When Dealer Needs to Hit in Blackjack : Complete Guide | LeoVegas

When Does a Dealer Have to Hit in Blackjack: A Comprehensive Guide

In casino blackjack games, it’s all about you versus the dealer. Even if you have blackjack, if the dealer matches you, the chips you hoped for, won’t be coming your way. While the dealer essentially represents the house, they have the odd handcuff preventing them from holding too much of an edge.

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One such table rule, is when the dealer has to hit and when they have to stand. It’s a vital part of play and is why so many players ask: When does the dealer have to hit in blackjack? Table rules may vary, but as a general rule, the dealer has to hit in blackjack on any number below 17.

Still, it’s important to know not only when the dealer has to hit in blackjack, but also how it effects your game. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide on beat the dealer when hitting in blackjack.


Dealer’s Hand in Blackjack

Before grasping when the dealer has to hit in most casino blackjack games, it is important to comprehend a few components that contribute to the dealer's hand.

To begin with, it is crucial to differentiate between the up card and the hole card. The hole card refers to the first card dealt to the dealer, which remains facedown on the table.

The up card is the dealer's visible card that is dealt face down card side-up on the table for all players to see. It provides crucial information for players to make strategic decisions in the game of blackjack.

After dealing two up cards playing blackjack to each player, the dealer will then deal themselves an up card – which you can see at all times. Before your turn, the dealer will check their hole card for blackjack, keeping it hidden from your view. You won’t get to see the whole card until you and your fellow players have completed all of your moves.

One of the most important cards you may see the dealer holding as their up card, is an ace. Aces can be played as one or 11, and so, they’re deemed as 'soft cards'. A hand that includes an ace is considered to be soft because it could have one of two values. Hard hands are any hand without an ace, as they have a set value.

The dealer’s hand can impact your approach. If it’s an ace, the dealer just might have blackjack. In this case, players get the chance to place an insurance side bet to cover the turn of a 21 from the dealer. Other than that, you are looking to see how likely the dealer is to stand or need to hit and potentially go bust.

Rules for Dealer Hitting in Blackjack

If you’re wondering when the dealer has to hit in blackjack, you should first consult the text on the table. Often above the blackjack pays line, it will read “Dealer stands on X,” and perhaps also “Dealer draws to X.” Essentially, the dealer has to hit play blackjack until they get a value of the “draws to” number, but not once they get to the “stands on” value.

Using Multihand Blackjack as an example, the online blackjack table reads, 'Dealer must stand on 17 and draw to 16'. If their dealer's hole card and up card combine for a value of 13, the dealer has to hit. If the next card out is a two, making a hand of 15, the dealer has to hit again. However, if that first card out was a four or higher, the dealer would be forced to stand.

The rule of “Dealer must stand on 17” is the standard for online and casino games of blackjack, bar a few variants. At land-based casinos however, the rules on when the dealer has to hit vary. Predominantly, this centres on if they must stand on all 17s or hit soft 17. The former of these two increases the already low house edge of blackjack by around 0.22%, so the former is preferred.

Understanding Soft Hands

A soft hand in blackjack is any hand that features an ace. Aces can be treated as ones or 11s, depending on which option wouldn’t make your hand bust. As an example, if you are dealt an ace and an eight, your hand could either be nine or 19.

Most would stand here, but anyone who fancies a five-card trick will treat it as a nine-hand and draw again. If your hand features five cards without exceeding 21, you get paid immediately and ignore the dealer’s hand. However, it’s quite an unlikely play, especially from a dealer plays a starting hand of ace and eight.

For the dealer, a soft hand means the same; they can play it as a hand with a one or an 11. When the dealer’s rule is to hit on soft 17, rather than the usual stand on 17, their chances of getting a hand of 18 or higher increase to a greater degree than their chances of going bust.

Understanding Hard Hands

More often than not, you and the dealer will have a hard hand. This is when you’re dealt a hand that doesn’t feature an ace. Twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, sevens, eights, nines, and tens are all valued as shown, while jacks, queens, and kings are all also valued at ten. There isn’t any room to maneuver on these values.

