Blackjack Strategies Change with Dealer RulesBy: Rick Balding, Wednesday October 7th 2009
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In blackjack the dealer draws his cards as per the set rules of the game. However these rules vary from casino to casino. The main point of difference arises when the dealer has a hand value of 17. In all variants of blackjack the dealer stands if he has a hard 17. A hard 17 implies that the dealer does not have an ace or if he has an ace it is constrained to take the value of 1. However, when the dealer has a soft 17 the rules differ. According to the rules prevalent in some casinos the dealer has to stand, whereas the rules in other casinos state that the dealer has to hit when he has a soft 17. A soft 17 is a hand with an ace that has a value of 11. However when additional cards are taken the value of the ace can become 1.
When the dealer hits on a soft 17 it gives him an advantage because there is a possibility of increasing his hand value. The following example illustrates this. Let us say that dealer has an ace and a six. The ace has a value of 11 and the six has a value of 6. This gives a hand value of 17. After hitting let us say that the dealer draws a five. His hand value does not become 22 because the ace can now take a value of 1. Therefore the dealer’s new hand value is 12. The dealer can draw another card and let us say that it is an eight. Therefore his final hand value becomes 20. The dealer’s hand value will not always increase when he has a soft 17. However the chances of the hand value increasing are greater. Therefore the player has to adopt a more defensive strategy when playing blackjack where the dealer hits on a soft 17.
Separate blackjack strategy cards are prepared for the cases where the dealer hits on a soft 17 and where the dealer stands on a soft 17. A comparison of the strategy cards indicates how the player’s strategy changes. When the dealer stands on a soft 17 and the player has a hand value of 9 and the dealer’s face up card ranges from a three to a six the player is in a very strong position and should double. However with the same cards but dealer hitting on a soft 17 the player’s position becomes weaker and he should not double but simply hit.
Another similar example is when the player has a hand value ranging from a soft 13 to a soft 18 and the dealer’s face up card is a five or a six. With the dealer standing on a soft 17 the player is in a very strong position and should double. However if the dealer hits on a soft 17 the player cannot be as aggressive and should not double but merely take another card.
Online casinos offer a large number of blackjack variants and before players start to wager they should check out the rule for the dealer. Generally speaking online blackjack variants based on Atlantic City rules, Vegas Strip rules and European Blackjack rules have the dealer standing on totals of soft 17. Vegas Downtown rules and Spanish Blackjack rules have the dealer hitting on totals of soft 17. In the first instance players should avoid blackjack variants where the dealer hits on soft 17 because these variants have a significantly higher house edge. However should the player wager on these games he should remember to switch to the less aggressive strategy.
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