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Best of John G. Brokopp

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A New Look at Spanish 21

11 August 1999

Until recently I had only a casual interest in the casino table game known as Spanish 21 or Spanish Blackjack, a variation of traditional blackjack. It's not a licensed game in Illinois or Indiana, although the Argosy Casino & Hotel has submitted a request to the Indiana Gaming Commission to ask approval to introduce it.

I've seen it played in Iowa and in Las Vegas, but to be quite honest I've never had the inclination to sit down and play it, thinking that it was just another gimmick used by casinos to relieve us of our gaming bankrolls!

Popular gaming author Frank Scoblete may have made me change my mind about the game with the publication of his book The Armada Strategies for Spanish 21 published by Bonus Books, Inc. of Chicago.

This columnist still believes Spanish 21 is for the most part a gimmick. Give me traditional blackjack any day! But after reading Scoblete's book I would feel much more comfortable sitting down to play it, knowing that I am in possession of information to help me employ optimum strategies against the house's built-in edge.

First of all, a brief outline on how Spanish 21 is played: The object is still to beat the dealer. The biggest difference is that in a 6-deck shoe, all the 10-spot cards in the deck have been removed, so instead of 312 cards as in traditional blackjack there are only 288 cards in play in Spanish 21. The 10-value face cards, of course, remain in play.

Taking the 24 10-spot cards out of play is a hefty price to pay for playing Spanish 21. After all, cards with a value of 10 are essential for making blackjacks, the real object of the game.

To compensate players, Spanish 21 offers special payout bonuses for certain hands, including five-card 21, six-card 21, seven or more card 21, three-card hand of 6-7-8 in mixed suits, three-card hand of 6-7-8 in same suit, three-card 6-7-8 in spades, a 7-7-7 hand in mixed suits, a 7-7-7 hand of same suit, and a 7-7-7 hand in spades. Also, if both the player and the dealer have a blackjack, the player is paid off at 3-2.

If you go into a Spanish 21 game enticed by the bonus perks but unaware of the basic strategy differences between it and traditional blackjack, you're going to give the casino a fat edge in the 2 to 3 percent range, making it one of the worst betting propositions in the house!

If, on the other hand, you take the time to learn the basic strategy as outlined in Scoblete's book, you'll reduce that edge to a more comfortable 0.82 advantage, making it one of the best games in the house, although still not as good as traditional blackjack.

Scoblete emphasizes that if you play Spanish 21 using traditional blackjack basic strategy, you're going to get killed. Using the special strategies Scoblete outlined with the help of blackjack expert and gaming author Fred Renzey, you give yourself a fighting chance of staying in the game instead of getting blown out of the water.

In addition to being the definitive analysis of Spanish 21, Scoblete's new book is filled with the author's trademark literary wit and wisdom. You'll have a lot of fun reading the book en route to learning more than you ever thought imaginable about this rather strange variation of blackjack.

Scoblete makes a thorough study not only of the rules of play, but also the most efficient manner of play. The knowledge you derive can help gaming enthusiasts in all aspects of casino gambling.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp