Play Pirate 21

Read on to learn about the basic game rules, how to play and the game's strategies

Guide on Pirate 21

If you're hearing the name for the first time, you may be wondering how pirates played Blackjack. Unfortunately, we can't confirm if they were lovers of this popular table game. If you're looking to learn more about the game, we've prepared a Pirate 21 review to guide you

A Complete Guide on Pirate 21 Blackjack

If you're hearing the name for the first time, you may be wondering how pirates played Blackjack. Unfortunately, we can't confirm if they were lovers of this popular table game.

However, if you're looking to learn more about the game, we've prepared a Pirate 21 review to guide you. Pirate 21 has a low house edge, but it comes with an interesting side bet and spicy payouts. Read on to learn about the basic game rules, how to play, the odds, the payouts, and the game's strategies.

What Is Pirate 21?

Pirate 21 is an online table game developed by Betsoft. It's also referred to as "Pontoon" (for Australian players) or "Spanish 21" — they have similar gameplay.

It's played with the Spanish deck of cards (48 cards). The major difference between the Blackjack deck and the Pirate 21 deck is that the 10s are absent.

History of Pirate 21

Before online casinos came, Blackjack had limited forms, and every Blackjack table had varying rules. Side bets were rare, and the common Blackjack forms included single and double-deck. The birth of virtual casinos paved the way for lots of blackjack variations, including Pirate 21.

While Pirate 21 isn't the latest Blackjack variant, it's not very common in casino sites. It first trended for over a decade and was later introduced in 2004 by Diamond Games. Until recently, Betsoft and Nucleus Gaming reintroduced the game to modern casino platforms.

The version offered by online casinos isn't exactly the same as its old version. Its gameplay is similar to Spanish 21, which offers multiple winning ways. However, Pirate 31 doesn't give players an ultimate edge against the house advantage, but you can reduce the house advantage at 0.76% with optimal strategy.

How to Play

Playing Pirate 21 is simple, though mastering it can be more challenging. Below is a four-step guide on how to play a typical hand.

You can repeat the steps to keep playing a full session. Keep in mind that you can decide to make different bets for different hands, and this applies to the optional side bets as well.

Place a Bet

Make your wager from $5 to $500. Some casinos have a $100 bet limit, while others allow up to $500.

Decide on a Side Bet

Players can also make a side bet (optional). Wagers between $5 and 24 will unlock a payout of up to $1000, while wagers of at least $25 will unlock up to $5000.

Receive Two Cards

The dealer will deal two hole cards. You can choose to stand, double-down, split, hit, or surrender.

Receive Your Payout

If you win a side bet or the main bet, you will get paid. There are several ways to win, so ensure to study the payout chart to understand your winning options.

Playing Pirate 21 for Free

You can try playing Pirate 21 for free before doing it for real money. A few online casinos allow you to play for free. Once you're ready to play the game for real cash, pick your favorite blackjack casino game and start playing.

Rules of Online Pirate 21

This table game utilizes a Spanish card deck, which means there are no 10s in the deck. That changes several strategies in this game as blackjacks don't occur as often. Players have numerous advantages, including the chance to always win with a 21 or a blackjack (though in rare cases).

Busts don't occur as often since the deck has fewer 10-cards. Players try to fill their hands with five or more cards equaling 21 as those hands earn big payouts.

Pirate 21 Blackjack Set of Rules

Player Gets 21

A player always wins if they get 21.

6-Deck Shoe

A Spanish deck with no 10s (48 cards in each deck)

Splitting Hands

Players can split hands (up to four)

Doubling Down

You can double your original bet and get an extra card at any time (once), not only after receiving your first two cards.

Soft 17

Dealer will always hit on a soft 17

Resplit Aces (RSA)

Players can split Aces multiple times

Double After Splitting (DAS)

Players can hit and still double after splitting the Aces

Dealer Peek

Dealer checks to know if they have Blackjack before players begin to take hits

Player Blackjack vs. Dealer Blackjack

A player's Blackjack always beats the dealer's Blackjack

Blackjack Payout

A blackjack always pays 3:2. If you bet $20 and receive a blackjack, you will get a payout of $30

Late Surrender

A player can choose to surrender after the dealer checks for Blackjack

Double Down Rescue

You can take back your last doubled part of the bet and forfeit the other half to end the hand.

