October 25, 2022

Which Game is Better to Play: Blackjack or Spanish 21?

Samuel Kiprop
Written bySamuel KipropWriter

Playing an online casino game that gives players some level of control over the outcome is undoubtedly alluring. An excellent example is Blackjack, where players can use an optimal strategy to reduce the house edge to less than 50%. 

Which Game is Better to Play: Blackjack or Spanish 21?

But Blackjack also has its cousin, Spanish 21, which some players claim offers better odds. Is it true? After reading this post, you should have a clearer view of the Blackjack vs Spanish 21 comparison and which game to prefer playing.

What is Blackjack?

Before diving deeper, it’s critical to assume that you’ve not played any of these games before. That said, Blackjack is a classic card game that’s a mainstay in the best new online casinos. A standard blackjack table can accommodate two to seven players who compete against the dealer. 

To begin playing Blackjack, place a bet, and then the croupier will deal two face-up cards to you. Note that the face-up cards are only visible to the recipient. After getting the cards, the dealer will get one face-up card and another face-down card or the whole card. The dealer doesn’t draw a second card in games without a hole card until gamers finish playing their hands. 

The objective of this game is simple; create a hand total that beats the dealer’s hand without exceeding 21. Players can choose to take another card (hit), end their round without taking a card (stand), or double their wager and get another card (double down). Gamers can also split a hand with same-value cards into two or surrender their bet and quit the game. 

What is Spanish 21?

Introduced in 1995, Spanish 21 is a blackjack variant created and owned by a Colorado company called Masque Publishing. This game is called “Pontoon”, or Spanish Blackjack, in Australia and Malaysia. Like with the traditional blackjack game, the croupier gets a hole card in Spanish 21. Also, the dealer can stand at 17 or hit at 16, depending on the online casino site. 

In the meantime, the objective remains to beat the dealer’s hand without going bust. A natural blackjack or a hand total of 21 from the first two cards always wins the game. The similarities don’t end there. Spanish Blackjack permits typical blackjack moves like hitting, splitting, standing, and doubling down. See, it’s nothing entirely different from the standard blackjack game.

What's the Difference between Spanish 21 and Blackjack?

Up to this juncture, it’s possible that these two card games are similar in many respects. So, what makes them so different yet so similar? Below are the detailed comparisons:

Spanish 21 Has Favorable Rules

Seasoned online blackjack players know that some rules can make the game favorable to play. For example, some blackjack games can come with 3:5 pay tables instead of 6.5. In addition, some blackjack games can allow players to re-split aces each time they get two aces. It doesn’t take rocket science to know that re-splitting is a game changer. 

Spanish 21 features a range of rules players can exploit to reduce the house edge drastically. Remember, these rules can vary between new online casino sites. So, don’t blame the casino if you don’t find the Spanish 21 rules you’re used to. Below are some Spanish 21 rules that make the game an excellent choice over Blackjack:

Rule #1: “Late Surrender”

Many blackjack games allow players to surrender and forfeit 50% of their wager. But the terms of surrender are what matters. In Spanish 21, players can surrender late in the game. Put simply, players can give up on the game after the dealer has peeped to see if they have a blackjack. This is more advantageous than surrendering earlier in the round before the dealer decides. 

But there’s a catch to the “late surrender” rule. If the dealer’s hand has a blackjack, players can’t surrender because they automatically lose the game. According to experienced blackjack players, late surrendering can trim the house edge by 0.10%. Although the advantage can look small on paper, it might be what you need to win the game. 

Rule #2: Double Down After Splitting

Experienced Blackjack players must have encountered the DDAS (Double Down After Split) rule. It literally means players can split a pair of aces into two hands and double down for an additional card. In return, the player now has two unique opportunities to hit a blackjack and get the 3:2 payout. 

Doubling down after splitting is an essential arsenal for a blackjack player because it can reduce the house edge by over 0.13%. This is a significant margin, especially in a game where players use an optimal strategy to break even. Remember, you can also split pairs like 2s, 3s, 4s, and 6s. 

It’s also worth noting that Spanish 21 allows players to re-split aces. In traditional online blackjack games, gamers can only split aces, but they can’t re-split after getting another ace card. This is a significant plus on the player’s part.

Rule #3: Double Down on Any Cards

Doubling down is one of the reasons why Blackjack houses one of the best house edges at the casino. But in a typical scenario, players only double down on the first two cards. On the other hand, Spanish 21 gives players the advantage of doubling down after any number of cards. 

Here is an example: your first two cards are a 5 and 2, giving you a hard total of 7. Because this isn’t a good scenario, you draw another card that happens to be a 5, taking your hard total to 11. In Spanish 21, you can double down by making another bet equal to your initial wager. This way, you have double the amount in the game while standing a good chance of winning the hand. 

Rule #4: Any 21 wins in Spanish 21

Players tie or push with the dealer in regular blackjack games if both hands have a total of 21. But in Spanish 21, any player with a total of 21 wins the round automatically. And yes, this is the case if the dealer has a 21 unless it’s a natural. Speaking of naturals, the player will win the round if both hands have a natural 21. 

