composed of 4 or more cards then hit
D5
Double, unless hand is composed of 5 or more cards then hit
D6
Double, unless hand is composed of 6 or more cards then hit
*
Hit if any 6-7-8 bonus possible
Hit if suited or spaded 6-7-8 bonus is possible
Hit if spaded 6-7-8 bonus is possible
$
Hit if two sevens are suited (possible super bonus)

Many readers have expressed doubt about my advice to hit 17 against an ace with 3 or more cards. However I stand by what I said. The player will save about 2.8% of the intial wager by hitting as opposed to standing. The dealers will advise against this play and the other players curse the day you were born but trust me, the odds favor hitting.

 

House Edge

Following is the house edge under various common rules.

  • Dealer stands on soft 17: 0.40%
  • Dealer hits on soft 17, redoubling allowed: 0.38%
  • Dealer hits on soft 17, redoubling not allowed: 0.76%

I have been asked a few times about the effect of not being allowed to draw to split aces. The Mohegan Sun web site says, “When splitting aces, the player will only receive one card on each ace.” I have been told via the table games manager their web site is in error and drawing to split aces is in fact allowed there. However, hyptothetically, if it were not the house edge would be increased by 0.29%.

 

Where to find the Good Games

The owners of Spanish 21 now maintain their own list of where the dealer stands on soft 17 or redoubling is allowed at www.spanish21.com/goodlocations.php.

 

Match the Dealer

In some locations there is a side bet available if the either or both of the player’s first two cards match the dealer’s up card. In a six-deck game a non-suited match pays 4 to 1 and a suited match pays 9 to 1. In an eight-deck game a non-suited match pays 3 to 1 and a suited match pays 12 to 1. The six-deck game side bet has a house edge of 3.06%, with eight decks it is 2.99%.

 

Methodology

The Spanish 21 strategy found here is based on a combinatorial program which considered both card composition and the six deck nature of the game. In addition an infinite deck model was created in Excel, of which the basic strategy nearly agreed with that of the combinatorial model. The basic strategy found here does not agree with that of the late Lenny Frome in some borderline situations. Frome’s strategy can be found in such book as ‘Secrets of the New Casino Games’ (Marten Jensen) and ‘Armada Strategies for Spanish 21’ (Frank Scoblete). Although I have a lot of respect for Frome and his body of work I strongly feel that his basic strategy is incorrect. I speculate he did not incorporate the double down surrender feature correctly into his analysis. An independent infinite deck analysis was done by Mike Hopson which agreed exactly with mine. The Wizard of Odds would like to thank Mike for his contribution.