Pirate 21 Payouts

The Pirate 21 payout table is complicated, so you need to keep those rules in mind while making any strategic decision. You can check out the Pirate 21 payout chart below.

Full Pirate 21 Payout Chart

  • Suited 7, 7, 7 + Dealer 7 – $5,000/$1,000
  • Suited 7, 7, 7 – 2 to 1
  • 7, 7, 7, (Spades) – 3 to 1
  • 6, 7, 8 (Spades) – 3 to 1
  • Suited 6, 7, 8 – 2 to 1
  • Unsuited 6, 7, 8 – 3 to 2
  • 21 (Seven-Card) – 3 to 1
  • 21 (Six-Card) – 3 to 2
  • 21 (Five-Card) – 3 to 2
  • Blackjack – 3 to 2

Suppose you place wagers from $5 to $24 and get the suited 777 (and a dealer 7) — you will be paid $100. If your first wager is between $25 and $500, and you get a suited 777 (and a deal 7), you'll get a $5,000 payout.

Remember that this suited 777 with 7 doesn't pay after splitting. A hand that pays for 7, 7, 7 or 6, 7, 8 doesn't pay if you've doubled down during that hand.

Few Additions to Blackjack Rules

Logically speaking, removing the 10s from the deck should tilt Pirate 21 odds in the house's favor. After all, the chances of making profitable 20s and blackjacks will reduce. But the advantage of this game is that the alight rule changes increase the player's advantage and add additional excitement.

Push Pays You

One of the most noteworthy improvements in the rules to note before playing the game is how any player can beat a dealer. When playing the classic Blackjack, your hands will push with the dealer when you have identical totals, even if it's a Blackjack or a 21. Nothing is more painful than drawing out a Blackjack to a five-card 21 before watching the dealer do the same, resulting in the dreaded push.

Pirate 21 rules eliminate this push. So, whenever you make 21 on a card combination or Blackjack, your hand beats the dealer regardless of what they hold.

What happens when you have a face card and an Ace, but the dealer shows the same cards? In Blackjack, that will result in a push, but Pirate 21 rewards you with a win anytime you produce Blackjack or 21.


While you can't double down after any split in Blackjack, doubling down is allowed after splitting a pair in Pirate 21. Most versions of this game found in popular casinos also allow you to double down or hit after a split.

However, you need to check the specific rules to ascertain the availability of this provision. In addition, Pirate 21 allows you to re-split after receiving another Ace from your dealer.

Bonus Payouts

Another fantastic aspect of Pirate 21 is the payouts it offers to various 21 value hands. For instance, when you hold five cards totaling 21, you will receive a payout of 3:2. If you have six cards totaling 21, the payout becomes 2:1, and you'll get 3:1 on your wager for reaching 21 on 7 or more cards.

There's another bonus payout when your first three cards have a 7-7-7 or 6-7-8 combination. The bonus payouts on this card arrangement are categorized according to the suits:

  • Spades – 3:1 payout
  • The Same Suit – 2:1 payout
  • Mixed suits – 3:2 payout

These additional payouts are a great improvement in pace to the typical 1:1 wins by Blackjack. But the Pirate 21 bonus win you should watch out for happens when you have a 7-7-7 combination, and the dealer reveals a 7 as his upcard. This card combination offers a huge payout on your initial wager, depending on the region.

Double Down

Here's another interesting feature inclusion in Pirate 21, which allows players to choose to double down whenever they want during the hand.

Although blackjack limits this double-down option to only the first cards, Pirate 21 allows you to exercise it at any point regardless of the number of cards you have.

After doubling down and missing the deck by picking a low card (instead of an Ace or 10), Pirate 21 even allows you to apply a double down surrender feature. This implies that you will forgo half of the money you placed after doubling down or a sum equal to the initial wager if the deck doesn't cooperate.


