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Spanish 21 Blackjack

Introduction

Spanish 21 is a variant of the standard Blackjack game and is called ‘Pontoon’ in Australia, though for the rest of the world and online Pontoon is entirely separate game. Spanish 21 is played with a ‘Spanish’ deck, which is the standard 52 card deck with the 10 pip cards removed (the face cards, which are also counted at a value of 10 when play Blackjack are still in the deck). This leaves a deck of 48 cards.

We are currently aware of Super Fun 21 being offered by the following online casino softwares – Betsoft, GamesOS, Microgaming, OpenBet and RealTime Gaming. The Betsoft version of Spanish 21 is called ‘Pirate 21 Blackjack’ and the RealTime Gaming version is called ‘Match Play 21’.



Play Structure

Differences to standard Blackjack and rules that are standard to the online game;

 

·         Played with Spanish decks – standard 52 card deck with the 4 ten pip cards removed.

·         7 or more card 21 pays 3 to 1.

·         6 card 21 pays 2 to 1.

·         5 card 21 pays 3 to 2.

·         6-7-8 of mixed suit pays 3 to 2.

·         7-7-7 suited with dealer 7 face-up pays 50 to 1.

·         7-7-7 of Spades pays 3 to 1.

·         6-7-8 of Spades pay 3 to 1.

·         7-7-7 suited pays 2 to 1.

·         6-7-8 of Spades pays 3 to 1.

·         Bonus payouts do not apply after splitting or doubling.

·         Player Blackjack beats a dealer Blackjack.

·         Player 21 beat dealer 21.

·         Double on any number of cards.

·         Double up to twice.

·         Surrender after Double.

·         Hit Soft 17.

·         8 Decks.

·         Dealer peeks for Blackjack.

·         Re-Split to 4 hands.

·         Draw to Split Aces

·         Double After Split.

 

Other than the above the game functions as a standard Blackjack game in terms of the play of hands and how wins are decided.



Rule Variations

Over and above the above mentioned rules, the following online software providers offer slightly different rules as detailed;

Betsoft – 6 decks, No Insurance, Suited 7-7-7 with dealer face up 7 pays $1000 for bets of $5-$24 and $5000 for bets of $25 or over.

GamesOS – Standard rules as above.

Microgaming – Standard rules as above.

OpenBet – 6 decks, other rules unavailable, presumed standard.

RealTime Gaming – 6 decks, Can only double once



Optimal Strategy

Spanish 21, like Blackjack, has a Basic Strategy to minimise the House Edge. Due to the bonuses for varying multi-card 21s, this strategy is markedly more complex than more standard Blackjack games. There is a separate strategy if you’ve already Doubled once which is detailed below the standard table. The Basic Strategy chart for the different online rule sets can be found below;



Standard Rules

 

 Dealer's Upcard
Player's Hand23456789TA
5-7HHHHDHHHHH
8HHHDDHHHHH
9HD3DDDHHHHH
10D4D4DDDD4D4HHH
11D3D4D4D4D4D4D4D3D2D2
12HHHHHHHHHH
13HHHHS3*HHHHH
14HHS3*S4*S5*HHHHH
15S3*S4*S5S5SHHHHH
16S5S5S5SSHHHHR
17SSSSSSS5S5S5R
18+SSSSSSSSSS
A2HD2DDDHHHHH
A3HD2D3DDHHHHH
A4HHD3D3D4HHHHH
A5HHD2D3D4HHHHH
A6HHD2D3D4HHHHH
A7S3S3D3D4D5S5S3HHH
A8SSSSSSSSS5S5
A9SSSSSSSSSS
22PPPPPPPHHH
33PPPPPPPHHH
44HHHDDHHHHH
55DDDDDDDHHH
66HHPPPHHHHH
77PPPPPP*HHHH
88PPPPPPPPPR
99SPPPPSPPSS
TTSSSSSSSSSS
AAPPPPPPPPPP

 

Legend

CodeBest Play
HHit
SStand
S3*Stand on 3 cards or fewer *unless 6-7-8 bonus is possible
S4*Stand on 4 cards or fewer *unless 6-7-8 bonus is possible
S5*Stand on 5 cards or fewer *unless 6-7-8 bonus is possible
DDouble else Hit
D2Double on 2 cards
D3Double on 3 cards or fewer
D4Double on 4 cards or fewer
D5Double on 5 cards or fewer
PSplit *unless suited 7s are possible
RSurrender

 