Dealers are treated the same as players for hard-hand rules. So, a hard hand must be hit on, or drawn on. Usually, it will be to stand on 17 and draw to 16. If the hard hand reads 15 under these rules, the dealer has to hit.

Other Rules that Affect the Dealer’s Hitting

While the soft 17 hit or 17 stand dealer hitting rules are the headline differences between tables, they can also be packaged with other rule changes that affect the play and the dealer’s hitting. Insurance can come even money into play if the dealer’s up card is an ace.

Taking insurance means that you place a side bet of half the value of your original bet. If the ace is joined by a ten-value card, insurance pays at 2:1. This would be blackjack for both the player and dealer and mean that they won’t hit. Equally, not getting 21 would give the dealer a soft hand that they’d likely have to hit on.

Alternatively, the dealer’s up card could give you enough confidence to double down. If doubling down is available, the bar for the dealer to stand tends to be any 17, meaning that they draw to 16. The ideal time to double down is when you have a hard nine or soft 16, 17, or 18 against the dealer’s card of two to six, or if you have a hard ten card, or 11 against the dealer’s card of nine or lower.

Splitting pairs is the other common play available to blackjack players. Like doubling down, as they haven’t got a bet, blackjack dealers can’t split. You can split when you’re dealt a pair, which you should always do if your hand is a pair of eights or aces. For the dealer, the play remains the same and is based on the value of their hand.

Variations of Blackjack and Dealer Hitting Rules

With different variations of blackjack, the dealer’s hitting rules can be altered to cater to additional side bets and plays. One of the most popular formats of blackjack variants is European Blackjack. In this game, the table reads that the dealer must hit the stand on all 17s, and double down, split, and insurance are also in the game.

It carries a different name, but Spanish 21 tends to follow the usual dealer-hitting rules as the most popular blackjack formats. In Spanish 21, the first dealer's upcard stands on 17 and hits on 16, but it differs as all of the ten cards are removed from the deck, and there are side bets that allow you to win if your hand has cards matching the dealer's.

On the table games page, you’ll also spot our range of blackjack variants from Felt. In all of these blackjack games that specialize in offering unique side bet opportunities, from Buster Blackjack to Suit’em up Blackjack, have the same rules for when the dealer hits in blackjack, which is that the dealer must stand on soft 17.

Dealer Hitting FAQs

What is the minimum and maximum number of cards a dealer can hit in blackjack?

A dealer might not need to hit in a blackjack game if they have a hand that exceeds the table’s rule for standing and hitting.

The maximum number of cards would depend on the possibility of continually drawing a card counting and low cards from a multiple-deck shoe.

Overall, the dealer must continue to draw until they hit or exceed the table rule count, regardless of the number of cards in their hand.

What happens if the dealer busts?

If the dealer busts in blackjack, all other players who haven’t gone bust in dealer blackjack, regardless of hand value, win.

Can the dealer change the rules for hitting during the game?

The dealer cannot change the rules for hitting during the game. They must abide by the written rules on the table at all times.

How does the number of decks in play affect the dealer’s hitting?

The number of decks in play doesn’t affect the dealer’s hitting as an action as they have to hit up to or beyond a set hand value. On the flip side, the number of decks in play should affect a player’s decision to partake at each table.

Does the dealer have to hit on 17?

Usually, the dealer does not have to hit on 17. On most tables, dealers must stand on 17 or above and draw to 16.

Is it better if the dealer hits on soft 17?

It is not better if the dealer hits on soft 17. It has been found that while the chance of going bust does increase by around 0.4%, the dealer also gets a 0.8% boost on their chances to draw to 18, 19, 20, or 21 when compared to dealers who must stand on any 17.

Does the dealer hit on 16 or 17?

At most blackjack tables, the rule is that the dealer stands on 17 and draws to 16. This means that the dealer will hit on 16, as they can only stop drawing from the shoe at 17 under these rules.

Can dealers use blackjack basic strategy?

Some dealers might know blackjack basic strategy, however, unlike players, they do not benefit from it. Dealers use specific blackjack rules that are set by each casino.

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