Dealer Hitting Soft 17 is Not Good

Some players think that working in games that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17 is good for their blackjack strategy.

They would be mistaken.

Sure, on the surface a dealer hitting a soft 17 sounds like a good thing. Players might think that the dealer has a better shot of busting because he is so close to 21. But what these players are forgetting is that Ace. The Ace that makes that soft 17 soft can be reduced to a 1 if the dealer hits and receives a card that would cause him to bust.

Because of that Ace, dealers can actually reduce that 17 to an 8 and hit to rebuild a stronger hand. He might then wind up with a hard 17 or higher that stands a shot of beating the player. Just like how an Ace can benefit a player, so too can it benefit the dealer. A soft 17 can be rebuilt whereas a hard 17 has a better shot of being beat by the player.

With that ability to rebuild his soft 17, the house’s edge goes up by 0.2%.

That is quite an increase. Think about it. Basic strategy can lower the house edge to around 0.5%. But if one of the house rules allows the dealer to hit a soft 17 and the house gains 0.2% on their edge, that puts the house’s edge at 0.7%.

In short, playing in a game of blackjack that allows a dealer to hit a soft 17 undoes just under half of what basic strategy works to accomplish. That is a big impact to a player’s blackjack odds and to a player’s opportunities to make a profit from blackjack.

Hence trying to play in games that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17 are not just bad for blackjack strategy—they are very bad and should be avoided.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft Hands

Soft hands seem to be the most misunderstood hands in blackjack. It does not matter if they are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. A soft hand is dealt, and players’ blackjack strategy goes blank; and they seem to hesitate before playing it out as if it were a hard hand.

Hard hands are not soft hands. Their blackjack strategy is different. This is why when you look at a basic strategy chart soft hands have their own section. It is there for a reason, people.

Soft hands offer a flexibility that hard hands only wish they had. Perhaps that flexibility is what confuses players, throws them since there is more of a variable in what could happen.

Want to see an example?

Imagine that you are dealt a soft 15. This means you are starting the round with a 4 and that dreaded, yet misunderstood Ace. This hand could be played as a 15 or a 5, and it will always start out as a 15. Players need to remember that with that Ace they still have the option of dropping down to 5 in case their hit card would bust their 15.

There is no reason not to hit a soft 15. And if you do not you stand a high chance of losing. Remember this is not a hard 15. This is not a stiff hand. If your hit card is, says, a 7, you will not bust. Sure, if you were holding a hard 15 you would bust. But this is a soft 15 and that 7 is not going to bust you since you can drop that 15 down to 5, leaving you with a hard 12.

Okay, you might end up with a stiff hand if you hit, but you are not worse off hitting a soft 15 than you would be if you stood on that soft 15.

The blackjack strategy for soft hands is about having the flexibility for soft hands. It gives you the ability to hit and end up no worse off than you were when you started. In the case of that soft 15, hitting and getting a 6 would most likely win the round for you.

The point of the blackjack strategy is having that extra chance to do something with your hand that hard hands cannot do. Do not waste it.

Blackjack Strategy: Things Not to Do

No one is a perfect blackjack player. Well, professional players might come close, but still, no one is perfect.

In blackjack there are strategy plays that have good intentions that end poorly, but the point is that you played the correct play based on basic strategy—the dealer just wound up with a better hand. But then there are full on blackjack strategy mistakes. In fact, forget calling them blackjack strategy mistakes. Some of the plays people make are just flat out mistakes.

Take this one woman I saw on a casino cruise. We were playing at a full table and she was dealt a pair of Aces. Does she split the pair like basic strategy says to? No. Instead she hits, winding up with a three card soft 15, which she stands on.

The dealer then hits twice and ends with a hard 17. Three of us at the table won, two gentlemen busted (that is the tough thing about being dealt a stiff hand) and the other two players lost. Yes, one of those who lost was the woman with the soft 15.

Two mistakes this woman made: 1. She did not split her Aces, and 2. She stood on a soft 15.

First off you should always, always split a pair of Aces. Basic strategy will also tell you to always split a pair of Aces. It starts you off with a strong 11 to build on, and often you will be able to build two pretty strong hands.

Not splitting is guaranteed to give you a soft hand that gives you more potential to lose to the dealer with than to build anything significant.

