Spanish 21 vs. Blackjack

Think Spanish 21 is not all the different from standard blackjack? You would be a tad on the wrong side.

They have different names for a reason. And while I would take blackjack over Spanish 21 any day, Spanish 21 can make for a nice break now and again. It is certainly a better blackjack variation to play with compared to others out there. I am talking to you, Perfect Pairs.

But like with any variation, it pays to learn some about a new game before diving in. That is unless you feel like losing more money than you plan on. Same goes for Spanish 21.

To begin with, Spanish 21 does not have as many cards in play. The 10 cards have been removed from the deck. Rest assured that the face cards, still worth 10, are in the playing deck; only the cards with 10 printed on them are not to be found.

Now this removal of 10 cards does impact your odds a bit. In traditional blackjack high cards, the 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces, are the cards that favor the player. So removing twenty four cards from a six deck shoe is going to impact your odds. This would have a similar effect to a shady dealer removing any ten value cards from a deck.

So right from the start you have to play Spanish 21 knowing that the odds are stacked higher against you since none of the low cards, 2s, 3s, and 4s, that favor the dealer have been removed. True there are some payouts that offer better than average odds, but those do not happen every hand while the card removal does. Keep that in mind.

Also do not go in with the idea that what basic strategy does for standard blackjack will do the same in game of Spanish 21. Because of the removal of the 10 cards, basic strategy is thrown off. Because of such differences in deck makeup and the subsequent throwing off of normal blackjack strategy, playing Spanish 21 with any degree of seriousness requires study of the game.

Blackjack Variation: Spanish 21

Spanish 21 is a blackjack variation in which there is a fairly good balance between the rules that favor the house and the rules that favor the player. In fact, it is the one blackjack variation which has a balance similar to a standard game of blackjack, unlike other variations, which are skewed heavily to the house.

This morning I discussed how the rules and game set up for blackjack actually is pretty balanced. So let’s take a look at what Spanish 21 one is and what its balance is.

First, the bad news. Spanish 21 is played with the 10 cards removed. All of the face cards are still in play, but the actual cards with 10 of their suit are removed. Removing 10 cards from the deck does hurt the player. Spanish 21 is also played with six to eight decks, and we all know that the more decks being used, the better the odds for the house.

And now the good news. There is a whole host of player favorable rules to help make up for the hit to the player’s blackjack odds by the multi decks and removed 10s.

Let’s first look at why 21 features in this variation’s name. Player 21s will always win against the dealer rather than pushing. And a player’s natural blackjack will always beat the dealer’s natural blackjack. Again, no pushing.

Players are allowed to make late surrender. And late surrender can happen after doubling down. This is known as the “Double down Rescue” because the player gives up an amount of their wager that is equal to their original wager. So it is like a normal surrender when you surrender half of your wager, except in this rule you are surrendering half of the total doubled down wager.

They can double down after splitting a pair as well as double down on any number of cards.

And for pairs of Aces, resplitting of Aces is allowed and players can double down after splitting Aces as well.

Spanish 21 also has a number of different payouts:

-five card 21 pays 3-2
-six card 21 pays 2-1
-seven card 21 pays 3-1
-a 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 made of mixed suits pays 3-2
-a 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of the same suit pay 2-1
-a 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of spades pays 3-1
-a 7-7-7 of the same suit with the dealer holding a 7 up pays $1,000 for wagers between $5 and $24
-a 7-7-7 of the same suit with the dealer holding a 7 up pays $5,000 for wagers of $25 or more

Between the various payouts and plethora of other player-friendly rules, the balance between the house and the player is remarkably close—close enough that it is the one blackjack variation that is closest to standard blackjack. This is the one blackjack variation to play…especially since it does not have side bets.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday—Part II

Fridays are fun days. So I am going to continue with this being Fun Fact Friday. Again, I will take no arguments.

Do you remember a few posts ago when I wrote about the history of blackjack? Well, if not a quick recap: blackjack is, as of right now, credited as coming from France, showing up in casinos there in the 1700s. End of recap.

However the Italians had a game similar to Vingt et Un, the French name for 21, which was the original name for blackjack. The Italian version of the game is called Seven and a Half. French and Italian blackjack aficionados still argue over which country should be credited as being the first to have blackjack.

And to further throw a wrench into that debate is Napoleon. In documentation of Napoleon’s life it was discovered that Napoleon was a big fan of blackjack. So it could be argued that, being that Napoleon was French, that he picked up blackjack from growing up in France.

However, Napoleon spent time a good chunk of his time in exile playing blackjack. He was exiled on the island known as Elba. The Italian island I might add. So it could be argues that he picked it up in Italy.

So we are left with a point in each country’s corner as to who can lay claim as to where blackjack came from.

Now, much to the annoyance of the French and the Italians, the Spanish can lay a claim to being the source of blackjack. After all they do have their own version of the game: Spanish 21. But thankfully the Spanish seem to be more laid back about the debate and are happy to just enjoy the game.

Regardless of where blackjack originally came from, it made its way to the United States in the 1800s. And after a ban in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been enjoying its popularity since 1939 when Nevada made blackjack legal.

Most Important Card in Blackjack Strategy

We know what this card is. You see it all of the time when playing blackjack. But you might not think that this particular card packs the punch that it does in terms of blackjack strategy. Or maybe you do and you just do not realize it.

There is one card in all of blackjack, be it casino blackjack, online blackjack, Spanish 21, Pontoon, etc, that all blackjack strategy is based on. Players act upon this card and they may not even be fully conscious that they are doing so. To them they are just going with their strategy.

But strategy has to be based on something even blackjack strategy.

In the case of blackjack strategy the most important card, the card that all of your strategy is based on is the dealer’s up card.

Before you say anything stop and think about that idea for a moment. When you are looking over your basic strategy chart you have to see what play is recommended for your hand based on the dealer’s up card. The play is not always the same. The up card impacts everything.

If you are still skeptical pull out a basic strategy chart and look at one of the stiff hands. Let’s focus on Hard 12. You will notice that the play changes depending on what the dealer’s up card is. If the dealer is holding a 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace you are told to hit; and if the dealer is showing a 4 through 6 you are told to stand.

The play changes even though your hand does not.

If the dealer’s up card were not all that important you would merely have a list of plays based on your hand, such as ‘If you have a hard 12 then hit,’ regardless of what the dealer’s up card is. But the truth is that we have a chart that tells us what play to make depending on what the dealer’s up card is.

Even if you were playing without basic strategy you would still be basing you play on the dealer’s up hand and how close he is to 21. The dealer’s up card is that influential in blackjack strategy.