If Dealer is dealt an ace, and then dealt another card, will he bust?

I recently saw this play (not in an official casino, but essentially friends playing with themselves):

Dealer was dealt a 2 and an Ace. Being forced to hit, dealer was dealt a 10.

Player argued that it was a 23, therefore a bust (because Ace would be counted as 11).

Dealer argued that since Ace being equal to 11 would bust him, Ace cannot be 11 and therefore is 1, making his Hand 13, not 23.

Later on a judge decided that the hand was a bust because, and I quote:

The 2+Ace is 13. That's set. 13+10 = 23. What's confusing? once an ace is 11, it's 11.

I find it rather odd that he ruled like that, and I suspect something screwy going on, because (at least from my understanding of the rules) if the Ace were to bust him, Ace is valued as 1, not 11. Which is the right call here?

• This sounds fascinating, so you have a source for the lawsuit? I'd love to read more. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:54
• "Judge" as in the head of a courtroom, or as in an adjudicator of a gaming event? Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 19:04
• @stannius As the adjudicator (referee essentially). If it were an actual judge I'd be flabbergasted
– Oak
Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 20:31
• I'm wondering if the judge would argue "once an ace is 11, it's 11" applies also to a non-dealer player. That is, would non-dealer players getting a 10 after hitting on a 2 and an Ace also be considered bust? If so, that's a rather strange handling of Aces.
– R.M.
Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 22:23
• @R.M. Incompetence or Malitent, especially considering he himself wrote "how to blackjack guide", which contradicts what he ruled, but still insisted in this situation, hence why I preferred to confirm this specific case here.
– Oak
Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 23:00

An Ace has a value of 11, unless it would bust your hand, at which point it becomes 1

Quoting from Wikipedia (due to lack of an official online source for blackjack rules):

If a player holds an ace valued as 11, the hand is called "soft", meaning that the player cannot go bust by taking an additional card; the value of the ace will become 1 to prevent the hand from exceeding 21. Otherwise, the hand is "hard".

In your example of an Ace an a 2, that's a Soft 13. If you draw another card, and that card would push you past 21, you don't bust because your Ace will now count as a 1.

A common rule for casino tables is that the dealer must hit on a Soft 17 (meaning a hand with a value of 17, containing an Ace valued 11) - if they were operating under rules as suggested in the question, that would make the Ace the worst draw for a dealer (and therefore the casino), as a 17 containing an Ace would mean only a 2, 3 or 4 would not make them bust. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that casinos wouldn't blow themselves out in such a manner.

• Can confirm based on 4 decades of playing blackjack. A+2+10 = 13, not 23. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 20:19
• I also have a good amount of game experience to back this up, however I simply did not manage to find a rule source that's serious and not just a rules section of a card company's website, or something of the sort. This might be due to the fact that pretty much every casino has its own rules, so the rules essentially change from one table to the next - but none of them "locks in" the value of an Ace card - that's simply not a game mechanic that would work. Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 20:29
• I'm going to support this with professional experience in a region where game rules are fixed by law (the only options are not relevant here). The soft total is one of them - the ace takes on the highest value possible that does not make the hand bust. A+2 is 13, A+2+T is 13. This "judge" iin the question s an idiot.
– Nij
Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 6:03
• Also, the very use of "Soft 17" implies that the Ace will change value if necessary. Under the rules the judge applied, there'd be no such thing as "Soft 17".
– cjm
Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 15:14