How to Play Pirate 21
What is Pirate 21?
Pirate 21 can be described as Spanish 21 blackjack variant with a twist – in this version, the dealer stands on 17, and the players are not able to insurance against the dealer’s Blackjack, or surrender.
The variations of the game can be found in both online and land-based casinos, under the name Spanish Blackjack or even Pontoon (in Malaysia and Australia). The name Pirate 21 however, is not the only difference between the standard and Pirate 21 (or Spanish) Blackjack; the removal of the tens from the card decks is the most notable characteristic of the game, increasing the house edge by 2%.
How to Play Pirate 21 – Basic Rules
The main objective of Pirate 21 is to get as close as possible to 21 without busting – just like in any other Blackjack variation. With the 10s removed, the game actually works in favor of the dealer, although there are certain rules that re-establish the balance.
For starters, the player’s Blackjack will always win. Unlike some Blackjack variants where the dealer’s and player’s Blackjack hands will be considered a push, Pirate 21 favors the player in this case.
The perks do not end there. Pretty much every limitation that you will find in a regular Blackjack game is, in this case, completely dismissed, making up for the lack of 10s. If you compare the standard with the Pirate 21 variance, you will notice the following:
Players are permitted to re-split the aces – traditionally, aces cannot be re-split and the player will only be able to draw one card per each of the two aces.
Players may continue to hit and double down after splitting a pair of aces – in most cases, players cannot double under the circumstances, but Pirate 21 is clearly much more liberal.
Player are allowed to double on any number of cards, whereas a number of Blackjack variants only allow this option on 9, 10, and 11 hands
The insurance is not offered, and the dealer must stand on hard 17, hit on soft 17 and draw on 16.
Pirate 21 Payout Table
The payout table for Pirate 21 Blackjack will depend on the number of cards that form the hand. All Blackjack combinations of up to 5 cards will be paid in accordance to the traditional Blackjack payout rate, 3:2, while 6 or 7-card hands follow the payout rates from the table below:
|7-card (or more) 21||3:1|
|6-7-8 or 7-7-7 mixed suit||3:2|
|6-7-8 or 7-7-7 suited*||2:1|
|6-7-8 or 7-7-7 all spades||3:1|
*The suited 7-7-7 when the dealer has a 7 up pays $1000 for bets of $5-$24 and $5000 for any bets over $25. This rule will not apply after splitting.
The special 6-7-8 and 7-7-7 hands do not count if the result of doubling.
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Side Bets, Tips and Strategies
Pirate 21 also introduces a side wager called Match the Dealer side bet. The bet wins if one or both of the player’s initial two cards match the dealer’s up card. The suited match pays 9:1 while the non-suited combinations produce a somewhat lower payout of 4:1. In case of a double match, the higher payout rate will be applied.
Learning when to hit, double, stand, and split is the very essence of Blackjack, which, unfortunately, a lot of beginners tend to get wrong. Your next move will, for the most part, depend on the dealer’s up card, however, certain rules are consistent:
- Always hit on 4, 5, or 6
- Always double on 11
- Always stand on 17 and 18+; in the Spanish 21 version, players are advised to surrender on a 16 or 17 hand and the dealer’s A card, but this option is not available in Pirate 21
- Always stand on A+8 or A+9 hands
- Always stand on 10+10 hand
- Always split the As
- Always split the 8s
In all other circumstances, you should pay attention to the dealer’s up card and follow the rules below:
- Hit if you have a 7 and the dealer’s up card is 2-5, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have an 8 and the dealers’ up card is 2-4, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have a 9 and the dealers’ up card is 2, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have 14 and the dealers’ up card is 2, 3, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have 15 or 16 and the dealers’ up card is 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have A in combination with 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 on the dealer’s 2, 3, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have A+7 on the dealer’s 9, 10, or A
- Hit if you have a pair of 2s or 3s on the dealer’s 9,10 or A
- Hit if you have a pair of 4s on the dealer’s 2, 3, 4, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have a pair of 5s on the dealer’s 9,10 or A
- Hit if you have a pair of 6s on the dealer’s 2, 3, 7-10, or A
- Hit if you have a pair of 7s on the dealer’s 8, 9, 10, or A
- Double if you have a 7 on the dealer’s 6
- Double if you have an 8 on the dealer’s 5 or 6
- Double if you have a 9 on the dealer’s 3-6
- Double if you have a 10 on the dealer’s 2-8
- Double if you have a combination of A with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 on a dealer’s 4, 5 or 6
- Double if you have a pair of 4s on the dealer’s 5 or 6
- Double if you have a pair of 5s on the dealer’s 2-8
- Stand on 14 and dealer’s 4-6
- Stand on 15 or 16 and dealer’s 2-6
- Stand on A+7 and dealer’s 2, 3, 7 and 8
- Stand on a pair of 9s and dealer’s 2, 7, 10 and A
- Split a pair of 2s and 3s on dealer’s 2-8
- Split the 6s on dealer’s 4, 5 or 6
- Split the 7s on dealer’s 2-7
- Split the 9s on dealer’s 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 or 9
Pirate 21 does take a little getting used to, with the 10’s being removed. However, once you get used to the idea that some cards are in fact missing and you get your strategy down, it can be one of the more exciting games being played at any casino, be it Online or brick and mortar.
Always remember that strategy plays a role in any wagering game. Take this guide as your learning point! Remember these strategies right here and you should be ready to become a Pirate yourself!
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