Blackjack Variations: Canal 21

Canal 21 is a variation of Panamanian Blackjack with a few twists and turns in the standard rules, including extended payouts for achieving special hand ranks such as a 5-Card, 6-Card or 7-Card Charlie. There is no side bet required to win the bonus payout either, making it even more beneficial for the player. However, with every casino game’s perk, there comes a trade off. In the case of Canal 21, players are only paid even money, 1 to 1, on a natural blackjack.

Because the blackjack payout is reduced, the house edge for this blackjack variation is one of the worst you’ll find anywhere, peaking at 1.2%. That’s pretty bad when compared to traditional Panamanian Blackjack, which has a much more advantageous house edge of just 0.12%. Simply put, if you find yourself at a live casino establishment in Panama City, avoid Canal 21, or any blackjack game that is named after the casino itself (i.e. Canal Casino’s ‘Canal 21’, Majestic Casino’s ‘Majestic 21’, etc.), as they are all the same game.

Variations in the rules of Canal 21 include the following:

-Canal 21 is played with 4 standard decks of cards. They may be dealt from an entire shoe, or continuously shuffled. Panamanian casinos lean more towards the continuous shuffle rule, in which case card counting is not an option.

-Doubling is permitted on the sum of any two cards. A player may also double on three cards, but only if the total sum is 9, 10 or 11. It’s generally good to double on these hands, depending on the dealer’s exposed card, but it also encourages players to double on a 3-card hand so that they are less likely to win a bonus payout.

-Splitting is permitted on any exact pair of cards, such as 2+2, J+J or A+A. A player can split up to three times for a maximum of four hands. Split Aces cannot result in a natural blackjack.

-Early Surrender is available in Canal 21, but only if the dealer’s exposed card is not an Ace. A player is allowed to surrender their original two cards only. Once a player hits, doubles or splits, surrendering is no longer an option. When a player surrenders, they forfeit half of their bet and fold the hand.

-The dealer will accord to the following rules: The dealer is required to hit any total of 16 or below. The dealer must stand on a Hard 17 or any higher total, but will hit a Soft 17 (any hand of 17 with an Ace valued at 11).

-Canal 21 in not a hole card game, thus the dealer will not peek for blackjack. In fact, the dealer cannot peek because he only receives a single card during the initial deal. This card is dealt face-up and if it is an Ace, Face Card or 10, insurance bets are offered. However, the dealer’s second card is not dealt until all player hands are complete.

-Since players have the option to double down and/or split before the dealer determines whether or not he has blackjack, the rules of this game state that any wager over the original amount will be returned to the player if the dealer has blackjack. Thus it is safe to double and/or split (if basic strategy calls for it) when the dealer is showing Ace, Face Card or 10.

Canal 21 Standard Pay Table
Natural Blackjack Pays 1 to 1
Insurance Pays 2 to 1
Beating the Dealer Pays 1 to 1

Canal 21 Bonus Hand Payouts
3 of a Kind Suited Pays 20 to 1
3 of a Kind Off-Suit Pays 3 to 1
6-7-8 Suited Pays 5 to 1
6-7-8 Off-Suit Pays 3 to 1
7-Card Charlie (21 w/7 Cards) Pays 5 to 1
6-Card Charlie (21 w/6 Cards) Pays 3 to 1
5-Card Charlie (21 w/5 Cards) Pays 2 to 1