There was a time when blackjack came in just a few basic forms. Those times are behind us and online casino players can now enjoy dozens of different blackjack variants for real money.

Have you heard of Pirate 21? You probably have, since you’re here trying to find out how to play it. Pirate 21 is one of the interesting blackjack types, one that is less common but certainly intriguing, considering the addition of the side bet. So, here’s the approach in the nutshell.

Rules of the Game

Rules of the Game

Pirate 21 is played with 6 decks and the object of the game is no different than your standard variety of blackjack. As a player, you are expected to compose a hand that is the closest to a total of 21, but you must not exceed this limit, otherwise, you automatically lose.

While trying to do this, you must also have a higher hand total than the dealer. If you form a hand that totals on 21, you have blackjack and you win.

This is a multi-hand game in which you can play up to 3 or 4 hands in a single round. The decision-making process still relies on the regular options like hit, stand, double down and split.

Dealer always hits on soft 17 and can peek for blackjack. You may double down at any time, even after split. Re-splitting Aces is allowed, and you can hit and double down after splitting Aces.

Late surrender is also an option, as well as surrendering after double down (double down rescue).

The Quirks of Pirate 21

The Quirks of Pirate 21

Pirate 21 is called like that because it uses “pirate” decks, or Spanish decks. This means all 10s are eliminated from the game. The decks, therefore, contain 48 cards instead of 52, and the card ranking skips from 9 to Jack.

The absence of 10s makes it more difficult to achieve natural blackjack, but that is why other game rules have been slightly modified to favor the player and not let the house advantage grow too high.



Pirate 21 offers payouts on specific hands that are not common with traditional Vegas blackjack games. Special payouts apply to your standard initial wager and do to obligate you to make a side bet.

Blackjack pays 3:2 (2-card 21), and the winning hand (including 3-card and 4-card blackjack) pays even odds.

6-7-8 Mixed Suits and 7-7-7 Mixed Suits pay 3:2, yet 6-7-8 All Spades and 7-7-7 All Spades pay 3:1. However, these payoffs do not apply if they are results of double down.

Match the Dealer Side Bet

Match the Dealer Side Bet

In Pirate 21, you can take the side bet that wins if one of your initial two cards matches the dealer’s upcard.

Suits play an important role here – if the matching card is of a different suit, the side bet pays 4:1; if one of your cards matches the dealer’s card facing up in both value and suit, the side bet pays at 9:1 odds. When both cards match, the higher outcome will be paid.

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