You are playing blackjack and you are dealt an ace and a deuce.
The dealer points at your two cards and says “three or thirteen”.
So — is your score 3 or 13? And if you take a card, and the dealer gives you a ten, do you bust and lose?
Card values in blackjack
In blackjack, a deuce has a value of two. An eight has a value of eight. A ten… ten. Pretty straightforward, right?
In other words, in blackjack all number cards (deuce to ten) count as their index.
On the other hand, picture cards — jacks, queens, and kings — count as ten.
This makes it easy for the blackjack dealer (and player) to add up the total score quickly. Imagine doing that if each picture card had a different value.
There is no suit order, and it doesn’t matter whether you are dealt, say, a queen of hearts or a queen of clubs. The value of the card is exactly the same.
The only exception would be if you were playing a blackjack side bet where if your first two cards and the dealer’s card are in order and have the same suit (a straight flush), you win.
An ace is worth 1 OR 11 in blackjack
With aces, it’s a bit different. But don’t worry, it’s still super easy.
In blackjack, an ace is worth either 1 or 11 — the player gets to choose. For example, if you get dealt an ace and a five, the dealer will announce: “six or sixteen”. If you have an ace and a deuce, that would be either three or thirteen.
Let’s say the dealer has a weak card. You have an ace and a five and you decide to stay (not to take any more cards).
In this case, your score will be 16.
Now, let’s say you have an ace and a seven, and you decide to double down and take one card only. And you get dealt a king.
In this case, your score isn’t 28, but 18. This is because if you had 28, you would bust and lose instantly.
The ace is 1 or 11 depending on which card you draw, and it always works in your favor. If you have an ace and a number card (deuce to nine) you have what’s called a “soft hand” and you cannot bust.
An ace and a picture card will always equal 21 — the dealer won’t offer you any more cards because that’s a blackjack, which is the strongest hand and it guarantees you win, unless the dealer has a blackjack as well.
Soft hands vs hard hands in blackjack
Unless you have a blackjack, if one of your first two cards is an ace then you have a soft hand. This means there are two possible scores, and if you decide to hit (take one more card), you cannot bust.
If there is no ace, then you have a hard hand. This means the total score of your hand cannot change unless you hit. For example, a four and an eight will always equal 12.
If you are dealt two aces, that’s a soft hand as well — two or twelve.
Does the blackjack dealer draw on soft 17?
As a blackjack player, you can hit or stand on any hand.
Now, as explained, if you have 21, or a blackjack, then you cannot take any more cards. And why would you, right?
Plus, some casinos have a rule where you cannot double down on, say, a hard 17 or higher. And again, no reason to do that.
But in general, the player can stand, hit, split, or double down based on their own decision.
The blackjack dealer, on the other… hand (no pun intended) must follow the blackjack drawing rules.
The dealer must stand at a score of 17 or higher. But what about a soft 17? For example, what if the dealer has an ace, a three, and another three?
The answer is that the blackjack dealer usually stands on a soft 17 as well.
But depending on where you play, you may see the dealer take a card on a soft 17, and again this depends purely on the casino rules. It is not the dealer themselves who decides what to do.
Is ace 1 or 11 in poker?
Poker is a completely different game, but a casino game nevertheless so I thought I’d mention this.
In poker, the value of a hand is worked out differently. There is no 17 or 21, but pairs, flushes, straights, and so on.
Still, the rule about the value of an ace in poker is kind of similar to the one in blackjack.
In poker, the ace is the highest card. A pair of aces beats a pair of tens. An ace-high flush beats a king-high flush (suit order is irrelevant in this case).
Now, if you have a straight, then the ace can be the lowest card.
This would be a “wheel” — an ace, a deuce, a three, a four, and a five. Which is a five-high straight.
An ace-high straight would be an ace, a king, a queen, a jack, and a ten.
- In blackjack, aces are 1 or 11. If one of your first two cards is an ace, you have a soft hand, which means you cannot bust.
- If you have an ace and a picture card, that’s a blackjack, which is the best possible hand, so you cannot (and should not) take any more cards.
- The blackjack dealer must stand on 17 and this almost always includes a soft 17 as well.
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