Spanish 21, also known as Pontoon, is a unique variation of blackjack. It shares the same objective as traditional blackjack, to beat the dealer without exceeding 21 points. However, that’s where the similarities end.
The biggest difference between Spanish 21 and blackjack is that, in Spanish 21, all the 10-point cards are removed, leaving only the face cards. This increases the house edge by 2%. That’s not all, though. Spanish 21 is also played with 6 or 8 decks.
Players aren’t totally screwed though. Player blackjacks beat the dealer’s blackjacks, whereas before it was a push. 21 point hands win (every time), too. Players are also able to double down after splitting, split up to 3 times to make 4 separate hands and late surrender whenever they want, even after doubling down.
Ultimately, the player options even out the edge created by the casino using multiple decks and removing the 10-point cards. According to the Wizard of Odds, the house edge will be between .40% and .76%, depending on the casinos’ rules and whether or not you use optimal strategy.
So all in all, Spanish 21 is a unique and exciting blackjack variation. You still get to have a lot of fun, all the while keeping the house edge (and your losses) to a minimum.
The following lists are the rules and payouts for Spanish 21.
Player Rules for Spanish 21
- Players can double down after they hit.
- Players can split up to 3 times, making 4 playable hands. This includes aces.
- Players can double down on split aces.
- Players can double down after splitting.
- Players can late surrender anytime. This includes after doubling down, which is also known as "double down rescue." The player forfeits an amount equal to his original bet.
- Players blackjack will beat the dealer’s blackjack.
- Players 21 point hands always wins.
- Players can take insurance at 2:1 odds.
- Dealers use 6 or 8 decks.
- Dealer may hit or stand on soft 17.
- 5-card 21 pays 3:2
- 6-card 21 pays 2:1
- 7-card+ 21 pays 3:1
None of these bonuses are paid if the player doubles down.
A hand of 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 pays:
- Mixed suit pays 3:2
- Same suit pays 2:1
- Spades pays 3:1
These bonuses are not (usually) paid after doubling or splitting.
A hand of: 7-7-7 pays…
- $1000 for bets of $5-$24
- $5000 for bets over $25
… when the dealer has a 7 face up. The other players receive a $50 envy bonus, too. This has a probability of 1 in every 668,382 hands in a 6-deck game, and 1 in 549,188 with 8-decks.
Spanish 21 Side Bets
Match the Dealer – A side bet that one or both of the player’s cards will match the dealer’s up card. In a 6-deck game a non-suited match will pay 4:1, suited match pays 9:1. In an 8-deck game a non suited match pays 3:1 and suited 12:1.