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What to do when the dealer hits soft 17 in blackjack

Profile Picture: Simon Young

October 30th, 2020

Blackjack is a simple game to play, but most novices wrongly believe following a solid blackjack strategy must be hard. That’s far from the case. The simple rule, which will improve your win rate, is that when the dealer looks weak, with a poor upcard, you can stand on more cards, and when the dealer looks strong, you should look to get your total higher and take more risks.

It’s a fact that the house edge in blackjack can be as high as 4-5% for a poor player. But that tumbles to as low as 0.5% if you play a sound strategy.

However, even experienced blackjack players can make strategy mistakes, especially when it comes to how the dealer plays a soft 17.

What is soft 17 in blackjack?

An ace is worth either one or 11 in blackjack. That means when you have two cards, and one is an ace, you have a choice of totals to work with. If, for example, you have an ace and a three, you have either a total of four or 14. You can take a card and then decide which total to use after that.

You become accustomed to how to play soft aces soon enough. But what about the dealer? He can play soft aces just the same as you. But there is one significant difference. In most casino blackjack games, a dealer must take a card if he hits 16 or below and stand at 17 or above.

Some tables, though, say the dealer must hit soft 17, meaning he has a chance to increase his score up to 21.

If you’re looking for examples of soft 17 in blackjack, let’s consider this scenario: the dealer’s upcard is a 6, and you have a total of nine and double down, bagging a ten when you take a card. Now you have a good total of 19 and have twice the size of your initial bet on the table. But what if the dealer then turns over an ace, making his total a soft 17? If he was forced to stand at this point, you win the hand, and all is good in the world. But if he is allowed to play on, imagine that he turns a two, making 19 and achieving a push. Or worse, he gets a three or four, making a winning total of 20 or 21.

He might, of course, get a card like a five. His score is now 22, which he declines, of course, but he takes the lower total of 12 instead (his initial low score of seven, plus the five). He now takes another card or two and can feasibly top your score that way.

All in all, the ability to play on with soft 17 can be the dealer’s get out of jail card.

Smart mathematicians have worked out that this adds a 0.2% figure to the casino house edge. If you are a skilled player who has routinely got the house edge down to around 0.5%, then the 0.2% increase is not insignificant.

Therefore, the astute blackjack player will try to avoid blackjack tables where the dealer can hit on soft 17. The rules will be clear on each table at online and live casinos so that you can take your pick. At BetAmerica, for example, most of the tables do not allow the dealer to hit on soft 17. So breathe easy.

When it coms to blackjack, would you rather be lucky or good?

Put your blackjack knowledge to the test

If you fancy your chances at blackjack – and we would advise you to read our how to play blackjack guide – then sign up for an account at BetAmerica. You can even play the table games for free until you get comfortable with the rules. Then you can make your first deposit and experience the thrill of real-money gaming.

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