Novice players in blackjack feel a sense of relief when they are dealt a hard 17. For them this is a hand that means no strategy to worry about. This comes from a preconceived notion that since players stand on a 17 and higher that this must be a strong hand.
But experienced players know better. Standing on a hard 17 is not too much better than standing on a hard 16. The difference is that there is a slightly greater chance of winning. A hard 17 only wins if the dealer busts since dealer’s stand on hard 17s. So for a blackjack player to not lose their wager, the dealer has to either tie for a push or bust.
And it is for that reason that a player will stand on a hard 17. After all the rules of blackjack have the dealer standing on a 17 and higher because the chances of busting then are very high. Hence players will also stand on a 17 or higher.
So why hit a hard 16 for some up cards but hit a hard 17 against nothing? It is a matter of loss. With the dealer busting against a player hard 16 only 28.2%, players can expect to lose, on average, $71.80 per $100. But thanks to the pushes that happen with hard 17s from both player and dealer standing, the potential average loss is only $57.30.
Granted that is better than the hard 16, but it is not impressive by any means. It is making the best of a mediocre situation. And that is exactly what a hard 17 is in blackjack a mediocre situation.