Understanding the strategic moments in blackjack when the dealer is mandated to draw more cards, often referred to as “hitting,” is crucial for any enthusiast of this widespread casino game. A solid grasp of these rules can significantly elevate your gameplay and betting strategy. This quick guide will shed light on the essentials of “when does the dealer have to hit in blackjack,” incorporating basic rules and strategies to enhance your game.

The Basic Rule: Dealer’s Hit

In the realm of blackjack, the actions of the dealer are governed by a set of predetermined rules which dictate whether they must hit or stand. Unlike players, the dealer has no freedom to make strategic decisions. The most commonly adhered-to rule in casinos across the globe is:

  • If the dealer’s hand totals 16 or less, they must hit.
  • If the dealer’s hand totals 17 or more, they must stand.

Variations on When the Dealer Hits

While the above guidelines serve as a fundamental framework, variations exist, most notably concerning the “soft 17.” Understanding these differences is paramount for players to adapt their strategies effectively.

Soft 17 Rule

A “soft 17” consists of an ace (which can be counted as 11 or 1) and another card(s) summing to 6. Casinos specify in their rules whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17:

Rule Action
Dealer stands on all 17s The dealer does not hit a soft 17.
Dealer hits soft 17 The dealer must hit if they have a soft 17.

This distinction is crucial as it affects the house edge. Generally, games where the dealer hits on soft 17 offer a slightly higher edge to the casino.

Strategies for Players

Knowing when the dealer is bound to hit allows players to fine-tune their blackjack strategy. Here are a few tips:

  • Adjust your strategy based on whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17.
  • When the dealer shows a card that mandates a hit (e.g., anything between 2 and 6), consider standing more often, especially if your hand totals 12 or higher.
  • Leverage the knowledge of the dealer’s constraints to decide on doubling down or splitting pairs.


Grasping the intricacies of “when does the dealer have to hit in blackjack” empowers players to make more informed decisions, potentially swaying the odds in their favor. By understanding and adapting to the dealer’s actions, along with a bit of strategy and luck, you position yourself for a more rewarding blackjack experience.