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In the last couple of weeks, we've looked at basic strategy in blackjack. Sit down at most blackjack tables in any jurisdiction, play basic strategy and you'll narrow the house edge to a half-percent or so, perhaps a little more or a little less depending on house rules.
For the most part, house rules don't force big changes in basic strategy. We make some adjustments for single-deck play, but in the more common multiple-deck games, we use the same strategy regardless of whether the dealer hits soft 17 or whether we're permitted to resplit Aces.
But what if we get a really extreme set of rules? Could an uncommon combination force us to devise an uncommon strategy?
Yes, it could and it does in Spanish 21, which is essentially blackjack with an extreme set of rules.
How extreme? Well, we're permitted to double down after seeing any number of cards, instead of being limited to doubling after the first two. If we have 3-3-3-2 for a four-card 11, we can double down. If we don't like the card we get on the double down, we can back out with "double down rescue," which allows us to surrender one bet while pulling back the other. On other hands, late surrender is offered.
There's more. Unless the dealer has blackjack, player 21s win, even if the dealer also has a multiple-card 21. There are bonuses on 21s consisting of five, six or seven cards, and on 6-7-8 or 7-7-7.
That's the positive side for the player. There are minuses. Spanish 21 is usually a six-deck game with the dealer hitting soft 17--not great, but not all that unusual. The big negative is that the game uses "Spanish" decks with no 10-spot cards. There are Jacks, Queens and Kings that are valued at 10, but the 10s are removed. When we have an 11 and want to double down, we need to understand that there are only 12 10-value cards per deck that will complete our 21 instead of the usual 16 per deck.
The scarcity of 10-value cards means that even though we're permitted to double down on any number of cards, we actually double far less often. With fewer high cards in the deck, we also hit some hands we would stand on in regular blackjack. And sometimes, the potential for bonus hands means our play is affected by how many cards we have on the table. We'll risk busting some hard totals if we have four, five or six cards to take a chance on a bonus 21.
Let's take a look at basic strategy for Spanish 21, as extreme a blackjack game as you're likely to see.
Spanish 21 strategy for hard totals
Always stand with totals of 18 or more, and hit with totals of 8 or less. Otherwise use the following strategy:
Spanish 21 strategy for soft totals
Always stand on soft 19, 20 or 21. Otherwise, use the following strategy:
Spanish 21 strategy for splitting pairs
Always split Aces, and never split 4s, 5s or 10-value cards. Otherwise, use the following strategy:
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.