Comparing Spanish 21 and Blackjack – What Is the Difference?

Spanish 21, Blackjack, Chips, Cards, VS

The debate about Spanish 21 vs. blackjack rages on, with some players swearing one or the other is better than the other. I cover everything you need to know about both games in this article.

I discuss the rules, odds, house edge, and different approaches to strategy to help you decide between blackjack vs. Spanish 21. As you’ll soon see, there are pros and cons to both!

Spanish 21 vs. Blackjack Rules

In case you don’t already know, classic blackjack is played with at least one 52-card deck. All face cards are worth 10, and aces can be played as 1 or 11, depending on what is most advantageous. The objective is to make a hand worth 21 without exceeding it, and that’s the point of Spanish 21, too.

While Spanish 21 is a blackjack variant with the same ultimate objective, you must be aware of some important differences in the rules. Remember these before you play for real money.

Deck Composition: Spanish 21 is played with 48-card decks; all of the 10s are removed. This increases the house edge, but other Spanish 21 rules are more favorable to players that help balance this out.

Player Blackjack Wins: In Spanish 21, your blackjack (21) always beats the dealer’s. It doesn’t matter whether this is a natural blackjack or not. Whereas this would usually result in a push unless one or the other had a natural 21, in Spanish 21, you win.

Late Surrender: In Spanish 21, you can surrender late, even after doubling down. Doing so will mean losing half your wager, but it gives you an out if you think you’ve made an error. In most classic blackjack games, you must surrender early, and you definitely can’t do so after doubling down.

Re-doubling and Splitting: In Spanish 21, you can double down on any hand and re-double after doubling down. You can also split aces and double down after splitting them. Most classic blackjack variants have more restrictive rules regarding doubling down and splitting.

Bonus Payouts: Most online Spanish 21 games offer a variety of bonus payouts for specific hands. Five, six, and seven-card 21 pays out extra, and there are also extra payouts for 6-7-8 and 7-7-7 combos.

Dealer Soft 17 Action: In most Spanish 21 games, the dealer is required to hit on a soft 17 (A+6). This may or may not be the case in classic blackjack games. Always check the game rules before playing.

So, now that you have a good overview of the main rule differences between Spanish 21 and classic blackjack let’s look at how they affect the house edge and odds.

Blackjack vs. Spanish 21 Odds and House Edge

If you’re not already familiar with it, I strongly recommend reading our in-depth article on casino house edge. In a nutshell, it’s the casino’s mathematical advantage in every game.

Blackjack’s house edge is notoriously low, around 0.5% if you play with a perfect blackjack strategy. The house edge of Spanish 21 varies between 0.4% and 0.75%, depending on the exact rules.

What causes this slightly higher house edge? The removal of the 10s in the deck makes it harder to make natural blackjack and other strong hands. However, the player-friendly rules outlined above mean the house edge increase isn’t too bad.

I used OpenAI’s GPT4 to simulate various outcomes in both Spanish 21 and blackjack. It gave me the following odds of making different hands worth 21 in both games.

Hand Spanish 21 Odds Blackjack Odds
Natural Blackjack 1 in 25.63 1 in 20.72
3-Card 21 1 in 52.12 1 in 42.28
4-Card 21 1 in 208.52 1 in 130.29
5-Card 21 1 in 1,234.32 1 in 542.58
6-Card 21 1 in 8,333.33 1 in 3,661.61

You can see how much of a difference the 10s being removed from the decks makes when it comes to making hands worth 21! That’s the single biggest difference between Spanish 21 and blackjack to keep in mind. Remember, these odds could be affected by factors like how many decks are used.

Spanish 21 vs. Blackjack Strategy

You’ll have to adapt your strategy based on the differences between Spanish 21 and blackjack. A basic blackjack strategy won’t work as effectively in Spanish 21.

Here are some important points to consider when forming your strategy.

  • You can double down much more aggressively in Spanish 21. Whereas in classic blackjack, you can only do so on the first two cards, in Spanish 21, you can do so anytime. Capitalize on changes in your odds of winning when you hit and make a stronger hand.
  • If you double down or re-double and then something changes that spooks you, you can and should exercise the late surrender option in Spanish 21. It’s better to lose half your wager than lose a much bigger amount by following through on a potential mistake.
  • You can split cards more aggressively in Spanish 21, and some players would argue you should double down when you split aces. You’ve got an excellent chance of making storing hands with aces in play – why not take advantage of the situation?
  • Many Spanish 21 players feel safer hitting on soft hands due to the removal of the 10s from the deck. The math dictates that your odds of going bust are lower than they otherwise would be, so you can press harder with less risk in these situations.
  • I mentioned the bonus payouts in Spanish 21 above. Some players set out to win these when they sense the odds are in their favor. Making a 5-card 21 or a 7-7-7 isn’t going to be easy, but with potentially lucrative payouts up for grabs, some players try for them.

Blackjack vs. Spanish 21 Card Counting

I’ve written detailed articles on card counting in blackjack and Spanish 21 card counting strategies. I’m not going to break them down in great detail here, and I advise you to read both articles to better understand how you should approach each.

All I have to say for now is that the traditional approach to card counting will not work in Spanish 21 games. You have to tweak your methods to account for the removal of those 10s. I know I keep hammering on that point, but realizing it changes things significantly is important.

Is Spanish 21 Better Than Blackjack?

Better is always relative to who you’re asking. While I prefer classic blackjack, some of my fellow 21 enthusiasts prefer Spanish 21 due to the bonus payouts and other player-friendly rules mentioned above.

The difference between Spanish 21 and blackjack is obvious after reading this article, but the only real way to find out which one you prefer is to try them both. You can do so at the following online casinos.

Bovada offers Spanish 21 and other blackjack games for American players. It’s a crypto-friendly casino with solid bonuses, live blackjack games, and fast payouts.

For UK and European players, PlayAmo is the casino for Spanish 21, except it’s called Pirate 21 on this site. This casino also has regular blackjack tournaments and offers fast, secure payouts when you win.

Gavin Lucas
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About Gavin Lucas
Hi! I’m Gavin Lucas, a gambling enthusiast with a particular love for video slots and live casino games. I have been writing about gambling online since 2015, and am always keen to try new games as soon as they’re released. Other than gambling, I’m obsessed with technology and I've written numerous articles for CoinGeek on the topic. I’m fascinated by how online gambling will be changed by blockchain technology, micropayments, and the Metaverse. Having tested several blockchain casinos already, I believe I can see what casinos will look like 10 years from now, and I enjoy sharing that vision with others.