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How to Play Spanish 21

The Rules: Played with six 48-card decks. All the 10s (not face cards) have been removed. Dealer Hits Soft 17.

Player Blackjack: Always beats the Dealer's Blackjack and pays 3/2

Player total of 21: Always beats the Dealer's total of 21. Instant winner

Pair splitting: Player my split cards of equal value (up to FOUR hands) including Aces. Hitting and doubling of split hands is allowed (including Aces.)

Double down: On any total--two or MORE cards--including after splitting.

Double down rescue: After doubling, if a player is dissatisfied with his non-busted hand, play may rescue" the DOUBLED portion of the bet and forfeit the ORIGINAL wager. (Remember, you can double for less but it is not advisable to do so.)

Insurance: Bet any amount up to 1/2 the original bet if the dealer has an Ace up. Pays 2 to 1.

Surrender: On first two cards, after dealer checks for Blackjack, player can reclaim 1/2 of the original wager.

Bonus 21 pay schedule:

5-card 21 Pays 3/2
6-card 21 Pays 2-1
7+card 21 pays 3-1
6, 7, 8 Mixed Suits pays 3/2
6, 7, 8 Same Suit pays 2-1
6, 7, 8 All Spades pays 3-1
7, 7, 7 Mixed Suits Pays 3/2
7, 7, 7 Same Suit Pays 2-1 --Eligible for the Super bonus
7, 7, 7 All Spades Pays 3-1 --Eligible for the Super bonus

$5,000 Super Bonus: All player eligible. NO SIDE BET REQUIRED.
Player holds suited 7,7,7 and the dealer's upcard is any 7 you win
$5 bets and up wins $1,000 while $25 bets and up win $5,000
Envy bonus--all other betting players will receive $50

The Expected Value: The removal of the 10's causes a big hit to your expectation. Other rules like the bonuses are helpful but not helpful enough!

If you use regular blackjack basic strategy against this game the house edge is in the neighbor hood of 1.5%. If you used a basic strategy that corresponds to fixed Hi-Lo true count of -4 you could reduce the house edge to just under 1.0%. If you play the optimum basic strategy for this game, the house edge is 0.88%.

The (Probably) Optimum Basic Strategy:

First apply these exceptions to the strategy shown:

  • Hit 67 vs. any dealer upcard
  • Hit suited 68 vs. any dealer upcard.
  • Hit unsuited 68 vs. dealer 4, but not against 5 or 6.
  • Hit 78 spades vs. any dealer upcard.
  • Hit suited 78 vs. dealer 2,3,4.
  • Hit 78 vs. dealer 2.
  • Hit 77 spades vs. dealer 2,3.
  • Use double down rescue only against dealer 8 or 9, when your final total is 16 or less.
     2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   X   A    <---- dealer's up card
---+----------------------------------------  Pairs
XX | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
99 | S   PS  PS  PS  PS  S   PS  ps  s   s
88 | ps  ps  Ps  Ps  Ps  Ph  ph  ph  ph  qh
77 | ph  ps  ps  ps  Ps  ph  h   h   h   h
66 | h   h   ph  ph  Ph  h   h   h   h   h
55 | DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  H   h   h
44 | h   h   H   H   H   H   h   h   h   h
33 | ph  ph  ph  Ph  PH  Ph  ph  h   h   h
22 | ph  ph  Ph  Ph  PH  Ph  ph  h   h   h
AA | PH  PH  PH  PH  PH  PH  PH  PH  Ph  Ph
---+----------------------------------------  Soft Hands
AX | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
A9 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
A8 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   s
A7 | S   S   DS  DS  DS  S   S   h   h   h
A6 | h   H   DH  DH  DH  H   h   h   h   h
A5 | h   h   H   DH  DH  H   H   h   h   h
A4 | H   H   H   H   DH  H   H   h   h   h
A3 | H   H   H   H   H   H   H   H   h   h
A2 | H   H   H   H   H   H   H   H   h   h
AA | H   H   H   H   H   H   H   H   h   h
---+----------------------------------------  Hard Hands
21 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
20 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S
19 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   S   s
18 | S   S   S   S   S   S   S   s   s   s
17 | s   s   s   s   s   s   s   s   s   qh
16 | s   s   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   qh
15 | s   s   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h
14 | h   h   s   s   s   h   h   h   h   h
13 | h   h   h   h   s   h   h   h   h   h
12 | h   h   h   h   h   h   h   h   h   h
11 | DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  H   h
10 | DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  DH  H   h   h
 9 | H   H   H   H   DH  H   H   h   h   h
 8 | h   h   H   H   H   H   h   h   h   h
 7 | h   h   h   h   H   h   h   h   h   h
 6 | h   h   h   h   H   h   h   h   h   h
 5 | h   h   h   h   H   h   h   h   h   h
 4 | h   h   h   h   H   h   h   h   h   h
-------------------------------------------
S=stand H=hit D=double P=split q=surrender

Notes:

  • If more than one option is listed, options to the left are preferred over options to the right. Options less favorable than STAND or HIT are not shown.
  • Use the "Hard Hands" table only when the other tables do not apply.
  • If splitting Aces is not allowed, use the "Soft Hands" table.
  • Uppercase options favor the player, lowercase options favor the house.

Some observations:

Some pros have worked out the betting indices for this game and report that for big bets they get significantly less heat. Though these sharps can turn Spanish 21 into a positive expectation game it is definitely not as good as most of the Blackjack games being offered in the same casinos. I, personally, steer away from the game.

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