7 No-Brainer Strategy Tips for Spanish 21

by Michael Stevens
on September 8, 2017

One exciting thing about blackjack is that it offers a number of cool variations. And Spanish 21 is one of the most popular blackjack variants because it has unique rules.

Here are the main changes that you’ll see in Spanish 21 rules:

  • 10s are removed from the deck.
  • This creates a 48 card deck, instead of the standard 52 card deck.
  • You can double down after any number of cards, rather than just your first two.
  • Late surrender after doubling down (a.k.a. double down rescue).
  • Either 5, 6, or 7 card Charlie is offered (automatically win after so many dealt cards).
  • Player 21 always wins, even when the dealer gets a multi card 21.
  • Five card 21 pays 3 to 2; six card 21 pays 2 to 1; seven card 21 pays 3 to 1.
  • Match the Dealer side bet (explained later).
  • Mixed 6 7 8 or 7 7 7 pays 3 to 2.
  • Suited 6 7 8 or 7 7 7 pays 2 to 1.
  • 6 7 8 or 7 7 7 of spades pays 3 to 1.
  • Suited 7 7 7 when dealer has a 7 upcard pays $1,000 for bets less than $25.
  • Suited 7 7 7 when dealer has a 7 upcard pays $5,000 for bets over $25.

Based on all of these rule variations, you can see that Spanish 21 has different strategy than regular blackjack. But there are some no-brainer tips that can help you quickly learn how to win in this game.

That said, let’s look at seven Spanish 21 tips that beginners can master.

1 – Get the Proper Spanish 21 Strategy Chart

The best way to learn basic blackjack strategy is by getting a strategy chart. These show you what decisions to make based on your total and the dealer’s upcard.

The problem that beginning Spanish 21 players run into is using a regular blackjack strategy chart on this game.

This is a blunder because Spanish 21 calls for different decisions in many situations. Let’s look at some different examples:

Example #1

  • You have 9 and the dealer’s upcard is 5.
  • Spanish 21 = Hit
  • Regular blackjack = Double down

Example #2

  • You have 17 and the dealer’s upcard is 7.
  • Spanish 21 = Stand
  • Regular blackjack = Hit

Example #3

  • You have a pair of 6s and the dealer’s upcard is 3.
  • Spanish 21 = Hit
  • Regular blackjack = Split

These are just some of the many situations where Spanish 21 and common blackjack differ. You’ll definitely want to find the appropriate strategy chart so you can master these scenarios.

The easiest way to do so is by googling “Spanish 21 strategy chart” and looking in the images. You can either refer to the chart through your computer/mobile device or print it out.

2 – Avoid Match the Dealer Side Bet

Spanish 21 has a fun side bet called Match the Dealer. This wager is based on matching either of your first two cards with the dealer’s upcard.

Here are the possible outcomes and payouts for each:

  • Two suited matches = 18:1 payout
  • One suited and one non suited match = 13:1 payout
  • One suited match = 9:1 payout
  • Two non suited matches = 8:1 payout
  • One non suited match = 4:1 payout

The good thing about Match the Dealer is that there are a variety of ways to win. And you have big payout potential too because two suited matches brings you an 18:1 payoff.

The downside – as with any blackjack side bet – is that the house edge is larger than what’s featured in the main game.

Match the Dealer carries a 2.99% house edge with 8 decks, and a 3.06% house advantage with 6 decks.

The worst house edge that you’ll find at land based Spanish 21 tables is usually 2%. In many cases, you’ll face less than a 1% house advantage when using good strategy.

You want to avoid Match the Dealer if your main goal is having the best possible chance of winning. But if you can’t resist the urge to play for big payouts, note that Match the Dealer has one of the lowest house edges among side bets.

3 – Know Situations Where You Always Hit and Stand

Spanish 21 is a complex game that involves quite a bit of strategy. This is why my first tip was to look for a strategy chart that specifically matches Spanish 21.

But there are two situations where you don’t need to refer to a chart, including the following:

  • Always hit when your total is a hard 8 or lower.
  • Always stand when your total is a hard 17 or higher.

The reasons why you always hit with 8 or less are as follows:

  1. You can’t bust out.
  2. You’re not in a good enough position to double down.
  3. You’re not in a good enough position to split.

The reasons why you stand with a hard 17 include the following:

  1. You have a decent hand.
  2. Your chances of busting out are 69.2%.

The only exception that you’ll find to standing on a hard 17 every time is when the dealer has an ace upcard. You should choose late surrender in this scenario.

