Blackjack Variations: The Cut Deck Spanish 21
Spanish 21 or ‘Spanish Blackjack’ is less like a game variation and more one of the principle methods of playing the game. After the standard US and European Blackjack rules, this game is the most commonly played around the world. Just to confuse matters a little, Malaysia and Australia call this game Pontoon – though it is not the same as the British game than everywhere else calls Pontoon!
In this game 4 cards are removed from the decks before the game is dealt. These are the 10’s. This is a negative for the players, in terms of the mathematical edge that the casino has. When the deck has more small cards, the house is always better off. To balance this, there are some player-friendly rules when compared to the standard Blackjack setup. There are enough variations of this game to make the overall house edge harder to pin down. For a standard 6 deck game played optimally, this should be around 1.3%, which is reasonably low by the standards of other casino games.
What you will find with this game is that getting 21 or less with 5, 6 or even 7 cards will get you an extra payout. You’ll also get some extra for hitting 21 with 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 in this variation.
How to Play Spanish 21
The setup and dealing sequence of the game is pretty much the same as a regular Blackjack game. Each player gets 2 cards face up and the dealer one face up and the other face down. The dealer will peek for Blackjack with an ace or picture card showing. You should always decline this bet, as it has a big edge in favor of the house.
Player Blackjack pays at 3:2 in this version of the game. There is an extra twist in the rules in favor of the players with 21 hands. Every time a player gets 21 in this game, they win the hand, regardless of whether the dealer also has 21.
Usually, the dealer will stand on a soft 17 in Spanish 21. You might find some versions of this game where the dealer will instead hit. This does increase the house edge by a 0.2% and should be avoided if you have the choice.
You can double-down on any number you choose in this game. The splitting rules are also very relaxed compared to some other variations. You can double or re-split after a split, and splitting aces is allowed – with the option to double open.
Spanish 21 also includes an after-double surrender option. This means you can double-down (on any number combination you wish) and then surrender the hand for half of your total stake if you end up hitting a bad card. This will end the hand, you cannot keep paying for another card. An example of this would be to double down on a 10, then end up with 16 against a 8 or 9 from the dealer – cutting your losses may be the best escape route in these situations.
Extra Payouts for 21 and Multiple Card Hands
There are two ways you can enjoy some extra payouts in Spanish 21. These are for specific 21 totals, and for getting 21 or under in 5, 6 or 7 cards.
First the 21’s. Here you are looking to hit 6-7-8 or 7-7-7. If you do then you will be paid according to the suit and suitedness. This is 3:2 for unsuited cards, 2:1 for 3 cards of the same suit, and 3:1 if all three of the cards are in Spades. You do not have to place an extra chip or side bet to partake in this offer.
The multiple card hands pay 3:2 for a 5 card hand, 2:1 for a 6 card winner and 3:1 if you win with 7 or more cards. If you have split your hand during a particular deal, then you cannot claim these extra payouts for that hand.
Spanish 21 – Big Payout for Four Sevens
Once in a blue moon a player will end up with 7 Sevens of the same suit, when the dealer also shows a 7 as their up card. This triggers a one-off big payout in Spanish 21, which will depend on the stakes at the table you are playing. If you bet up to $24, then the windfall is for $1000. If your bet is $25 or over, then you will win $5000. What is more, every other player who was dealt into the same hand will get a $50 bonus prize called an ‘envy’ bonus.
In summary, Spanish 21 has some interesting quirks and variations on the standard Blackjack game. While removing the 10’s does improve the house edge, the bonuses bring the balance back into the game, and also give you some extra entertainment while you play.