Matchplay 21 is a blackjack variation available across the vast majority of RealTime Gaming-powered online casinos. The game borrows most of its key rules from the standard version of 21 but the interesting thing here is that certain cards are removed from play.
This renders Matchplay 21 similar to Spanish Blackjack in terms of rules. Additionally, the game offers players the chance to score extra payouts on hands consisting of specific card combinations. The cool thing here is there is no need to expose more money to risk by posting side bets on these hand combinations.
Basic Rules and Payouts in Matchplay 21
RealTime Gaming’s take on Spanish 21 normally uses six decks of cards but this may vary depending on which casino you play at, the reason being deck number is configurable in this developer’s software.
With that said, each deck in play consists of 48 cards only because the 10s are removed. Other than that, the rules resemble those in the traditional version of the game. Players’ cards are dealt face-up whereas the dealer exposes only one of their two starting cards.
Similarly to most other blackjack variations created by RealTime Gaming, Matchplay 21 requires the virtual dealer to hit soft 17, which is slightly detrimental to the player. Players have a choice from the standard playing actions of hitting or standing on their hands, doubling and splitting.
Late surrender is also an option in Matchplay 21. You can forfeit your hand and are reimbursed with half of your original bet after the dealer has checked their hole card for a blackjack when showing an Ace.
Insurance is offered in this case and requires you to post an additional side bet, equal to half your initial wager. If the dealer has a blackjack indeed, your insurance side bet earns you a payout of 2 to 1 but you lose your original wager. This way you essentially break even during this round.
However, if you buy insurance but the dealer does not have a natural, you lose your insurance bet and play continues as normal. Blackjacks earn you the standard payout of 3 to 2 in Matchplay 21. Moreover, player hands that add up to 21 are always automatic winners regardless of what the dealer has. Regular winning hands pay out 1 to 1, or even money.
Payouts for Special Hands in Matchplay 21
As we previously explained, Matchplay 21 awards additional payouts for hands consisting of certain card combinations. The good thing here is players are not forced to risk extra side bets to benefit from these additional payouts. They are automatically awarded for the following hands:
- 40 to 1 for hands of three suited 7s when the dealer also shows a 7
- 3 to 1 for hands consisting of seven or more cards that add up to 21
- 3 to 1 for hands consisting of three 7s of spades
- 3 to 1 for totals of 21 with 6, 8, and 7 of spades
- 2 to 1 for three suited 7s of clubs, hearts, or diamonds
- 2 to 1 for 21 made with suited 6, 8, and 7 of clubs, hearts, and diamonds
- 2 to 1 for six-card 21
- 3 to 2 for any combination of three 7s
- 3 to 2 for 21 with 6,8, and 7 of any suit
- 3 to 2 for five-card 21
Splitting Options in Matchplay 21
When dealt a pair of cards, Matchplay 21 players have the option to split those into two separate hands by posting an additional bet to cover the second hand. This bet is equal to the amount they have originally wagered.
Each split hand automatically receives a card and you again can hit, stand, surrender, or double. Pairs of unlike ten-value cards (like Q-K, for example) can also be split. The game allows players to split only once to form two hands. When splitting pairs of Aces, you are permitted to draw more cards on each of your two hands, which is otherwise unavailable in standard blackjack games.
Doubling Rules in Matchplay 21
Doubling down rules are very liberal in Matchplay 21, which further increases the appeal of the game. Players are permitted to exercise this decision on any total as long as the hand is not busted. You can do this on any number of cards. By doubling, you must place an additional bet equal to your original one. In exchange, you are entitled to receive only one more card. Doubling down is also possible after a split.
House Edge and RTP
The removal of the 10s from play works to the detriment of the player because it translates into fewer cards they can make blackjacks, successful splits and doubles with. Despite this, the game still yields a reasonably low house edge due to its other favorable rules.
The exact advantage the house gets is closely related to the number of decks in play. As we said in the beginning, the RealTime Gaming software enables online casino operators to configure the number of decks the blackjack games play with.
The higher the deck number, the higher the house edge. Many operators choose to incorporate the standard six-deck shoe into Matchplay 21, which yields a house advantage of 0.73%. Respectively, this percentage corresponds to an average return to player of 99.27%.
Strategy and Tips
Most of the basic strategy decisions from conventional blackjack carry over Matchplay 21. For instance, insurance is always a bad bet for basic strategy players. They must always split pairs of 8s and Aces as well as always double down on totals of 11 against the dealer’s exposed ten-value card and Ace.
However, the doubling down strategy here is affected by the number of cards in your hand because of the additional payouts awarded for some combinations. For example, you should double on 10 against the dealer’s deuce or 3 but only if your hand consists of four cards. Doubling on 11 against 7, 8 or 9 is recommended on hands made of three cards.
The extra payouts awarded for triple 7s have an impact on players’ splitting decisions as well. You must split 7s against dealer upcards deuce through 3 and hit against 8 through Ace. Paired 7s are split against a dealer 7 as well but only if the pair is offsuit.