But if you are inexperienced enough to not split your pair of Aces and you do find yourself with a soft hand, make up for not splitting by following basic strategy. This means that you will most likely be hitting again.

As for that woman’s soft 15, there is no reason not to hit a soft 15. One Ace has already been reduced to 1; there is nothing to stop the other Ace from being reduced if necessary. And that is why there is no reason not to hit a three card soft 15.

Blackjack strategy is there to help you. It can hit the house’s edge and increase the money pull in from blackjack by increasing your opportunities of winning. This is why I always tell novice players to stick to basic strategy…and always split a pair of Aces!

Blackjack Strategy: Two Card Soft 18 and Multi Card Soft 18

There are some hands in blackjack that who’s basic strategy plays just cause our brains to revolt. Our brains get hung up on the numbers, are so focused on the numbers, that they miss the finer points. One such hand is a soft 18.

A soft 18 consists of a 7 and an Ace. Our brains see that 18 and want to stand. But they are missing the fact that this is one of those flexible hands that have a chance of building into a better hand simply by hitting it. You do not have to worry about busting because you can reduce that Ace from 11 to 1 if you need to

In fact you cannot bust if you hit a soft 18. An Ace, 2 or 3 will give you a hand total of 19, 20 or 21—all strong hands. Anything 4 or more will cause you to reduce the Ace and you have decent ground to build strong.

This is why basic strategy dictates the following plays based on dealer up cards:

Dealer 2: stand
Dealer 3-6: double down
Dealer 7 and 8: stand
Dealer 9, 10, Ace: hit

As you can see, you are receiving another card more often than not. The only times you stand are the times when the dealer is in a good chance to build a hand stronger than yours if you were to hit.

But the soft 18 confusion does not end here. There must be something about having an Ace in hand that makes it a harder hand to know how to play.

I have heard of players who are fine and well with a two card soft 18, but if they start with a two card 7, hit and receive an Ace, the confusion begins again. But the truth is that a two card soft 18 is no different than a three card soft 18. It is still a soft 18 and that Ace can still be reduced, and a 4/3 is still worth 7. So the same plays can be made.

Your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 does not differ from your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 made up of three cards. Or even from four cards. The whole point is that you have an Ace and some other cards that are worth 7. Every player needs to train themselves to see past the obvious hand total on the surface and look at what cards are making up that hand total.

Knowing When to Double Down on Soft Hands

Soft hands tend to throw some blackjack players off. Most tend to play them as if they were hard hands. Sometimes this works and other times players are not playing their blackjack hands to the greatest advantage.

And you should want the greatest advantage.

Even if a player is playing according to basic strategy the casino will still have the advantage. It does not matter if you are playing blackjack online or in a brick and mortar casino, the house will still have around a 0.5% advantage over you.

And because they will always have the advantage over the player (other than skilled card counting players) you should always want to play your hand to the greatest advantage in blackjack.

Stiff hands and soft hands are the hardest hands to play. There is nothing you can really do about stiff hands other than play them according to basic strategy. But soft hands do not have to be played like a hard hand—they have flexibility that other hands in blackjack do not.

Doubling down is one of the strongest plays a player can make in blackjack. It takes the most off the house’s edge out of all the plays and blackjack rules: 0.6% is knocked off.

But many players do not know when the best times to double down with a soft hand—they are on the tricky side after all. There is actually an easy rule to go by to know when to double down:

Add up your non-Ace card and the dealer’s up card. If the total is 9 or higher then go ahead and double down. But if the total of your non-Ace card and the dealer’s up card is less than 9 do not double down. Easy right?

Blackjack Myth—Always Stand on Soft 18

I have said it before and I will say it again. Soft hands are some of the most misplayed hand in blackjack. I have seen a good number of blackjack players who, while they can handle their hard hands, do not seem to know what to do with soft hands. And a soft 18 is one of those misplayed blackjack hands.

A fair amount of blackjack players will stand on a soft 18. To them it seems like there is no other possible way to play this hand. They get caught up in the 18 part and forget about the Ace.

When facing down a dealer’s 2 or 7 standing is a decent play to make. And you are most likely going to bust when faced with a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace.

But what about when facing some of the dealer’s weaker hands, like a 3, 4, 5 or 6? Those are his weakest up cards and you do have that Ace in your hand…

The most advantageous play that you can make here is to double down. Part of your blackjack strategy is to exploit the dealer’s weaknesses. Standing is not exploiting those weaknesses. Hitting is a little better, but when faced with a 3 through 6 you really need to be doubling down.

