How to Win at Spanish 21

By Contributing Writer

Spanish 21 is one of the more popular variants of blackjack that is found in casinos across the world. Although the name may scare some people away--as it sounds as if some knowledge of a foreign language is required to play--it's actually not that difficult to learn the rules. Winning, however, requires you to think carefully about the differences between Spanish 21 and "regular" blackjack.

Watch the dealer as he prepares the decks for play at the start of the casino day. If you watch carefully, you'll notice that he takes all of the 10s out of the deck and tears them in half. (Face cards remain in play.) This changes the odds of certain combinations, and therefore requires that you throw out the "basic strategy" most blackjack players utilize to maximize success.

Understand the special rules that are to a player's advantage in Spanish 21. Unlike in regular blackjack, you are allowed to split aces and receive more than one card on each. You also have the option to "take back" half of your wager if the double-down card you receive displeases you. Taking advantage of these differences can help you stay ahead of the house edge.

Learn the special bonus payouts that Spanish 21 offers. You are supposed to receive better than 1-1 odds on certain winning combinations, like a 5-card 21, having a 6-7-8, or three 7's. Because dealers may not deal this game with any regularity, it behooves you to notice when these extra payments are due to come your way, just in case an inexperienced dealer forgets to make them.

Ignore the circle on the table signifying a side bet called "Match the Dealer." This is a sucker bet that pays you 3-1 if you get the same numerical value as the dealer's upcard. It also pays out 12-1 if either of your two cards matches the dealer's upcard in both number and suit. Even if you do happen to win this bet, the true payout should be so much greater that you're actually losing money even if you hit this extra wager.

Don't listen to the advice of the other players. The fact is, the majority of the people who play this game do not know the proper way to play. Even many dealers are not fully schooled in the "proper" moves to make on each and every hand. Get yourself a "basic strategy" card that focuses on Spanish 21 and never stray from it, no matter what the rest of your tablemates may say.