Misplaying Soft Hands

Even with basic strategy on their side, there are many blackjack players that misplay soft hands. It seems so easy, I mean, the chart is right there either next to them on the table or pulled up in another window on the computer. If that’s so then how is it that soft hands keep getting misplayed?

The answer is quite simple. Laughably so really.

Blackjack players will play them as hard hands!

Yes, they will play soft hands as hard hands.

Well, if you take a look at that basic strategy chart you will see that hard hands have their own section of the chart and soft hands have their own section. There is a reason for this you know.

And that reason is the Ace. It all comes down to the Ace that makes a soft hand what it is. This is because an Ace can be played as 11 or as 1. That versatility dictates that another approach to how to play this hand is necessary. Hence, soft hands having their own section on the basic strategy chart.

They are not meant to be played like a hard hand.

For example, if you were dealt a hard 16 against a dealer’s up card of 3 you would stand. Basic strategy tells you to stand. But you would be surprised by how many blackjack players would also stand on an Ace/5. In the case of an Ace/5 against a dealer’s up card of 3, basic strategy says to hit.

I think what causes the issue is the hand total. When you are dealt a hand you immediately add up the total of both cards. You focus on the number, not what the cards actually are. And that’s how you end up seeing and playing an Ace/5 as a hard 16. It’s the 16 that you see, not the Ace.

What you can do for yourself is to slow down when you’re playing blackjack, both online and at a table. Slow down and look at what cards you actually have in your hand. Train yourself to see the cards for what they are rather than just focus on the total. In this way you can avoid some costly mistakes, even win more hands and increase your profit.

Tiny Cards and Aces

You will hear tell of blackjack players who swear and stand by doubling down on a tiny card and an Ace against a dealer’s tiny card. Say like an Ace/3 against a 3. As a soft hand the total here is 14 or 4 if you need it to be so. And players will double down on this.

In all actuality these blackjack players are actually hurting themselves when they do this. The reason for this is because out of the thirteen possible types of cards that there are, only five of those thirteen can give you a strong hand. And if you aren’t dealt one of those five cards, you’ll either have a weak hand or a hard hand.

This applies to all soft combinations of Ace/2 through Ace/5 in blackjack. These are not good hands to double on. They are tiny hands and hard to win with.

Rather than double, simply hit. In this way you have the option of reducing the value of your Ace from 11 to 1 to give your hand another chance to build a strong hand because you can hit for more than one card. Doubling would only leave you with one card to draw.

Now if you’re eager to double down on a soft hand, save it for an Ace/6 or an Ace/7. With these two hands you have an eight out of thirteen chance of making a good hand.

So save your doubling down in blackjack for those Ace/6 and Ace/7 hands. And do not double down on Ac/2 through Ace/5.

When Will the Dealer Bust?

While it’s a bit hard to know exactly when a dealer is more likely to bust in blackjack, you can learn when a dealer is more likely to bust.

To begin with you must train you mind to except that there is no such thing as a dealer “bust card.” As much as we would like to see a certain card and think that the dealer will bust, it just isn’t true.

However there are some cards that the dealer is more likely to bust with: he has a 40% chance with a 4 and a 42% chance with a 5 or 6. But notice that’s still less than half the time.

So you can assume that you have a slightly better chance of winning than win the dealer is showing an Ace—the dealer will only bust 17% of the time then. Here’s the up card and busting breakdown:

2-35%
3-37%
4-40%
5-42%
6-42%
7-26%
8-24%
9-23%
10-23%
Ace-17%

But keep this in mind and then take a look at your basic strategy chart. Think of your hard hands. Why do you stand on a stiff hand when the dealer is showing a 2 through 6? This would be because the dealer’s chances of busting, while still less than half, have a greater chance of busting then.

This is also why you hit win the dealer has less of a chance of busting. It becomes your strategy to take a course of action that could give you a stronger hand. Take for instance that the dealer has a 10 showing and you have a 16. If you use the usual blackjack assumption that the hole card is a 20, then you know that your 16 will lose. So rather than go down without a fight, you can try hitting for a card that will give you at least a 20 or maybe even a 21.

These percentages of when a dealer is more likely to bust should further reinforce the need to follow basic strategy. When the basic strategy chart was made and its testing done, the chances of the dealer busting were taken into consideration. The best you can do in blackjack initially is to follow basic strategy.

The Trick to Soft Hand Double Downs

It’s easy to decide whether to double down when you are playing with a hard hand. We all know that you double down with a hard 9, 10 or 11 and only when against certain dealer up cards. And never against a dealer’s Ace.