Another difference between Pirate 21 and blackjack rules is the optional play you get. In both games, you can choose to surrender 50% of your wager if your hand combines with the dealer's hands to create an unsuitable condition. But while the traditional Blackjack limits your surrender option to only the first two cards, Pirate 21 allows it at any point.

Soft 17 Rule

The dealer in Pirate 21 must either stand or hit a soft 17, depending on the casino platform. Hence, ensure to always check the website's rules section before making your bet.

Pirate 21 Blackjack Side Bet Rules

The game features a side bet. Although playing the side bet is optional, players get the opportunity to receive a 4-to-1 and a 9-to-1 payout.

The bet involves your two hole cards matching a dealer's up-card. You will get a 9:1 payout if you hold a suited match, and you'll receive a 4:1 payout if it's an unsuited match.

For instance, if you have an unsuited match and a suited match, you'll get a 9:1 payout. The payout for two suited matches is 9:1 (not 18:1). Two unsuited matches will pay out 4:1 (not 8:1).

Payout Chart for Pirate 21 Side Bets

  • Two Matches – The highest match (only) is paid
  • Unsuited Match – 4:1
  • Suited March – 9:1

Pirate 21 Strategy

Players have a different strategy chart for this game compared to European Blackjack or Classic Blackjack. Pirate 21's basic strategy is more related to the Spanish 21 strategy. The strategy mainly involves risking a bust (having any value higher a 21) and hitting for two reasons:

  • Higher Payout: a hand totaling 21 with at least five cards have better payouts.
  • Lower Risks: the deck contains fewer cards with 10s, so busts are less likely to occur.

So even if you risk a bust, ensure to keep hitting to build a hand of 21 with at least five cards. When you sit for a Pirate 21 session at any online casino, it's essential to note the rules set up for the game.

Here's a breakdown of house advantage odds under different rule configurations. They illustrate how slight rule changes can affect the overall value a player expects:

  • When a dealer HITS on soft 17 (six decks) = 0.78%
  • When a dealer HITS on soft 17 (eight decks) = 0.80%
  • When a dealer STANDS on soft 17 (six decks) = 0.37%
  • When a dealer STANDS on soft 17 (eight decks) = 0.38%
  • When a dealer HITS on soft 17 (six decks), with redoubling = 0.42%
  • When a dealer HITS on soft 17 (eight decks), with redoubling = 0. 45%

As shown above, a player's most favorable situation occurs when they find a Pirate 21 game at an online casino in which a dealer stands on soft 17. If your selected online casino spreads Pirate 21 and the dealer hits on a soft 17, your option to re-double gives you a significantly better house advantage. This house edge is even lower compared to that of Blackjack when playing with optimal strategy.

Pirate 21 Optimal Strategy

Like in Blackjack, Pirate 21 can be classified into different optimal strategy tables. Hence, if you like visual memorization, you can get detailed charts that break down all the decision points you'll encounter in this game. Here are some mandates to help you play Pirate 21 optimally:

Stand and Hit

Ensure always to STAND whenever you have a hard 18 or greater or a soft 19 or greater. Ensure always to HIT whenever you have a hard 8, a hard 12, or a soft 15, 14, or 13.

Split Pairs

Ensure always to split when you have a pair of Aces, but avoid splitting a pair of 6s, 5s, or 4s. When you have a pair of 7s, 3s, or 2s, you shouldn't split unless the dealer shows a 7, 6, 5, 4, or 3 as his upcard.

Ensure always to split when you have a pair of 8s if the dealer doesn't show an Ace. Ensure to split when you have a pair of 9s while the dealer shows a 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, or 3 as his upcard.

Double Down

Ensure to double down whenever:

  • You have a soft 16 or hard 9, and the dealer shows a 16 as his up card
  • You have a hard 10 while the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
  • You have an 11 while the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8
  • You have a 2-card soft 17 while the dealer shows a 4
  • You have a soft 8 while the dealer shows a 6, 5, or 4.

Mobile Pirate 21

Mobile Pirate 21 is available for Android and iOS devices. Mobile blackjack lovers will have no issues playing this game on their tablet computers or Android smartphone.