Post Double Strategy

 Dealer's Upcard
Player's Hand23456789TA
7DDDDDDRRRR
8DDDDDDDDRR
9DDDDDDDDDD
10DDDDDDDDDD
11DDDDDDDDDD
12SSSSSDDRRR
13SSSSSSRRRR
14SSSSSSRRRR
15SSSSSSRRRR
16SSSSSSRRRR
17SSSSSSSSSR
18+SSSSSSSSSS
A2DDDDDDDDDD
A3DDDDDDDDDD
A4DDDDDDDDDD
A5DDDDDDDDDD
A6DDDDDDDDDD
A7SSDDDSSSSS
A8SSSSSSSSSS

 

Legend

CodeBest Play
SStand
DDouble else Hit
RSurrender

 



Realtime Gaming (Match Play 21)

 

 Dealer's Upcard
Player's Hand23456789TA
5-8HHHHHHHHHH
9HHHHDHHHHH
10D4D4DDDD3D2HHH
11D3D4D4D4D4D3D3D3D2D2
12HHHHHHHHHH
13HHHHS3HHHHH
14HHS3S4S5HHHHH
15S3S4S5S5SHHHHH
16S5S5S5SSHHHHR
17SSSSSSS5S5S5R
18+SSSSSSSSSS
A2HHHHHHHHHH
A3HHHHHHHHHH
A4HHHHD3HHHHH
A5HHHD2D3HHHHH
A6HHD2D3D4HHHHH
A7S3S3D3D4D5S5S3HHH
A8SSSSSSSSS5S5
A9SSSSSSSSSS
22PPPPPPHHHH
33PPPPPPPHHH
44HHHHHHHHHH
55DDDDDDDHHH
66HHPPPHHHHH
77PPPPPP*HHHH
88PPPPPPPPPR
99SPPPPSPPSS
TTSSSSSSSSSS
AAPPPPPPPPPP

 

Legend

CodeBest Play
HHit
SStand
S3*Stand on 3 cards or fewer *unless 6-7-8 bonus is possible, then Hit.
S4*Stand on 4 cards or fewer *unless 6-7-8 bonus is possible, then Hit.
S5*Stand on 5 cards or fewer *unless 6-7-8 bonus is possible, then Hit.
DDouble else Hit
D2Double on 2 cards
D3Double on 3 cards or fewer
D4Double on 4 cards or fewer
D5Double on 5 cards or fewer
PSplit *unless suited 7s are possible, then Hit.
RSurrender

 

It should be noted that when playing Pirate 21 at Betsoft casinos you should always wager either $5/hand or $25/hand as this maximises the suited 7-7-7 with dealer upcard 7 bonus.



Match the Dealer Side Bet

The Betsoft version of Spanish 21 (Pirate 21 Blackjack) offers a side bet that offers odds of 9 to 1 if one of the cards in your hand matches the dealer’s upcard in both suit and rank and 4 to 1 if one of the cards in your hand matches the dealer’s upcard in rank only.

Hand Probability Payout
Both player cards match dealer's upcard in suit and rank 0.000243659 18 to 1
One player card matches dealer's upcard in suit and rank and the other matches rank 0.002192929 13 to 1
One player card matches dealer's upcard in suit and rank 0.03216402 9 to 1
Both player cards match dealer's upcard in rank 0.003727979 8 to 1
One player card matches dealer's upcard in rank 0.115785592 4 to 1
House Edge 3.06%



House Edge*

The House Edge for Spanish 21 is shown below for each known software provider;

Betsoft -

GamesOS – 0.35%

Microgaming – 0.35%

OpenBet -

Realtime Gaming - 0.73%*

*This figure varies depending on the number of decks in use.



Fairness Calculator

Below you can find a calculator to allow you to check the fairness of your wins/losses when playing Spanish 21.

*This fairness calculator will assume that you’ve been playing with the optimal strategy detailed above. If you have not then the calculator will NOT return accurate results.



Winning Strategies

Offline

Spanish 21 is likely to be vulnerable to all of the standard advantage play techniques that standard Blackjack can be beaten by. Unlike other Blackjack variants, beating Spanish 21 through the use of Card Counting has been covered in detail in Katerina Walker’s book ‘The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21 and Australian Pontoon’. This book is well worth a read for anyone with access to a large number of Spanish 21 games.

Online

There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage playing online Spanish 21 games. By and large these involve the use of promotions, bonuses and comp point systems as the games by themselves – assuming the game is functioning in a correct fashion and there are no errors in the paytable – will not provide any additional information about the cards and shuffles after every hand.

It should be noted that online advantage play is not specific to Spanish 21 and in recent years the wagering requirements for player’s choosing to play any table game has inflated to the point that Spanish 21 is now often a sub-optimal choice for the player. For more information on beating online casinos see BeatingBonuses.com.





* All ‘House Edge’ figures in this article are based on the ‘loss per unit wagered’ rather than ‘loss per initial bet’.

 

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