Spanish 21 is a variation to the popular casino game Blackjack or "21". The game is found in every casino (with table games) in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Tunica, MS (as well as most every other major casino in the US). Spanish 21 is played with standard decks of cards except all the tens are removed. All of the face cards are still included. The cards are valued the same as in regular black jack: Aces are 1 or 11, face cards are worth 10, and all others are the same as their rank.
Each player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer also receives two cards, one face up, one down. If the player is dealt a "blackjack" (a two card total of 21) then he automatically wins and is paid at 3-2. Unlike regular blackjack it doesn't matter in Spanish 21 if the dealer ties with a blackjack of their own.
After paying all player blackjacks the dealer progresses in a clockwise manner from player to player. After all players have had their turn at drawing additional cards, the dealer turns his face down card over and draws additional cards if required. The object of the game is to score closer to 21 than the dealer, without going over (going "bust" or "busting).
You "bust" when your count exceeds 21 and you lose your bet. If your count is closer to 21 than the dealer's, you win. If the player's hand ties the dealer's hand, neither hand wins or loses. This is called a "push". If the dealer busts, all bets remaining on the table are paid. Just as in regular blackjack you are required to take cards first so if you go bust you lose your bet even if the dealer later busts himself.
In Spanish 21 a player total of 21 always beats the dealer's total of 21. It pays out 1-1, 3-2, 2-1, or 3-1 depending on bonus conditions (see below).
Players may split cards of equal value including aces creating up to 4 hands. After splitting the player may continue to get more cards or double down on any of the hands - including aces.
Late surrender is allowed. You can give up half of your bet and turn in your cards if they are unfavorable. (Only after the dealer has checked for black jack).
In Spanish 21 you can "double down" at any time with 2 or more cards on any total including after splitting. The bonus payouts aren't paid on doubled hands however. In regular blackjack only 2 card hands are allowed this option.
After a "double down" if a player is not satisfied with his non-busted hand, he may take back the doubled portion of the bet, and forfeit the original wager. This is called a "double down rescue".
Different casinos have different rules for when a dealer should "hit" or take another card. Some say the dealer hits a soft 17 and some say they stand. In Spanish 21 the house edge is less at places where the dealer stands on "soft 17".
Player 21 Bonus Payouts
Pays 3-2 Pays 2-1 Pays 3-1
any 5 card 21 any 6 card 21 any 7 or more card 21
6-7-8 mixed suit 6-7-8 same suit 6-7-8 spades
7-7-7 mixed suit 7-7-7 same suit 7-7-7 spades
If a player holds a suited 7-7-7 and the dealer's upcard is any 7 then a $5-24 bet wins $100 and a $25 or greater bet wins $5000
Please note these bonus payouts vary from casino to casino. Before playing the game you should check the payout schedule
With all these great rules how can the casino afford to pay the light bill?
Spanish 21 has all kinds of rules that seemingly make the game more advantageous to the player. You might be wondering how they can offer all these great deals. Why would anyone play regular blackjack when they have access to this fantastic game?
The house maintains its house edge in Spanish 21 despite all these rules because the deck has no 10's in it. A deck that is rich is cards of value 10 is very advantageous to a player. In fact this is the major idea behind counting cards - to find out if and when a deck is flush with tens and face cards.
Spanish 21 "Optimal Strategy"?
The "optimal strategy" for this game (like all other casino games): DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME! Take whatever chips you have remaining and cash them in at the cashier cage. Spanish 21 is not a beatable game using any strategy over the long run (barring cheating).
If perhaps you should find yourself "forced" (by gunpoint or coercion) to play this game then the optimal strategy changes somewhat. Place the smallest wager the table allows and forgo any of the prop bets that might be offered on the table. The best basic strategy varies depending on the rules of the casino -- specifically if the dealer stands or hits on soft 17. You always stand on 18. For any other total you must consider the bonus payouts and the dealers upcard when making your decision. The basic strategy is much more complicated than blackjack. Even with perfect play the game still has a house edge of .40%-.76%, but since its so complicated few players can acheive this low edge. In some places (like Atlantic City) Spanish 21 is actually a better game than Blackjack for the player if you can play perfect basic strategy. The game doesn't seem worth all that trouble to me, so I would recommend you find something else to play if at all possible.