In blackjack, the dealer is required to hit if he has 16 or less with his cards and has to stand with 17 or more. Are these rules modified if one of the dealer’s cards is an ace?
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When a player is dealt an Ace in Blackjack, the dealer takes the top card off the deck and places it on the bottom of the deck. The closest card to the top of the deck is used to determine if the Ace is a “natural” card, meaning it is the Ace of spades or the Ace of hearts.
What follows is the accurate playing strategy for any hand when the dealer shows an Ace upcard. Notations used in this article: S17 = Dealer must stand on soft 17 H17 = Dealer must hit soft 17 DAS = Doubling down after pair splitting is allowed NDAS = Doubling down after pair splitting is not allowed H = Hit S = Stand P = Split
A common rule for casino tables is that the dealer must hit on a Soft 17 (meaning a hand with a value of 17, containing an Ace valued 11) - if they were operating under rules as suggested in the question, that would make the Ace the worst draw for a dealer (and therefore the casino), as a 17 containing an Ace would mean only a 2, 3 or 4 would not make them bust.
If the dealer hits over 21, or busts, all remaining player hands win the round. If they do no bust, then the players' hands that are higher than the dealer wins and the ones who are lower loses. Dealers never split, double, or surrender as that is against the rules of a dealer in blackjack.
However, the dealer draws to more hands than you do. In the situation my email correspondent described, the dealer will hit 14 every time, because the dealer is required to hit all totals of 16 or less. If you have 14, you'll hit only if the dealer's up card is 7 or higher.
If the dealer deals you two cards with the same blackjack card value, the rules of blackjack say you may “split” them into two separate hands by placing another bet equal to your initial wager. For example, virtually all players of 21 will split a pair of Aces by placing an additional bet to create two potentially winning hands.
All else being equal your odds are better when the dealer stands on soft 17. Most blackjack players are oblivious to whether the dealer stands or hits on soft 17. Dealer stands on soft 17 was the standard rule in years past, but a growing number of casinos now require the dealer to hit on soft 17 (hands like Ace, 6).