How to play Spanish 21 | Rules and Strategy | LeoVegas

Spanish 21: Rules and Strategy


Spanish 21, a popular Blackjack variant, is widely available in casinos, attracting both beginners and advanced players due to its simple rules and significant payout potential. Spanish 21 shares the objective of reaching a total of 21 with Blackjack but includes key differences. Notable distinctions include the absence of number 10 cards, unique player actions, and additional winning outcomes.

Table of Contents:

What is Spanish 21?

Widely available in the vast majority of casinos, Spanish 21 is a variation of Blackjack, one of the most popular verticals in both online and land-based gaming. In spite of its title, Spanish 21 is enjoyed globally, and, due to its simple rule structure and considerable pay-out potential, is attractive to both beginners and advanced players.


Although based on the same principles as the traditional Blackjack game, Spanish 21 has added nuances which serve to enhance playing options, bet opportunities, and often the general in-game experience. It first came to precedence in the mid-1990s, when a number of Nevada-based casinos opted to feature Spanish 21 in their respective gaming halls.

The basic objective of Spanish 21, or indeed Blackjack, is to reach a total of 21 (or as close a value to this as possible) using the cards issued to the player by the dealer. The contest is directly between the player and dealer, with the strongest hand emerging victorious.

What is the difference between Spanish 21 and Blackjack?

Although Spanish 21 is technically a version of Blackjack, the latter term usually denotes the vertical’s ‘classic’ format. The features which distinguish Spanish 21 from Blackjack include variations in available player actions, dealer behaviour, and winning outcomes.

Key differences:

  1. No number 10 cards active. These are removed from card decks (usually 6-8 used) prior to the game commencing. This has an adverse impact on the likelihood of participants reaching 21.
  2. However, if the player does hit 21, either as a consequence of the value of their opening two ‘hole’ cards (original cards issued to the player at the beginning of the game), or by combining a number of cards to reach this number as the game progresses, the player will automatically win the round and defeat the dealer. The only time this wouldn’t apply is if the dealer hits a ‘natural blackjack’, and the player does not. A natural blackjack sees either participant delivering 21 as an outcome of their two ‘hole’ cards.
  3. When the player opts to ‘split’ cards (more on this to follow), they are able to ‘double down wager’ or leverage a second bet, of equal value to the first, onto the round.
  4. The player is able to ‘split’ on more than one occasion. Most casinos permit a maximum of two splits; however, this varies dependent on operator.
  5. In any case where a third ace appears after splitting two aces, a further split is offered to the player, regardless of the number of splits previously utilised.
  6. If the dealer’s ‘up card’ (the one card shown to all participants from the dealer’s hand within the initial draw), reflects a value of 10 (picture card) or an Ace, they’ll be able to ‘peek’ at their other hole card, currently face down.
  7. Players have access to the ‘surrender’ function, allowing them to withdraw from the game. In this instance, half of any player stake is returned. Not all casinos permit surrender in traditional blackjack.

The surrender option is granted either ‘early’ i.e., as soon as the player has received their hole cards, or ‘late’ i.e., in instances where the dealer has an opportunity to strike blackjack with their hole cards, due to the value of their ‘up card’. When you surrender, you get the half your bet back.

Spanish 21 Rules

Spanish 21 rules are underpinned by the general principles of Blackjack. However, as referenced above, there are some notable differences in the game’s operation.

  1. Players aim to produce a value of 21, either via their two ‘hole’ cards or through a combination of subsequent cards.
  2. Prior to receiving their hole cards, players must place a bet on the outcome of the game.
  3. If the player receives a ‘pair’ of cards, i.e., two cards of an equivalent type, they’ll be able to ‘split’ their hand. In this scenario, players split their hand in two, and build towards 21 with each separate card set. Therefore, in theory, one hand could lose, while the other would win.
  4. When splitting, players must administer a stake of equal value to their original bet, onto their second hand.
  5. Aces can be split at any stage.
  6. Players can ‘double down’ on each occasion they choose to split their hand(s).
  7. If a player decides to double down, only one further additional card can be issued for any ‘live’ hands. This is automatically allocated when the player gives the dealer this instruction.
  8. Participant is ‘bust’ if their hand value exceeds 21 at any stage.
  9. The vast majority of casinos will instruct their dealers to either ‘hit’ or ‘stand’ on ‘Soft 17’ (a hand which encompasses an Ace within a total value of 17).

‘Hit’ = Dealer receives another card

‘Stand’ = Dealers maintains the current number of cards until the conclusion of the game.

Most establishments enforce that dealers ‘hit’ at this specific juncture.

Spanish 21: Step-by-step guide

The playing flow below articulates how to play Spanish 21, which is relatively straight-forward in nature:

  1. Player receives hole cards
  2. Dealer reveals ‘up card’
  3. Player decides next move – hit, stand, split, double down, or surrender, based on the value of their hole cards, and the perceived strength of the dealer’s hand.
  4. Dealer decides next move
  5. Process continues (surrender not an option beyond initial draw activity) until both participants satisfied with hand, or go ‘bust’
  6. Winnings paid accordingly.