Now, a soft 18 will lose you $18 for every $100 that you wager. This is not weak, it just is thanks to that 2, 7, 9, 10 and Ace. But by hitting and doubling down rather than just standing you can reduce that loss to $14 per $100.

The whole point of having a blackjack strategy is to take advantage and profit on the dealer’s weaknesses, and to minimalize the losses when such situations come up. Playing according to blackjack myths is not going to help you.

In the case of this myth, you might think that you are doing your blackjack strategy and your blackjack odds a favor, but the truth is that you are not. So do it, hit or double down on a soft 18 when you can.

Doubling Down on Soft Hands

Soft hands can be surprisingly hard to play in blackjack. I know, the name does not make these hands sound all that bad. But in blackjack having an Ace dealt to you at the beginning of a round can be a good thing and a bad thing.

The good thing about an Ace in blackjack is that you have the ability to change the value of that Ace if you need to. Aces start out with a value of 11 in blackjack. But if the player hits too high, that Ace can be reduced to a 1 to save the hand from busting. Think of it as having a second chance for your hand.

On the other hand, that ability to reduce can make it difficult to know how to play your hand. If you have a hard 14 versus a dealer’s 3 you would stand. But if that was a soft 14 against a dealer’s 3 you would hit. See what I mean? That Ace can make things a little trickier.

This also applies to knowing when to double down on a soft hand. And you want to double down every chance you get. It is one of the most advantages plays that a blackjack player has in his arsenal of plays. Doubling down when it is most advantageous hits the house’s edge for 1.6%. That is a big hit to them and you need to be hitting them like that when you can.

This does not mean doubling down on every hand or even on every soft hand. There is a simple little rule that you can add to your blackjack strategy tool bag: the rule of 9.

The way the rule of 9 works is simple. Take the value of the card in your hand that is not the Ace, then add that value to the value of the dealer’s up card. If the total is 9 or more you should double down. And if the total of your non-Ace card and the dealer’s up card is less than 9 you should hit.

Let’s say you have an Ace/6 against a dealer’s 4. Adding 6 and 4 together gives you 10; and since that passes the minimum of 9, you should double down on that ace/6 you are holding. But if you had an Ace/4 against a dealer’s 3, the 4 and 3 would only total 7; in that case you would hit since 7 is less than 9.

See, it is an easy rule to use. And you can use it for blackjack online just as easily as blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino.

Adding the rule of 9 to your blackjack strategy arsenal can help improve your strategy, make it stronger. With a stronger blackjack strategy—especially for doubling down—you can improve your blackjack odds.

Double Down House Rules

In most cases the house rules on blackjack will only allow players to double down on two starting hands: a hard 10 and a hard 11. But if you look at a basic strategy chart you’ll see that there are more recommended times to double then only when you have a hard 10 or hard 11.

Limiting when a player can double down in blackjack is the casinos’ way of trying to take away some of the effectiveness of an advantageous play. Doubling down at the most opportune times will hit the house’s edge for 1.6%. This is why doubling down is the most advantageous play in a blackjack player’s arsenal. By limiting when this play can be made, casinos are taking away from its effectiveness.

In other words, casinos don’t like that players can hit their house edge that hard and improve their odds, so they will do what they can to turn the tables.

This even applies to online blackjack. Online blackjack games are already programmed so that players don’t have the opportunity to double down on every hand. This is good for the online casinos because it keeps players from making extra on every hand they win. But it’s also good for players because it limits the losses that could happen from players who would become double down happy.

However some online blackjack games are just as limited as a brick-and-mortar casino in that they only allow double downs on hard 10s and hard 11s.

Going back to brick-and-mortar casinos, some will allow players to double down with more hands than just a hard 10 or hard 11. Take a look at your basic strategy chart again. You will see there are a good number of soft hands that are advantageous to double down on too.

By playing at table that allows players to double down on any hand, blackjack players can take advantage of those soft hand double downs too. The best soft hands to double down on are any in which you’re facing a dealer’s 6. Unless you have a soft 20, and in that case your best play is to stand—don’t throw a good hand away.

Always be on the lookout for a blackjack table that lets you double down on any two cards. And if you’re playing blackjack online and find a game that will only let your double down on a hard 10 or hard 11 find another online blackjack game to play.

