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Spanish 21 - FAQ

Your newsletter gives the casino advantage on Spanish 21 as 0.34% if the dealer doesn’t hit soft 17. How effective is card counting in further reducing this house advantage and giving the advantage to the player?

Rod from Newburgh, Indiana

Good question. Yes, this house edge is definitely low enough to consider card counting. Since most card counters don’t even consider Spanish 21 I think the field is ripe to exploit the game and to do so with a great deal of impunity. However counting may not be as effective in Spanish 21 as regular blackjack. A small card rich deck will benefit the player in more multiple card 21’s. To the best of my knowledge nobody has developed index numbers for Spanish 21 but somebody should. Maybe I will.

Your Spanish 21 basic strategy at your web site gives the opposite tables for dealer hitting soft 21 and standing on soft 21 from those given in Casino Player September edition. Casino Player magazine gives table 1 for dealer hitting a soft 17 and table 2 for standing. Your web site gives the opposite charts. Which is correct? Also, hard 17 vs. dealer ace says surrender on first 2 cards, otherwise hit. Do you hit hard 17 vs. ace?

Rod from Newburgh, USA

Casino Player reversed the two charts in their layout. I'm very embarrassed by this mistake. Yes, you should hit a hard 17 against an ace if you can't surrender.

I know of a casino in the Seattle area that has six-deck payout odds for the match the dealer bet in Spanish 21 with an eight-deck shoe. I am curious how this effects the house advantage?

Chris from Seattle, Washington

This lowers the house edge from 3.06% to 1.42%.

In Spanish 21 you state that the house edge is .34% using your basic strategy and dealer stands on soft 17. How does the super bonus affect this percentage? That is to say, what would the house edge be without the super bonus? Also, what are the odds of hitting the super bonus on any given hand?

Randy from Toledo, Ohio

In a 6-deck game the probability of a super bonus is 1 in 668382, and in an 8-deck game it is 1 in 549188. The house edge without the super bonus would be 0.03% more either way.

Which is a better game for the player Spanish 21 or just regular blackjack in Atlantic City.

Michael from Philadelphia, USA

Spanish 21! Under Atlantic City rules blackjack has a house edge of 0.43% and Spanish 21 of .40%.

Where is the best casino in Las Vegas to play Spanish 21?

Michael from Philadelphia, USA

The Venetian. To the best of my knowledge they are the only casino in Las Vegas which stands on a soft 17 in Spanish 21, lowering the house edge from 0.76% to 0.40%.

Update: The Venetian later switched to hitting a soft 17. As of this update (May 14, 2013) the best Spanish 21 game is at the D, which allows re-doubling.

Where on the Internet can I play Spanish 21 for either fun or real money?

Reana from Fairport, U.S.

All Unified Gaming casinos as well as Global Player offer Spanish 21. Unified Gaming stands on a soft 17 and thus has the lower house edge.

2013 Update: Unified Gaming software has since disappeared. As far as I know, nobody offers Spanish 21 online any longer.

What are your casino choices in Atlantic City for craps and Spanish 21? When you mention that it is wise to take full odds on a bet while playing craps, do you mean to match your bet with an equal odds bet, or to make the highest allowed odds bet along with your bet (ex: at a table with 10x max odds place a $1 bet with a $1 free odds bet, or a $1 bet with a $10 free odds bet). I'm a little confused on that. I love your site, and honestly see it as "a diamond in the rough" among gambling advice web sites. Personally, I like to know what the mathematical odds are when it comes to wagering my hard earned money! Thanks in advance for answering my questions!

Dave from Roanoke, Virginia

Thanks for the compliment. The Spanish 21 rules are the same across Atlantic City. I only know of two that have the game, the Tropicana and the Claridge, but there could be others by now. If I'm not mistaken, the best craps game is at the Sands, which offers 5X odds. When I say to take the maximum odds I mean bet the maximum allowed on the odds. For example, $50 after a $10 line bet. Keep in mind that you won't win more money by taking the odds, you just get to bet more without losing more in the long run.

I recently started playing Spanish 21 because the rules at the local Thunder Bay casino give it much better odds than Blackjack. The dealer stands on soft 17, but uses 8 decks of cards. Does using 8 decks give better or worse odds for the player than the 0.40% you calculated with 6 decks?

Raymond from Thunder Bay, Canada

I always liked the name Thunder Bay for a city. I used to work at a summer camp not too far from there in Missanabie, Ontario. To answer your question 6 decks is better than 8. However the difference in the house edge is small, only about 0.03%.

With reference to the first table of the Basic Strategy for Spanish 21, I have some questions that I hope you could clarify for me (standard game, dealer hits s17):

Q1. For 17 v A (your reference - Rh). If the player doesn’t surrender (or double down surrender), does he in fact hit? I ask this question because I’m a little unsure - Scoblete’s book says to stand 17 v A, as does Norm Wattenberger’s Spanish 21 strategy table in CVBJ3.