Rule #5: Bonus Payouts

Lastly, Spanish 21 has multiple bonus payouts for different hand totals of 21. Such payouts include: 

  • 3:2 for a five-card hand of 21.
  • 2:1 for a six-card hand of 21.
  • 3:1 for a seven-card hand of 21.
  • 3:2 for a 7-7-7 or 8-7-6 hand. If the hands are suited, you get a 2:1 payoff.

The Spanish 21 deck without 10s

This is another huge difference between online Blackjack and Spanish 21. In traditional Blackjack, the cards are dealt from a 52-card deck. But Spanish 21 reduces that number to 48 after removing four 10s from each of the six or eight decks of cards.

So, is it good or bad to play the game without 10-point cards? You don’t need a math professor to tell you that a deck with 10-point cards and aces can produce a blackjack quickly. In any blackjack game, the aces count as 1 or 11, making them the most flexible cards in the deck. Now, if you get an ace and a 10-point card, that's natural. 

Don’t play Spanish 21 if your objective is to win a natural with a 3:2 payout. Fewer 10s on the deck automatically reduce your chances of hitting a natural. Thankfully, this is not the only comparison between Blackjack and Spanish 21.

House edge comparison

Blackjack boasts one of the lowest house edges at any online casino. It’s common knowledge that the game has a mathematical advantage of around 4.5%. Although this is on the high side, players can slash it to less than 0.50% with an optimal strategy. Only poker variants like Deuces Wild and Double Bonus can better this house edge. 

Excitingly, Spanish 21 offers even a better house edge than traditional Blackjack games. With all the player-friendly rules discussed above and a well-crafted strategy, players can reduce the house edge to around 0.40%. This means that for every $100 you wager, the maximum you can lose is 40 cents if the hand wins.

But hold your horses. The casino still has an edge even if it’s 0.40%. This house edge will ultimately catch up with your play after thousands of bets. Also, you’ll likely play at a 5% or 4% rate, thanks to the miscalculations you’ll make on the table. So, you’ll need to be a sharp player to enjoy the maximum 0.40% rate. It’s also advisable to play aggressively earlier in the game and quit while still ahead. 

Spanish 21 tips & strategy

Because Spanish 21 decks don’t have the 10-value card, learning when to do what in the game is critical. So, this section walks you through some Spanish 21 strategies to reduce the house edge to less than 0.40%.

Strategy #1: Use a Strategy Chart

This is a basic blackjack strategy if you’re to survive in the Spanish 21 game. The number of decisions players make in this card game can be overwhelming, especially for a green hand. It even gets worse for regular blackjack players because a traditional strategy cart won’t change anything in Spanish 21. 

Below are some strategy chart differences between Spanish 21 and Blackjack:

  • Example 1: If the dealer’s upcard is a 5 and you have a 9, hit in Spanish 21 and double down in Blackjack.
  • Example 2: If the dealer’s up-card is 3 and you have two 6s, hit in Spanish 21 and split in Blackjack.
  • Example 3: If the dealer’s up-card is a 7 and you have a soft 17, stand in Spanish 21 and hit in traditional online Blackjack. 
  • Example 4: If the dealer’s up-card is a 7 and you have 4 or more, hit in Spanish 21 and double down in Blackjack.

Many possible situations can call for different moves in these two games. So, find an appropriate Spanish 21 strategy chart to master the scenarios. Just Google “Spanish 21 strategy chart,” and you’ll get multiple options. 

Strategy #2: Learn to play Hard/Soft Totals

As with a traditional blackjack game, learning to play hard and soft totals can tilt the odds in your favor in Spanish 21. For example, always hit when you have a soft total of 13 or 14. Also, double down with a soft total of 15 to 18, and the croupier has a 4, 5, or 6. And lastly, always stand if you have a soft 19 or higher.

Regarding the hard totals, double down on the hard 9 totals if the dealer has a 6. You can also double down a hard 10 or 11 if the croupier has 2-7 or 2-8. Meantime, hit a hard 12 and stand on hard 13 through to hard 15. And surrender against the dealer’s ace on hard 16 and 17. All these moves will again refer you to the Spanish 21 strategy chart. 

Strategy #3: Search for a game with the best rules

One of the top tips for online gambling is to dig out the best titles, whether playing blackjack, roulette, slots, and other games. The thing is that casinos and game developers can have varying rules in Spanish 21. 

The best Spanish 21 rule to consider is the dealer standing on soft 17. If they do, the house edge automatically reduces by 0.20%. If the game rules compel the dealer to hit on soft 17, redoubling shouldn’t be illegal to reduce the house edge by 0.76%. 

Final Words

Up to this point, you must have already decided on the game to play between Spanish 21 and Blackjack online. Spanish 21 is the best game regarding player-friendly rules and the house edge. 

However, the 0.10% house edge difference might not compel some players to switch sides. In addition, the decks don’t have any 10-value cards, which reduces the chances of hitting a natural. But to make up for that, Spanish 21 has bonus payouts for different hands. Give it a try!

About the author
Samuel Kiprop
Samuel Kiprop

Born in Nairobi, Samuel Kiprop expertly marries the world of online casinos with the pulse of Kenyan life. Fusing urban flair with cultural wisdom, he's a name to know in East African digital gaming.

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