But what about when you have a soft hand?

Yes, there are soft hands that you can double down on.

It seems that a fair amount of blackjack players are somewhat uncertain of what to do with a soft hand: play it as a hard hand? Hit it? Stand?

While basic strategy is a very good guide to follow, there is another bit of blackjack strategy that you can use when debating on whether to double down or not: the Rule of 9.

But first what soft hands should consider and which ones should you not?

Never think of doubling down on an Ace-7, Ace-8 or Ace-9. Those you usually stand on.

But an Ace-2 up to an Ace-6 you can think about it. You can use the Rule of 9 as your guide as to when to double down on a soft hand in blackjack and when not to.

The Rule of 9 works like this in blackjack: add your number card (not the Ace) to the dealer’s up card. If the total is 9 or more, double down on that hand. For example, if you have an Ace-6 against a dealer’s 3, add that 3 to your 6 and you have 9—double down.

But if you had an Ace-4 against that 3, the 4 and the 3 only add up to 7—hit that hand instead.

The Rule of 9 is an easy to remember rule to keep in the back of your mind. You don’t even need a chart on hand to know how to use it. But it will help you know when to double down on soft hands in blackjack and when to just hit.

Know Your Winning Blackjack Hands

Remember the 10-10 that we discussed yesterday? You will have around 70% of you winnings between the 10-10 and the always loved Ace-10. So what hands make up the other 30% of your winnings? And how do you play them so that you win when dealt them?

There are five hands that will make up most of the other 30% of your winnings: 10-9, Ace-9, Ace-8, 11 and 10. And each of these hands has their own way of being played.

Ace-21

Do nothing and just take your winnings.

10-10
Just a quick recap. Even though this is a pair, this is one of those pairs that you never split when playing blackjack. Just play it out as a hard 20.

10-9
Even though this isn’t worth 20, this is still a decent hand; the dealer can only beat you if he has 20 or a natural blackjack. With this hand you will want to stand.

Ace-9
Although this is a soft hand, because of the Ace, you need to stand here, playing this hand as a hard 20. It might be tempting to reduce the Ace to 1 and hit on a hard 10, but why throw away a hand that can only be beaten by a dealer’s natural blackjack? If you hit there’s no guarantee that do better than the 20 you had. So your best bet is to stand on an Ace-9.

Ace-8
Again, like the Ace-9, you will want to play this hand as if it were a hard hand. Ignore the urge you may have to hit on what could be a hard 9. The principle here, and with the Ace-9, is not to ignore an opportunity like you have with most soft hands; what you are doing here is taking advantage of a strong hand that you most likely will not better if you choose to hit. Stand on a soft 19.

11
With hard 11 it’s best to just fork over the money to increase you original bet, and go ahead and double down, especially if the dealer is showing a 10 or less. Yes, you will only receive one more card, but you already have a good starting place. If you’re a card counter and the deck is rich in high grades, defiantly double down.

10
And you will want to double with a hard 10 as long as the dealer is showing 9 or less. Also for card counters, like with the hard 11, make sure to double down here if the remaining deck is rich in high cards.

How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 17

Soft hands can be tricky to play with real success. It’s all because of that Ace. Some players will look for the easy way out when they have been dealt a soft hand.

Take, for example, being dealt a 6 and an Ace. Soft 17.

Many players will play this hand as they would a hard 17. That’s because they are so focused on that 17. And in some cases that’s an acceptable thing to do. But in many cases it isn’t the most advantageous play to make. ‘Isn’t the most advantageous’ as in you are going to lose more money in the long run if you always stand on soft 17.

Let’s go back to the basic principle of blackjack strategy, and that is assuming that the dealer’s hole card is worth ten. Once you assume that you can assume what the dealer’s total is versus what your total is.

Pretend that you have been dealt a soft 17 and the dealer has an upcard of either an 8, 9, 10 or Ace. If the dealer has any one of those for an upcard, and you assume that his hole card is a ten, then you need to play a defensive strategy.

And having a soft 17 gives you the ability to play defensively. You can turn that soft 17 into a hard seven and hit, which is what basic strategy tells you to do with a hard 7. This is giving your hand another chance at winning.

You can take even more advantage of a soft 17 by doubling down. It’s best to double down when the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6. This is because the dealer has the best chances of busting against a soft 17, making you the winner.

You can use this blackjack strategy for a soft 17 both in casinos and online casinos.