Q2. Your references to the 6-7-8 bonuses. Do all the references apply equally to the 7-7-7 bonuses? e.g. Does * mean "Hit if any 6-7-8 [OR 7-7-7] bonus possible"?

Q3. p20 of Scoblete’s Spanish 21 book says to hit 9 v 6 if player has a 3 card 9. Should I ignore this advice, along with the "don’t double down rescue" advice given in his book?

Sorry to bother you with these questions but I’ve got a Spanish 21 tournament coming up, and need all the help I can get. Many thanks.

Alan from Sydney, Australia

  1. Yes, you should hit. I believe all those who disagree to be in error.
  2. No, the 7-7-7 bonus is only possible with two initial sevens. The proper strategy is indicated in that row.
  3. Yes, you should ignore this advice.

You mention the really low house edge in Spanish 21, but I have such a hard time playing the game because I get verbally abused playing your strategy. Not that I question anything you say about gambling, but man you are right about hitting a 17 vs an Ace. The worst slack I got was from a guy who was playing $400 split 8’s vs a 3 and got two 11’s and doubled down and got 19 on both. I hit my 14 vs a 3, busted with a ten. The dealer had 13 and pulled an 8. Now again I question nothing you say, but man when they had to almost call security it was really scary.

Anonymous

I get verbally abused too when I play Spanish 21. When I lived in Baltimore I played it a lot in Atlantic City because the house edge is lower than blackjack there. These idiots doing the abusing don’t understand that removing the tens from the decks makes hitting less dangerous because the probability of busting is less. Don’t bother to try to explain this, the logic won’t make it through their thick skulls. I used to just bite my tongue in these situations but the next time I may not be so nice.

Are there any published card-counting strategies for Spanish 21? If not, do you think the rules of Spanish 21 make it conducive to counting?

Anonymous

There was discussion about this at www.bj21.com under the Green Chip section about a couple years ago. As I recall the consensus was that counting was not as advantageous as in blackjack but you could get away with a lot more. I know of no published material on this.

At the Meskwaki in central Iowa they pay 3 to 2 on an ace and 10 after splitting aces in Spanish 21. What is the effect of this rule?

Dave from Cedar Falls, Iowa

That lowers the house edge by 0.16%.

In variants of Spanish 21 where redoubling is allowed, but the only permitted plays after doubling are redouble or stand, what is the correct play where the strategy card says "hit"?

Nick from London

Most redoubling situations tell you to double anyway. However, with a soft 15 to 17 against a 3, when the strategy says hit, you should actually redouble.

The version of Fun 21 offered on Carnival cruise lines has some rules that are surprisingly favorable. They are so favorable that they appear to make up for the hit on soft 17 and then some. I can't find the catch. Any chance the edge is better then standard big casino Vegas blackjack or even slightly in players favor? Whether you answer or not, GREAT SITE and thanks much.

Eric from Tallahassee

Thanks. This game is just a rip-off of Spanish 21. Note that the bottom of the card says that all queens are removed.

What advantage (%) would a player have if the 10’s were used in a stand on all 17, 8-deck spanish 21 game?

Kevin from Toronto

Keeping all the tens in the deck is worth 1.89% to the player. The house edge under those rules is normally 0.40%. So with all the tens in the shoe, the player edge would be 1.89%-0.40% = 1.49%.

I know that the rules of Spanish 21 say that the "envy bonus" is always $50, and the super bonus is $1,000, for bets of $5 to $25, or $5000, for bets of $25 or higher. I was curious, what is the house edge penalty for playing at an empty table, or betting more than $25 a hand? Casinos offer regular blackjack for high rollers without maximum payouts. Do you know of any casinos that offer good rules for high rollers in Spanish 21? (i.e. a $500 envy bonus for a bet of $50)

Dean from Toronto

I don’t like it when games give worse odds to the higher bettors either. The value of these Super Bonuses is almost zero. The probability of hitting the Super Bonus is one in 549,000 with eight decks, and one in 668,000 million with six decks. Assuming six decks, the value of the envy bonus is worth 0.0015% per additional player, besides yourself. Sorry, I don’t know of any casinos that sweeten the bonuses for larger bets.

I really enjoy your site, and thank you for the pertinent information! Reading and learning has erased my bad habits and made me a better player, I am certain! Here is my question. I read about games you write about and really think that some of them would be fun to try, like the World Series of Poker (Final Table Bonus) video poker game.

Not knowing, however, where to find it, and others, I usually wind up writing to the maker of the game at their website and asking where I can find their game outside of Nevada, since I am in the Midwest. I NEVER get an answer! Besides being just bad customer service, I still have the question of finding the game to be answered. Do you know of a site, or a way, to find which specific games are at which casinos? You would think the game’s manufacturer would list where to find it to assist in letting players find the game.

Larry S. from Columbus, OH

Thanks for the kind words. I think the gaming manufacturers should take this as a good suggestion. I get requested for this information by players all the time, but it is simply too much for one person to keep on top of. A noteworthy exception is Masque Publishing, the owners of Spanish 21. They keep an online list of where the liberal Spanish 21 rules can be found.