How to Play Spanish 21: Rules & Strategy

Spanish 21 is a popular variation of the classic Blackjack game most closely related to Pontoon.  The most notable difference is that a player always wins with a total of 21 versus the dealer’s 21, and a natural blackjack for the player will beat the dealer’s natural blackjack, paying 3 to 2.

There are also a number of bonuses a player can receive for achieving specific hands, including 5-Card, 6-Card and 7-Card Charlies, or developing a hand of exactly 21 with 3 specific cards. A ‘Match Bonus’ side bet is often available as well, paying off if either of the player’s cards match the dealer’s face-up card.

While these may seem like excellent advantages for the player, there is always a trade-off to bring the house edge back into the casino’s favor. In the case of Spanish 21, all 10’s are removed from the deck. Face cards (Jack, Queen and King) remain, but the 10’s are removed.

Variations in the rules of Spanish 21 include the following:

-Spanish 21 uses either 6 or 8 decks of cards in the shoe. Note that at an online casino, the entire deck is reshuffled with every hand dealt, thus card counting becomes useless.

-Players are permitted to double down at any time, with two or more cards, before or after splitting. To double down, the player can bet any amount, not to exceed the size of the original bet. A double down rescue rule is applied, allowing the player to reclaim the amount of the double down wager and fold the hand, losing the original bet, so long as the double did not result in a bust.

-Splitting is allowed on any pair or two cards of the same value. A player can split any two face cards (i.e. Jack + King) if they wish. It is not recommended to do so, but it is an option. To split, the player must make a second wager on the new hand that is equal to the original bet. Splitting is permitted up to three times, producing a maximum of four hands. Aces may be split, but they cannot result in a natural blackjack.

-Doubling Down or Splitting will automatically negate the eligibility to receive a Bonus 21 payout (see Bonus 21 below)

-The dealer will accord to the following rules: The dealer must stand on any 17, even a Soft 17 (any hand of 17 with an Ace valued at 11). The dealer will offer insurance bets and peek for blackjack if his up card is an Ace or Face Card.

-Insurance bets are optional and require a bet of half the original bet amount. If the dealer has blackjack, the hand ends. All insurance bets are paid 2 to 1. A player’s natural blackjack beats the dealer’s blackjack; all other hands lose. If the dealer does not have blackjack, all insurance bets are lost and the game continues.

Spanish 21 Standard Pay Table
Natural Blackjack Pays 3 to 2 (even if the dealer has natural blackjack)
Insurance Pays 2 to 1
Player’s 21 beats Dealers 21, Pays 1 to 1
Beating the Dealer Pays 1 to 1

Bonus 21 Pay Table
In Spanish 21, if a player’s hand totals 21 in any of the following manners, these payouts are awarded. Note that doubling or splitting a hand automatically voids the Bonus 21 payout.

5-Card Charlie (5 cards totaling 21) Pays 3 to 2
6-Card Charlie (6 cards totaling 21) Pays 2 to 1
7-Card Charlie (7 cards totaling 21) Pays 3 to 1
6-7-8 Mixed Suit Pays 3 to 2 
6-7-8 Same Suit Pays 2 to 1 
6-7-8 Spades Only Pays 3 to 1 
7-7-7 Mixed Suit Pays 3 to 2 
7-7-7 Same Suit Pays 2 to 1 
7-7-7 Spades Only Pays 3 to 1

Super Bonus
In Spanish 21, if a player is dealt three 7’s of the same suit (i.e. 7-7-7 all hearts), and the dealer draws a 7 of any suit, the player receives a Super Bonus. A bet of up to $24 wins a $1,000 bonus. Any bet of $25+ wins a $5,000 bonus. In a live casino, all other active players at the table receive an additional $50 “Envy Bonus”.

Match Bonus
The Match Bonus is offered in some Spanish 21 games. This is an optional side bet where the player wins if either of the player’s first two card match the dealer’s up card. It is possible to win this bonus twice in one hand if both of the player’s cards match the dealer’s up card. The payouts are as follows:

6 Deck Spanish 21 Game
Perfect Match (same rank and suit) Pays 9 to 1
Mixed Match (same rank, different suit) Pays 3 to 1

8 Deck Spanish 21 Game
Perfect Match (same rank and suit) Pays 12 to 1
Mixed Match (same rank, different suit) Pays 4 to 1

Note that all Spanish 21 rules and payouts detailed above are standard, but may vary slightly from one live or online casino to the next.