The great dilemma of blackjack is knowing when to hit and when to stand, and at almost no other time can this be more perplexing than when dealt a hand of 17.
In basic blackjack strategy, the worldwide consensus supports the same idea; never hit on 17. Players are advised to always stand on a hand of 17 (and higher), as hands of this value are considered strong enough, while the chances of improving your total is slim, and busting is likely.
The dealer’s hand also must reach at least 17 before he/she stops drawing cards, so when landing a hand with a value of 17, the dealer has only four possible totals which can beat your hand value. If the dealer is showing a 7 up-card, it’s a good chance his/her next card will be worth 10 – if this is the case, you’ve essentially levelled yourself with the dealer and a push will take place.
There are two variations to the basic rules of blackjack that determine how the dealer must proceed with a hand of 17. The most common rule is the dealer is required to stand on all 17s, which reinforces the importance of a player not to take a hit on a 17. Some games and casinos enlist the rule of dealer hitting on a soft-17, which will increase the house edge against the player by by about 0.22 per cent.
Most experienced blackjack players know a 17 hand against a dealers eight, nine, 10 or Ace puts you in a difficult position for a win. The pressure of this moment can make it tempting to take a hit, but recommended blackjack strategy advises you are best to stand, in the hope the dealer busts (as opposed to you attempting to collect a Four or less, which would leaves you in a high-risk position to bust).
The difference between hard 17 and soft 17
When dealt a blackjack hand of 17, it will either be a soft-17 or a hard-17. But what exactly is the difference between the two, and are there any differences to how these hands should be played?
Hard-17 – a hard 17 is a hand made up by any variety of cards, excluding an Ace (or where the Ace must be valued at one point), which reaches a total value of 17. It could be made up of any number of combinations, including a 10-valued card and a Seven, a Seven, Nine and an Ace (dealt in that specific order), a Five, 10-valued card and a Deuce, etcetera. A hard-17 is considered a strong hand, yet is the poorest hard total players are recommended to stand on. The most heeded blackjack advice tells players never to hit on a Hard 17.
Soft-17 – a soft-17 is a hand with a value of 17, but one which can also be counted as a total value of seven (hand must have an Ace). In blackjack, the Ace can be played at either a value of one or 11, so in direct contrast to the advice given for hard 17s, players are advised to hit on a soft-17. Hitting is recommended due to the versatile nature of this hand. If the Ace is played at a value of one, your hand is worth seven, so taking another card makes it impossible to bust. If you are dealt a small value card of Four or less, this puts you in a strong position, anyway. Examples of a soft-17 could include being dealt (in the following orders) an Ace and a Six, a Three, Ace and a Deuce, and a number of other combinations.
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As with any other move in blackjack, it all comes down to correct strategy. Good judgement will tell you to hammer these words into your head: do not hit on a hard-17. There are of course times where hitting on a hard-17 would result in a fabulous outcome, but the risk-reward factor is too high.