Making the most of, and making decisions based off, the “dealer must stand at” rule in blackjack (commonly they must stand at 17)

With the popularity of online blackjack soaring to unprecedented levels, it’s probably a good time for enthusiasts of the game to take a deeper dive into that “dealer must stand at…” rule. There are plenty of general “How to play blackjack” guides out there on the Net (here’s a brief sample from just one UK-based newspaper). But since your game can stand or fall around how you respond to the “dealer must stand at” rule, it seems worthwhile to spend a little time on understanding it. 

So, without further ado, here goes.

Just what is the “dealer must stand at…” rule? Well the ‘at’ usually refers to a hand value of 17 but it has two forms, “hard” and “soft”, depending on whether one of the dealer’s cards is an ace.That’s because an ace can either be counted as a 1 or an 11, so its value is “softer” (more malleable” than a number or face card, which is always fixed.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. As a player, you’re free to use your judgment to decide whether you want to stand, split, hit or double down – but that freedom doesn’t extend to the dealer (the one you’re trying to beat). The general rule is that a dealer must always hit if the total card value is 16 or under butmust stand if the total is 17 or above.

If the value of the dealer’s hand is “hard” – i.e., composed of cards other than an ace –the dealer must always stand; but some casinos require the dealer to hit if the total includes an ace. This “soft 17” increases the odds in favor of the dealer (because he or she gets more options) and decreases the odds for the player.

So how do you respond to the “Soft 17” rule? The short answer is that you need a basic strategy, a set of guiding principles orrules that you’ve learnt so thoroughly that they come to you spontaneously whenever the conditions we’re about to describe crop up in a game. 

Please take note: if you haven’t got a workable basic strategy, you’re handing the house much, much better odds against you, because you’re far more likely to start making impulsive mistakes. 

Most of the principles that follow can be applied to “hard” dealer hand values (i.e. hands that don’t include an ace) but things get more complicated with the Soft 17 rule. 

The shrewdest advice – bearing in mind that there are no final certainties in blackjack apart from busting, folding and winning –is to double down if you have an 11 when the dealer has an ace. The same applies if the dealer has a six and you have a “soft 19” (ace plus 8) and if the dealer has a 2 and you have a soft 18 (ace plus 7).

Now all you need to do is put it into practice. Why not take your virtual seat at the online blackjack table at the swanky new online PayPal Casino? The site not only offers all the advantages of the world’s most trusted, convenient and famous payment service, it also sports an impressive portfolio of casino games from top developers. Enjoy!