Other Ways to Win in Blackjack

When playing blackjack, players tend to get very focused on being deal that 21. But it isn’t the only way to win in blackjack as we all know. Remember that the objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer without going over 21. This doesn’t mean that a natural 21 is the only way to beat the dealer—it’s just the most popular.

In blackjack, 70% of your offensive hands will be won with either a natural blackjack or its closest runner a 10/10. But what about the other 30% of offensive hands? They are made up of five hands: a 10/9, an Ace/9, an Ace/8, a hard 11 and a hard 10.

But in order to make the most of these winning hands they must be played the right way. And, yes, in blackjack these hands do have a right way of being played. So we’re going to take a look at them and what to do with them.

Ace/10
This is the much coveted natural blackjack. These two cards are the only ones that can make a natural blackjack, although the 10 could also be a face card. If you’re dealt these cards, congratulate yourself and collect your money.

10/10
This hand is often misplayed because the first thing that blackjack players see is that it’s a pair. But not every pair is made to be split. And this is one of them. It’s folly to split a 10/10 because you don’t have good chances of building two hands that are just as strong. So leave them unsplit.

10/9
This would be known as a hard 19, and after a hard 20 it is the next strongest hand to have. You can only be beat if the dealer has or hits to 20 or 21, or if he has a natural 21.

Ace/9
This is another hand that blackjack players will sometimes stumble on. And it’s because of the Ace. They see that this is a soft hand and assume that hitting is the right play to make. But this is actually a soft 20, and if you stand on it, it’s just as strong as a hard 20 in playing terms.

Ace/8
This hand is treated in a way that is similar to the Ace/9. Blackjack players will hit on it when they should be standing. It’s only a hard 19, but played as a 19 it is worth more than if it’s hit on.

Hard 11
With this hand the best play to make is to double down. This is a strong hand to start on and even though you are only receiving one more card, it still has a good chance of being high enough to beat the dealer and collect double the winning amount. The best time to double down on a hard 11 is when faced with a dealer’s 10 or anything less.

Hard 10
Like the hard 11, this hand is best played and most profitable when a blackjack player double downs on it. But the best times to double down on it is when faced with a dealer’s 9 or less.

Keep these hands and how they are played in your mind when you are at the computer playing blackjack online or are playing blackjack at the casino. It doesn’t matter which place you’re playing at because these hands’ worths and plays are the same for both casino blackjack and online blackjack.

Blackjack’s Rule of 9

Doubling down is one of the most advantageous blackjack plays available to players. It allows us to make the most money possible off of one hand.

And it’s easy to know when to double down on a hard hand. Or more precisely which hands to double down on and when: hard 9 against a dealer’s 3 through 6; hard 10 against a dealer’s 2 through 9; and hard 11 against a dealer’s 2 through 10.

But while hard hands are pretty easy to deal with in terms of double downs, soft hands aren’t quite as easy. This is a result of that Ace that we all love. Blackjack players aren’t sure whether to hit or stand. So it makes blackjack players even a little more confused as to when to double down. True players can always check a basic strategy chart. But in the case of doubling down n a soft hand there is another way to figure out whether to or not.

Before I get into the Rule of 9, you need to know that can be eliminated from considering: Ace/7, Ace/8 and Ace/9. Why are these hands already eliminated? Look at their hand totals: 18, 19 and 20. All three of those are hands that you would stand on if they were hard. So stand on them as if they were hard—don’t even think about throwing a strong hand away.

That leaves Ace/2 through Ace/6 up for play in the Rule of 9. With these five hands you can use the Rule of 9 to determine whether to double down on these soft hands or not.

The Rule of 9 is easy to use. Take the non-Ace card of your hand, add it with the dealer’s up card and if the total is 9 or more then you will want to double down. If it’s less than you will hit.

For example if you have an Ace/5 against a dealer’s 4, add the 5 and 4 together; you get 9 which means to double down. Now if you have an Ace/5 against a dealer’s 2, the 5 and 2 only add up to 7 which means that you don’t double down.

The Rule of 9 isn’t limited to only casino blackjack—it can be used in online blackjack too.

See, the Rule of 9 is easy to use and can be paired with basic strategy to make your blackjack strategy a little faster and a little easier to manage. And an easier managed blackjack strategy means an improved game over all.