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Everywhere I read manuals it focuses my options as a player. I can't figure out if the dealer knows his hidden card or not? Of course, when dealer has 10 or Ace showing, he checks if he's got a blackjack, right?

What are the dealer's options?

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3 Answers

Blackjack dealers have no options, they follow a strict algorithm that will depend on their casino. The dealer waits until the players have exercised all their options, then the dealer reveals his hidden card and hits until he has at least 17 (most common).

The only variation I'm familiar with is a rule where the dealer will hit a soft 17 (any 17 with an Ace taking the value 11--denoted "H17" for Hit 17, as opposed to "S17" for Stand 17), but this is not the dealer's choice, it will be determined by the casino. According to Wikipedia, this rule will generally be printed on the table if it is being used, and it hurts players. Wikipedia phrases it the other direction: going from H17 to S17. "Substituting an "H17" rule with an "S17" rule in a game benefits the player, decreasing the house edge by about 0.2%"

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+1 nice summary. –  Colin D May 21 '13 at 17:12
    
@ColinD Thanks! –  Gregor May 21 '13 at 17:16
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The dealer knows what both of his cards are.

In casino play, the dealer has no options. He always has to hit values below 16/17 (the exact number varies by casino), and has to stay when his cards are higher.

In non-casino play, often the dealer is just another player and has the same options as you. This is not really blackjack and will not use the same strategies as casino blackjack.

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Playing with a dealer that has the same options as players would seem to be to be so different from normal blackjack that you couldn't even compare the two. The majority of blackjack strategy is based on decisions based on being able to see 1 (and only 1) of the dealer's cards, and the rules they have to follow. –  bwarner May 21 '13 at 18:13
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@bwarner, I agree, but it does not stop people from calling it blackjack. I have seen it enough in informal settings to where I think it is relevant to include. Hopefully I have edited my answer enough to clarify this. –  Colin D May 21 '13 at 18:18
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The dealer first has to determine if he has blackjack. This is done by having the 10 pointers and Ace being marked in a way that the dealer can tell if it is a blackjack but otherwise can't tell. (Note that the dealer can't tell if they have two aces or 20)

If the dealer has a blackjack then once the players have chosen whether or not to get insurance that is revealed and the hand restarts.

Once no Blackjack is determine, the players all finish their actions (until they stay or bust) and once all have completed the dealer will do the same. First they will flip over their hold and then hit until 17 at which point they will stay. Note that soft 17s are sometimes hit depending on the casino. In either case the dealer never has any real choices, they react to the cards exclusively.

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