Spanish 21 Basic Strategy - Winning Method

They look like blackjack. They feel like blackjack. They play like blackjack. They are not blackjack.

A. Snyder

Such a phrase was said by Arnold Snyder about all blackjack variations. Well, he was probably right because extra rules for all those variations made it more difficult and complicated to produce a basic strategy of playing them though conventional blackjack has its blackjack strategy of course. Spanish 21 strategy was not an exception: it was played with decks without 10’s, and though it gave some bonuses and extra good rules for players, no bonuses and extra rules were made for those missing 10’s.

By the way, decks without 10’s were practiced to use in casinos of Puerto Rico though it was not about rules but cheating. Bill Zender, a former Nevada Gaming Control agent, described this technique in his book How to Detect Casino Cheating at Blackjack, where he called it to be “a short deck”: a dealer removed 10’s from a deck what gave players less advantages to win a game.

Well, Spanish 21 is not cheating of course, and the absence of 10’s in a deck for this game made its basic strategy to be more difficult.

Simplified Spanish 21 Strategy of Arnold Snyder

Arnold Snyder described the basic strategy of playing Spanish 21 in his book The Big Book of Blackjack where he introduced 15 main steps to follow in order to become a successful Spanish 21 player.

These steps are the following:

You have

What to do?

The hand of 11 points
The hard hand of 12 or 13
The hard hand of 18 or the sort hand of 18
The hand of Aces or 8’s
The hand of 4’s, 5’s or 10’s value cards
The hand of pairs (except 4’s, 5’s or 10’s)
The hard hand of 16 or 17
The hand of Ace + 5, Ace + 6, Ace + 7
The hand of other soft totals
The hand of 5 and more cards with hard 14 or 15 total
The hand of 5 and more cards with soft 17 or 18 total
The hand of 20
The hand of 14 – 16
The hand of 12 – 16

Double down!
Do not split them!
Double down!
Double down vs. 2 through 8!
Stand vs. 2 to 6! or Hit  vs. 7 to Ace!
Surrender after doubling vs. 8 to Ace


What are hard and soft hands?
Arnold Snyder considered such a strategy to be not very useful to remember and advised to learn and use a basic strategy of blackjack instead of playing Spanish 21. Well, each game has its fans, so it is up to you what game should be chosen to play.

John Grochovski’s Spanish 21 Strategy

J.Grochovski is the author of many books about different tips and strategies at gambling (such as The Casino Answer Book,Winning Tips for Casino Games,The Craps Answer Book etc.); he wrote about winning strategies of different casino games such as poker, baccarat, roulette, blackjack, slot machines… He also proposed his strategy for playing Spanish 21; actually he had three strategies for different Spanish 21 totals: soft totals, hard totals and splitting pairs.

Main rule for hard totals: stand with totals of 18 or more. Always hit if you have 8 or less.

Main rule for soft hands: stand if you have soft 19, 20 and 21.

Main rule for splitting pairs: Always split Aces. Never split 4’s, 5’s and cards of 10’s value (Jacks, Queens, Kings).

Grochovski described also a player’s steps for each variant of hard and soft hands as well as splitting pairs.


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