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Blackjack – Playing Soft Hands

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It really is quite appalling at the number of blackjack players that throw their money, their hard-earned money, at the casinos. The most misplayed hand in blackjack is most often the hand that contains the ace such as ace, 5 or ace, 2.

When you are dealt ace always remember that an ace in blackjack can count as either an 11 or as a one at your discretion. Too many players are either intimidated or confused with this type of hand so they mistakenly stand. This is absolutely the wrong play to make in most cases!

Blackjack hands that contain an ace counted as 11 are known as soft hands. For example a hand of ace, 3 is a soft 14; an ace, 3, 4 is a soft 18. Assuming a multiple deck game the proper way to play these hands is as follows.

The first step is to always count the ace as an eleven until the total of the hand exceeds 21, at which point the you now count the ace as a one. In other words a player with an ace, 4 has a soft 15 not 5. If the player draws a 7 the new total with the ace counting as eleven would be 22 (ace, 4, 7). Since this total exceeds 21, you would now count the ace as a one and now the total of this hand is 12.

Secondly, never stand with a soft hand that totals 17 or less. If you hold a soft 13 through 17, so there is no way you can bust or exceed 21 by drawing a card since the ace can always be counted as one. For example if you have an ace, 6 hand (soft 17) you should draw. If you draw an ace, 2, 3 or 4 you’ve improved you hand to 18 through 21. If, instead, you draw a 5 or higher card, you are still in the game because you can count the ace as one.

Thirdly, do not stand on soft 18 (ace, 7) when the dealers upcard is a 9, 10 or ace. Usually, when a player is dealt an 18, the player believes that an 18 is good total to stand with. However, when the dealer’s upcard is a 9, 10, or ace, you are slightly better off hitting that soft 18 to try and improve the total.

Finally, if you hold soft 19, 20 or 21 you should ALWAYS stand – no matter what the dealer’s face card. The soft 21 is of course, a blackjack.

Besides knowing when you should hit or stand, it is important that you learn when to double down when you have a soft hand. Most blackjack players never think to double down on a soft hand but it is the right play to make in these situations.

Soft 13 and 14 on the dealers 5 or 6
Soft 15 and 16 on the dealers 4, 5 or 6
Soft 17 and 18 on the dealers 3, 4, 5 or 6

You will notice that you always double down on a soft 13 through 18 when the dealer shows an upcard of either a 5 or 6. That is an easy way to remember at least part of the soft doubling strategy.

The last tip for a soft hand has to do with a three card soft hand. Suppose you are dealt an ace, 3 and the dealer shows a 7. With a soft 14 against a dealer’s 7 face card you would not double down; therefore, the only remaining answer is that you should hit (remember the rule if you do not double down, always hit with a soft 17 or less). Suppose that on your next two draws, you get another ace followed by a two. You are now looking at this hand – ace, 3, ace 2. Many players in this situation would stand with the 17, because they mistakenly believe they will end up with a worse total if they hit again. This is the wrong play to make. It does not matter whether your soft 17 hand is made up of 2 cards or 4 cards always follow the rule of hitting if you have a soft 17 or less.

By learning how to play a soft hand you have added another weapon to your arsenal that can be used to bring down the casino’s edge.