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Pirate 21 Guide

Pirate 21 Guide

If you’re hearing the “Pirate 21” 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 online table game. However, if you’re looking to learn more about the game, we’ve prepared a Pirate 21 Guide for you. Pirate 21 has a low house edge, but it comes with an interesting side bet and spicy payouts. Read this Pirate 21 Guide to learn about the basic game rules, how to play, the odds, the payouts, and the game’s strategies.

Pirate 21 Guide: Understanding What Pirate 21 Is

Pirate 21 Blackjack is an online table game developed by Betsoft. It’s also referred to as “Pontoon” (for Australian players) or “Spanish 21” — and both 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 in the latter.

History of the Game

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 the virtual or online casino 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. 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 21 doesn’t give players an ultimate edge against the house advantage, but you can reduce the house advantage to 0.76% with optimal strategy.

The best online casino reviews will testify that this game is as exciting as is rewarding, and you won’t ever want to miss it, next time you play at your favorite online casino.

Pirate 21 Guide | Learning How to Play

Playing Pirate 21 is simple, though mastering it can be more challenging. Below is a four-step casino guide on how to play a typical hand. You can repeat the steps to keep playing a 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 be sure to study the payout chart to understand your winning options.

You can also try playing Pirate 21 for free before doing it for real money. Many 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.

Pirate 21: Game Rules

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 cards. Players try to fill their hands with five or more cards equaling 21 as those hands earn big payouts.

  • 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: The 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. 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.


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.

Payout Chart

Here’s a simplified payout chart for Spanish 21:


Blackjack (Natural 21):

    • Player’s Blackjack (Natural 21): 3 to 2
    • Player’s 21 vs. Dealer’s 21: Push


Winning Hands:

    • Any 21 Total: 1 to 1
    • 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of Mixed Suits: 3 to 2
    • 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of the Same Suit: 2 to 1
    • 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 of Spades: 3 to 1


Doubling Down:

    • Double Down Any Number of Cards: Allowed
    • Double Down After Split: Allowed
    • Re-Double After Split: Allowed



    • Aces: One card dealt, no re-splitting
    • Other Pairs: Split up to three times, for a total of four hands



    • Late Surrender: Allowed


Please note that specific Spanish 21 variations and casino rules may have slight differences in payouts and gameplay. It’s essential to check the rules of the particular casino or online platform you’re playing on for precise details.

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. If you have six cards totaling 21, the payout becomes :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 – :1 payout
  • Mixed suits – 3: 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 casino 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, be sure to always check the website’s rules section before making your bet.

Side Bets

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 Side Bets

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

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.

Pirate 21 Guide: Winning Strategies

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 has 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 casino, it’s essential to note the rules set up for the game.

Our Pirate 21 Guide brings 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%
  • If the dealer HITS on soft 17 (eight decks) = 0.80%
  • When the dealer STANDS on soft 17 (six decks) = 0.37%
  • When a dealer STANDS on soft 17 (eight decks) = 0.38%
  • If the 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.

Pick An 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. This Pirate 21 Guide  brings your 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. Also, 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, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
  • You have an 11 while the dealer shows a, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8
  • You have a -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 smartphones. , On the other hand, 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 Casino through any smartphone as the mobile version of Pirate 21 is quite responsive and offers smooth gameplay.

Pirate 21 vs. Spanish 21 Games

When comparing Betsoft 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.

Chart Your Course to Pirate Riches

Pirate 21 is a captivating variation of the classic Blackjack game. While we can’t confirm if pirates actually played it, we’ve provided here some help for you to master the game. With its low house edge, intriguing side bets, and generous payouts, Pirate 21 offers an exciting gaming experience. By understanding the rules, strategies, and payout options, you can increase your chances of winning in this unique casino game. So, set sail on this thrilling adventure and explore Pirate 21 at your favorite online casino today!

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Pirate 21 Guide FAQs

Are 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.

Is 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.

How 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.

Can 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.

Do 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 and 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.