IOS users can enjoy the game on their iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone devices. Several other mobile phones (Internet browser-enabled) are compatible with the game. We recommend playing at Vegas Aces though any smartphone as the mobile version of Pirate 21 is very responsive and offers smooth gameplay.

Consider the Optional Side Bet

It is essential to note that the side bet always increases the house advantage significantly. Several blackjack players would like to opt for a lower RTP (Return-to-Player) if they get an occasional 4:1 or a 9:1 payout. Consider the lower expected return when making a decision, but remember that this bet is optional.

Comparing Pirate 21 and Spanish 21 Games

When comparing Betsoft's Pirate 21 odds against Spanish 21 by Microgaming, the latter has better odds. That's because, in Spanish 21, players are allowed to re-double twice after the first double-down while Pirate 21 allows just one double-down. However, the odds are still below 1%, making it one of the most favorable table games for players.

Frequently Asked Questions

1Are Pirate 21 Games Rigged?
Online Pirate 21 is not rigged. Online casinos use an RNG (Random Number Generator) to control the outcomes of the game. The RNG randomly deals the cards. If you're concerned about the trustworthiness of an online gambling site, ensure it has a license and that an independent organization regularly audits its games. You can also use search engines and check for complaints and reviews about the site.
2Is Pirate 21 Available on Mobile Devices?
Yes. There are several ways to play the online Pirate 21 game for real money on your mobile device. Some casinos have mobile applications that you can download to play the game on the go. This game is available on both Android and iOS devices, though Android phones have a better chance of having a smooth-running app due to the operating system build.
3How Do I Play Pirate 21?
Pirate 21 and the Classic Blackjack have similar rules. The basic objective of the games is to make a total of 21 with your cards before the dealer can. But unlike the Classic Blackjack, where both the player and the dealer hitting 21 results in a tie (push), a player's natural in Pirate 21 is the winning hand.
4Can I Play Pirate 21 for Free?
There are several ways to play Pirate 21 for free. Most online casinos often welcome players to enjoy the free version of the game. They can take advantage of this free gameplay option to get used to the rules and strategies before putting in real money. That way, they'll also avoid user-initiated errors for fake money without burning their fingers.
5Do I Need to Download a Software to Play Pirate 21?
No. There's no need to download any software to play Pirate 21 online, thanks to several online casinos a "No Download" option of the game. It works via a mobile browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, and it's as responsive as the app and desktop versions. You'll also enjoy a similar user interface and graphic display.

Vegas Aces Pirate 21 Blackjack Reviews

Pirate 21 Blackjack Reviews
Average rating:  
 9 reviews
 by Showers Jane
Please keep it up guys!

This is an interesting game. It gives me the same adrenaline rush that I get when at a real casino. It is easy to play and extraordinarily enjoyable. The site interface is friendly without connection issues or annoying ads. Kudos to the Vegas Aces team for the great job they're doing. Please keep it up guys!

 by Emerald
Great job guys!

I have always been a lover of card games since high school. Although I won't consider myself an expert, I find myself so engrossed in this game you'd think I'm a newbie. I play it several times while at work on a pc, and on my mobile phone when I'm at home. It's so addictive. Lol. Great job guys!

 by Emmanuel
Just like you are playing in a real casino

I've played blackjack games all my life and can detect when the decks are intentionally stacked against me. This game is the first blackjack game I've played on my phone that is not rigged. It's so true to the real game, just like you are playing in a real casino. I would keep playing with real money at least to support developers who maintain their integrity.

 by Jamie Smart
I recommend this game

I am not used to reviewing online games, but this one is absolutely amazing! It is so fun and addictive that a week doesn't go by without me playing. It's definitely worth 5 stars from my end. The developers are doing a great job with the frequent updates. I recommend this game to blackjack lovers out there.

 by Sam Roy
I like this game so much!

I like this game so much. Although I am still learning, it has taught me how to be patient, calm, and calculative in everything I do. It has also helped me to understand the things that can go wrong in a real casino. While it's quite a challenging game, Pirate 21 seems to be better and more fun to play than the regular blackjack.

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