Spanish 21 Pay-outs and Odds

Unlike traditional Blackjack, where players receive an ‘evens’ payment on any successful bets, pay-outs in Spanish 21 are contingent on the number and type of cards forming a winning hand.

Pay-out algorithms:

OutcomePay-out ratios
Player wins holding 5 cards3:2
Player wins holding 6 cards2:1
Player wins holding 7 or more cards3:1
Player wins - hand includes numbers 6, 7 & 8 (mixed suits)3:2
Player wins - hand includes numbers 6, 7 & 8 (same suit)2:1
Player wins - hand includes numbers 6, 7 & 8 (all spades)3:1
Player wins - hand includes three number 7s (mixed suits)3:2
Player wins - hand includes three number 7s (same suit)2:1
Player wins - hand includes three number 7s (all spades)3:1

Spanish 21 Side Bets

Any side bet sits completely independent of a main wager, and therefore its outcome does not impact on accessing winnings connected to an original stake (and vice-versa). Although a number of side bets exist in Spanish 21, two key options are consistently offered by casino concessionaires:

Match the dealer – Here, winnings are paid if, dependent on the nature of the bet, any or both of the player’s hole cards match the ‘rank’ of the dealer’s ‘up card’.

Clearly, pay-outs are dependent on the likelihood of the outcome. For example, betting on one unsuited match (e.g. the player and dealer both hold a ‘4’ in separate suits), offers lower returns than a suited and unsuited match (e.g. the player and dealer both hold a ‘4’ in separate suits, and a ‘7’ in same suit).

Super bonus – Adopted in most casinos, this side bet exists without direct player involvement/ a stake requirement. To win, players must make 21 using 7s from the same suit, and hope that the dealer also holds at least one 7 (of any suit). If this circumstance materialises, all other players will also be awarded a pay-out, referred to as an ‘envy bonus’.

Super bonus payouts are listed in the table below:

Wager sumPay-out
Between $5-$24.99$1000
$25 or over$5000
Envy BonusAlways $50

Spanish 21 House Edge

Spanish 21 accommodates a lower house edge than Blackjack, which itself only affords a minimal advantage to the casino.

House edge:

  1. Dealer ‘hits’ on Soft 17: 0.42%
  2. Dealer ‘stands’ on Soft 17: 0.41%

These numbers do not factor in the possibility of accessing the Super Bonus side bet, which clearly serves to positively reduce these percentages further.

Spanish 21 Basic Strategy

The optimal strategy a player decides to adopt is entirely dependent on the hole cards they receive, the dealer’s up card, and the subsequent result of cards issued and player actions taken. As the game progresses, players should decide to hit, stand, split, or double down based on these outcomes. These processes are referenced in Spanish 21 basic strategy, which is a recognized as a legitimate method used in order to enhance the chances of winning.

Spanish 21 FAQs

Is Spanish 21 better than blackjack?

Ultimately, this answer depends on personal preference. However, Spanish 21 produces a smaller house edge, and more diverse, wide-spread winning opportunities, so it’s generally favoured by gamblers.

How do you win at Spanish 21?

Players win by possessing a hand value which is closer to 21 than the dealers. If the player hits 21 exactly, they automatically win (unless the dealer produces a ‘natural blackjack’, and they don’t).

What are the rules of Spanish 21?

Basic rules:

  1. Players must bet on an outcome at start of game.
  2. Players can ‘split’ their cards should a ‘pair’ materialise, or a third ace card features.
  3. Players can increase their stake by ‘doubling down’ at any stage
  4. Players given the option to ‘surrender’ if they wish to withdraw from the game without losing their full stake(s) (only offered at first draw stage)
  5. Dealers usually advised to either ‘stand’ or ‘hit’ on Soft 17

How do you play Spanish 21?

Basic process:

  1. Players are given two ‘hole’ cards to start.
  2. Dealer reveals ‘up card’. Peeks on second hole card if ‘up card’ is a royal or ace.
  3. Player chooses to either hit, stand, split, double down, or surrender.
  4. Process continues until both participants determine no further actions to be taken.
  5. Cards revealed and winnings allocated.

What are the odds in Spanish 21?

A full odds and pay-out table can be found in the relevant section above.

Does the blackjack basic strategy work in Spanish 21?

Yes – providing it’s executed correctly.

What are the differences between blackjack and Spanish 21?

Key differences:

  1. No ‘10’ cards in-play
  2. Player wins on 21 regardless of dealer hand.
  3. Players can ‘split’ on more than one occasion
  4. Players can ‘split’ Aces
  5. Dealer peeks if ‘up card’ reveal produces a Jack, Queen, King or Ace

Can you count cards in Spanish 21?

It is not illegal to count cards in a casino, however, it is frowned upon. Players caught counting cards in brick-and-mortar venues will be removed from gaming tables.

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