4 – Know How to Play Hard Totals

We just covered two absolutes with regard to playing hard totals in Spanish 21. Now let’s look at how to play the rest of the hard totals:

  • Hard 9 – Double down against a dealer 6. Hit in all other scenarios.
  • Hard 10 – Double down against a dealer 2 7. Hit against dealer’s 8 or higher.
  • Hard 11 – Double down against dealer’s 2 8. Hit against dealer’s 9 or higher.
  • Hard 12 – Always hit.
  • Hard 13 – Stand against a dealer 6, except when you have 4 or more cards. Hit in all other scenarios.
  • Hard 14 – Stand against dealer’s 4 6, except when you have 4 or more cards. Hit in all other scenarios.
  • Hard 15 – Stand against dealer’s 2 6, except when you have 4 or more cards against dealer’s 2 5. Hit in all other scenarios.
  • Hard 16 – Surrender against a dealer ace. Stand against dealer’s 2 6, except when you have 4 or more cards against dealer’s 2 4. Hit in all other situations.
  • Hard 17 – Surrender against a dealer ace. Stand in all other situations.

The Charlie rule – where you automatically win and receive a bonus after being dealt a certain number of cards – comes into play in many situations.

This is why it pays to use a Spanish 21 strategy chart so you can spot these subtle differences. It’s also nice to memorize playing hard totals just in case you don’t have a chart in a live game.

5 – Know How to Play Soft Totals

As with any blackjack game, soft aces change how you play many hands. Here’s a look at how to play soft totals in Spanish 21:

  • Soft 13 (A2) and 14 (A3) – Always hit.
  • Soft 15 (A4) – Double down against a dealer 6, unless you have 4 or more cards. Hit in all other situations.
  • Soft 16 (A5) – Double down against dealer’s 5 6, except when you have 4 or more cards. Hit in all other scenarios.
  • Soft 17 (A6) – Double down against dealer’s 4 6, except when you have 4 or more cards. Hit in all other situations.
  • Soft 18 (A7) – Double down against dealer’s 4 6, unless when you have 4 or more cards. Stand against dealer’s 2 3 and 7 8, except when you have 4 or more cards. Hit against dealer’s 9 A.
  • Soft 19 (A8) and up – Always stand.

6 – Know When to Split Hands

Here’s what to do with pairs in Spanish 21:

  • Pair of 2s or 3s – Split against dealer’s2 8. Hit against dealer’s 9 A.
  • Pair of 4s – Always hit.
  • Pair of 5s – See strategy for a hard 10.
  • Pair of 6s – Split against dealer’s 4 6. Hit in all other scenarios.
  • Pair of 7s – Split against dealer’s 2 7. Hit in all other situations.
  • Pair of 8s – Surrender against a dealer ace. Split in all other scenarios.
  • Pair of 9s – Split against dealer’s 2 6 and 8 9. Stand against dealer’s 2, 7, and 10 A.

7 – Search for the Best Spanish 21 Rules

One of the top tips for any blackjack game is to search for the best games. The same reigns true for Spanish 21 because casinos can vary on certain rules.

Here are the main variable rules that you should keep in mind during your search:

  • Dealer hits or stands on a soft 17 – You want them to stand.
  • 6 or 8 decks – You want 6 decks.
  • Number of times you can redouble – You want 3 times.
  • Split hand with ace and face card counts as blackjack – This rule is rare.
  • Match the Dealer and Super bonuses paid after split – This rule is rare.

The biggest rule that you want to look for is the dealer standing on a soft 17. This improves your chances of winning by 0.2%.

The other rules aren’t quite as impactful, but it’s still nice when they go in your favor.

Here’s a look at the common house edges for the main variable rules in Spanish 21:

  • Dealer stands on a soft 17 – 0.4% house edge
  • Dealer hits on a soft 17, redoubling allowed – 0.42%
  • Dealer hits on a soft 17, redoubling not allowed – 0.76%

Conclusion

Spanish 21 features a number of rules that make it more exciting than your average blackjack game. My personal favorites include the Super Bonus, Charlie rule, late surrender, and doubling down on any total.

But the drawbacks are that all 10s are removed from the deck, and the game always uses either 6 or 8 decks.

All of the rule differences combine to give Spanish 21 different strategy than a standard blackjack game.

This will throw you off initially when you’re used to playing common blackjack games. But the strategy differences won’t be overbearing.

Again, the first thing you want to do is find a Spanish 21 strategy chart on either Google or Bing. This gives you a good strategy base to work off of in the beginning.

The other main things you should do include searching for the best rules and avoiding the Match the Dealer side bet.

As long as you do all of this, then you’ll be dealing with a really low house edge and have a great chance to win.
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