When Does the Dealer Have to Hit in Blackjack? Unpacking the Rules

Jacob Frink
By Jacob Frink 4 Min Read

Understanding the rules of blackjack is crucial for any player looking to beat the dealer and win big. One of the most common questions among beginners and seasoned players alike is: When does the dealer have to hit in blackjack? This guide will unpack the rules, shedding light on this essential aspect of the game, and provide you with insights that could potentially leverage your game strategy.

The Basic Rule of Dealer’s Play

In the game of blackjack, the dealer’s actions are bound by a set of predetermined rules which determine when they must take a hit. Unlike players, the dealer does not enjoy the liberty to base their actions on strategy or intuition. Let’s dive into these rules.

Understanding ‘Soft’ vs. ‘Hard’

Before delving into the specifics, it’s crucial to distinguish between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ hands. A soft hand contains an Ace counted as 11 without busting the hand, while a hard hand does not include an Ace counting as 11. This difference significantly influences the dealer’s decision to hit.

Dealer Hits on 16 or Less

  • Hard 17 and Above: The dealer must stand on all hands of hard 17 and above.
  • Soft 17: Depending on the casino rules, the dealer might be required to hit on a soft 17 (i.e., Ace-6).
  • 16 or Less: The dealer has to hit on any hand totaling 16 or less, regardless of the hand being soft or hard.

Variations in Casino Rules

Casino rules regarding when a dealer hits can vary, impacting your strategy. It’s imperative to be aware of these variations before you start playing.

Casino Rule Dealer Action on Soft 17
Hit Soft 17 Dealer must hit
Stand on All 17s Dealer stands on all 17s, including soft 17

Strategic Implications

Understanding when the dealer has to hit allows players to make more informed decisions about their own gameplay. For instance, knowing that a dealer must hit on 16 or less can influence whether you decide to take a risk and hit on a 15 or stand and hope the dealer busts.

Tips for Playing with Dealer Hit Rules

  • Always check the table rules regarding the dealer’s action on a soft 17.
  • Adjust your strategy based on whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17.
  • Remember, strategies like card counting can be more effective depending on these rules.


The rule dictating when a dealer must hit in blackjack profoundly affects how the game unfolds. By familiarizing yourself with these rules and understanding their strategic implications, you’re one step closer to mastering blackjack. Remember, whether you’re in a Las Vegas casino or playing online, the secret to success lies not just in knowing the rules but also in knowing how to use them to your advantage.

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