Spanish 21 is one of the most popular variants of the game of blackjack. The game is owned by Masque Publishing, a large developer who produce and release a huge number of games for online and casino use. Unless the game has been licensed by this company then it is not allowed to be called Spanish 21, and this is why many games that play by similar rules go by another name, often Spanish Blackjack or even just 21.
Spanish 21 was first introduced to the gabling worked in 1995, when it entered a number of casinos in the state of Nevada. The story often told is that it was introduced by an employee of the casino looking to spice up the game of blackjack, but however it came to be it soon spread around the country and the world. Spanish 21 is available in many land-based casinos, particularly in Las Vegas, and it is also available in a number of online casinos, although it is not as prevalent as blackjack and it is also not as common online as it is in land-based venues.
Spanish 21 uses a continuous shuffling machine and 6 to 8 decks of cards. A continuous shuffling machine, or CSM, is an automated machine that shuffles all of the decks contained within it and eliminates the risk of dealer collaboration whilst increasing the effectiveness of the shuffle. The use of the machine also makes the dealer’s job easier and puts the players’ minds at rest, as there is little that can be done to manipulate or “rig” a CSM.
In Spanish 21, as in typical blackjack, the dealer gets a hole card and the aim is to get to 21. Insurance is available and is paid at the odds of 2:1 and the game on the whole pays an average of 3:2, although as with blackjack this can change depending on the casino.
In Spanish 21 there are no tens, with only the picture cards counting as ten. This tips the edge in the house’s favour. In this variant players can double-down on any number of cards, not just their first two, and whenever the player hits 21 they win, regardless of the dealer’s hand. Late surrender is also always available in Spanish 21. These options help to level out the house’s edge, but in the absence of the tens, and taking into consideration that a player with 21 will win many more times than they will push, the edge is still on the side of the house.
Spanish 21 also pays out bonus bets for certain hands. If the player uses five or more cards to get to 21 then they get a bonus payment, with more paid out depending on whether they used 5, 6 or 7 cards to get to that number. Bonuses are also paid for straights and straight flushes, and many 7s bonuses also apply, meaning that if the player draws any number of 7s they could be in for a windfall.
Overall, players tend to prefer blackjack to Spanish 21, with the latter seen as more of a game to draw in the tourists and those looking for a greater number of bonuses and side bets. Spanish 21 is more appealing to casinos as the edge is more in their favour than it is with blackjack, but it offers much less appeal to the players. Despite this, it is still recommended for all blackjack players to try Spanish 21 at least once.