DraftKings' Spanish 21 rule set offers players a mere 0.38% house edge and lots of options for splitting and doubling

DraftKings Debuts Exclusive ‘Spanish 21’ Blackjack Variant in New Jersey

DraftKings announced this week that it is the first and only US online casino operator to offer the Blackjack variant Spanish 21. The company said on Apr 12 that the game, which it developed in house, will debut in New Jersey. It will soon roll out in Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia upon regulatory approval in those states.

DraftKings representative Remington Parker told Online Poker Report that the product is already available in the Garden State. The senior communications associate said although it’s a faithful adaptation of a popular land-based casino game, DraftKings doesn’t have immediate plans to follow up with a live dealer version.

Spanish 21 is DraftKingsGame of the Week until April 19. That means players receive a $10 in bonus credit for every day they play at least $10 at Spanish 21.

What makes Spanish 21 special

Spanish 21 is owned in by a Colorado company, Masque Publishing, from whom it seems DraftKings has licensed the exclusive rights for real money online play.

While the game is similar to Blackjack, it has enough differences that DraftKings considers the rules a selling point. Like the fairly standard DraftKings Blackjack the site offers, the dealer hits on 16 and stands on 17, including a soft 17.

Here’s where Spanish 21 departs from the formula:

  • A natural total of 21 on the first two cards always wins and is paid whether or not the dealer has a blackjack;
  • Doubling-down is allowed on any number of cards;
  • Surrender is possible after doubling down on the original bet; and
  • Hitting split Aces is allowed, any number of times.

Parker further told OPR:

“We deal from an eight-deck shoe, which is shuffled after each hand.”

All of these make for a very favorable rule set for the player.

What are the odds?

Spanish 21 is a casino game with one of the lowest house edges. This is of course good in general, but also makes it a especially great for players who are trying to clear a bonus, such as the DraftKings Casino signup bonus.

Most retail casinos include a “Match the Dealer” side bet with Spanish 21, and DraftKings follows suit. The method for winning this side bet is to have the initial two cards match the rank of the card the dealer has up. Matching rank and suit creates a larger payout.

As casino-goers know, side bets almost always have worse odds than the main game. For DraftKings’ version of Spanish 21, the house edge is roughly 0.38% for the main game, and 2.99% for Match the Dealer.

The number of decks is relevant here. Most casinos offering Spanish 21 use either six or eight decks, and DraftKings chose the latter. This improves the player’s odds a bit on Match the Dealer (versus 3.06% with six decks), but worsens them a bit for the main game (0.37% with six decks).

Who will want to play online Spanish 21?

Online gamblers know what they’re getting with DraftKings’ products, as one of its selling points is its in-house game development.

Bettors who mainly use the DraftKings Sportsbook are the most likely gamblers to enjoy this game, as sports bettors and blackjack players overlap heavily.

Proof of this lies only steps away from DraftKings Spanish 21’s debut state, New Jersey, in Pennsylvania. In the commonwealth, table games growth is outpacing slots. In January, gamblers in Pennsylvania who visited the tables bet $1.55 billion. Slot players spent $1.4 billion. Conventional wisdom from the land-based casinos industry is that slots bring in the lion’s share of the money. However, sports-focused operators like DraftKings may get as much or more of their revenue from the tables.

So that sense at least, the Spanish 21 odds are in favor of DraftKings Sportsbook bettors.

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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