How to Play Soft Hands in Blackjack

A soft sixteen in Blackjack made up of a 5 and an Ace

Soft hands in blackjack can be a blessing if played correctly. These hands offer flexibility and the opportunity to optimize your gameplay. However, navigating soft hands can be a challenge for even the most experienced players. In this article, we will explore the strategies and techniques required to master the art of playing soft hands in blackjack.

Understanding Soft Hands in Blackjack

Before we delve into the strategies, it is crucial to understand what constitutes a soft hand in blackjack. A soft hand is any hand that contains an Ace, which can be counted as either 1 or 11. Unlike hard hands, where there is no room for flexibility, soft hands allow players to adapt their play based on the situation at hand. This versatility is what makes soft hands so intriguing and potentially profitable.

When you are dealt a soft hand, it is essential to think strategically and consider the options available to you. By employing the right techniques, you can turn what may seem like a disadvantage into a winning opportunity.

Strategies for Playing Soft Hands

Two men discussing strategy at a blackjack table

Playing soft hands requires a careful balance of risk and reward. Here are some strategies to consider when faced with a soft hand:

  1. Double Down: One of the most lucrative moves you can make with a soft hand is doubling down. This involves doubling your initial bet and receiving one additional card. When the dealer’s upcard is weak, such as 4, 5, or 6, doubling down on a soft hand can amplify your potential winnings. However, it is important to exercise caution and only double down when the odds are truly in your favor.
  2. Hit: Opting to hit on a soft hand can be an effective strategy in certain circumstances. When the dealer’s upcard is strong, hitting allows you to improve your hand and increase your chances of beating the dealer. However, be mindful of the risk involved, as hitting on a soft hand also increases the likelihood of going over 21.
  3. Stand: Sometimes, the best course of action is to simply stand on a soft hand. This is particularly true when the dealer has a weaker upcard and you have a relatively strong hand, such as a soft 18 or higher. By standing, you avoid the risk of busting and potentially losing the hand.
  4. Surrender: In certain blackjack variants, surrendering is an option when faced with a difficult soft hand. Surrendering allows you to forfeit half of your bet and opt out of the round. Although surrendering may seem like a defeat, it can minimize losses in unfavorable situations.

By implementing these strategies and making informed decisions based on the dealer’s upcard, you can maximize your chances of coming out ahead when playing soft hands in blackjack.

Should You Hit on a Soft 17?

One of the most debated topics in blackjack strategy is whether to hit on a soft 17. A soft 17 consists of an Ace and a 6, which can be counted as either 7 or 17. As with most blackjack decisions, the answer to this question depends on several factors.

Traditionally, players are advised to stand on a soft 17, particularly when facing a dealer’s weak upcard. The reason behind this strategy is that standing allows you to preserve your hand and hope that the dealer goes bust. However, recent studies have suggested that hitting on a soft 17 can yield better results in certain scenarios.

The decision to hit on a soft 17 should be based on the specific blackjack rules in play and the dealer’s upcard. In games where the dealer hits on a soft 17, hitting on a soft 17 can offset the slight disadvantage caused by the house rule. Conversely, in games where the dealer stands on a soft 17, it may be more advantageous to mimic the dealer’s strategy and stand as well.

Does the Dealer Hit on a Soft 17?

The dealer’s play on a soft 17 can significantly impact your strategy when playing soft hands in blackjack. In many casinos, the dealer is required to hit on a soft 17, which gives them an additional chance to improve their hand. This rule increases the house edge and alters the optimal player strategy.

When faced with a dealer who hits on a soft 17, it is important to consider their weak upcard and adjust your gameplay accordingly. Since the dealer has a higher chance of improving their hand, hitting or doubling down on your soft hand may prove beneficial. The best approach is to analyze the dealer’s upcard and determine the most profitable move based on the specific situation.

Knowing When to Double Down on Soft Hands

Knowing when to double down on a soft hand is a crucial skill for any blackjack player. Doubling down allows you to increase your bet and receive one additional card, potentially turning a modest hand into a winning one.

While doubling down on any soft hand may seem tempting, it is important to exercise restraint and choose your moments wisely. The ideal situations for doubling down on soft hands are when the dealer has a weak upcard, such as 4, 5, or 6. In these scenarios, the odds are in your favor, and capitalizing on the opportunity can significantly boost your winnings.

However, it is essential to understand that doubling down on a soft hand is not without risk. If the dealer’s upcard is strong, such as a 9, 10, or Ace, doubling down may not be the wisest move. Evaluate the probability of improving your hand and weigh it against the potential loss before making the decision to double down.