Blackjack Soft Hands Strategy

by Frank Scoblete

Blackjack Soft Hands strategy is the focus of this lesson at Gambling Teachers.
To review, soft hands are any hands with an ace where that ace can be used as 1 or 11.
Playing correct strategy for blackjack soft hands has puzzled many experienced players.
The question lingers as to what to do for certain soft hands or what is the best soft doubling strategy?
With the assistance of blackjack expert, Fred Renzy, correct strategy is detailed below, but before tackling blackjack soft hands; a quick review of basic strategy follows.

Basic strategy refers to the computer-derived play of every player hand against every dealer upcard. If you adhere to the basics for hitting, standing, doubling down, and splitting pairs, you will face very small casino edges of about 0.3–0.6% for multiple-deck games.
Additionally, there is almost no casino edge on single-deck games. In fact, in some single-deck games with good rules, the player can have a tiny edge over the casino, on the order of 0.14 percent.

Casino Edge: If a casino has a 0.6 percent edge that means for every $100 wagered, the long-run expectation is for the player to lose 60 cents.
Most basic strategy is relatively easy to learn and understand, while blackjack soft hands strategy requires an extra lesson.
After all, when you get a two-card 21, you just sit there, smile and collect your 3-2 payoff. You certainly don’t double down on it as if it were an eleven. Also, when you have a 17 through 20, you do nothing but wait and hope you can beat the dealer or that the dealer busts.
The above strategies are logical and most players intuitively understand that hitting a 20 or splitting tens won’t help them very much. And doubling on a two-card 5 is not the right move against a dealer’s 10 up.

But some strategies like the blackjack soft hands strategy taught here are not so logical and often fly in the face of logic. Hitting your 12s against a dealer’s 2 or 3 is one such item. In the long run, the computers show that a basic strategy player who hits 12s against a dealer’s 2 or 3 will win slightly more money than one who stands.
It does seem that those busting tens do arrive with annoying frequency when you are hitting that 12. You may shy away from this move; however, it is indeed the correct play to make.

Blackjack Soft Hands Strategy:
So what to do with certain soft hands or the best soft doubling strategy for hands with an ace where that ace can be used as 1 or 11?
When you get that A:3 and the dealer shows a 3, what is the best play? Or when you have an A:6 and the dealer is showing that same 3, what is the move?
For assistance, I refer to blackjack expert Fred Renzey, who has come up with a handy guide to decide what to do with most soft hands in multiple-deck games.

His Rule of Nine details when to double and when to hit those maddening blackjack soft hands.
As a basic strategy player, the only soft hands you should consider doubling are when you have Ace/2 through Ace/7 against a dealer’s 6 or lower in multiple-deck games.
Also, some of those hands you should soft double and with some, you should not as described in the following examples of the blackjack soft hands strategy.
  • Against a deuce up: Never soft double—you will get burned too often.
  • Against a 5 or 6 up: Always double down with any A/2 through A/7. This is when the dealer is at his/her weakest.
  • Against a 3 or 4 up: This is where you employ the Rule of Nine.
    Add the dealer’s up-card, either 3 or a 4 with your kicker--the side-card next to your Ace. If the two add up to 9 or more, double down. If they are less than 9, just hit.
To summarize this blackjack soft hands strategy: If you have a hand that is Ace-5 and the dealer is showing a 3, then simply hit because 5 and 3 equals 8. However, if you have a hand that is Ace-5 and the dealer is showing a four, then you double.
Remember that in order to use the soft doubling strategy, you must have Ace/2 through Ace/7 and the dealer must have a 3, 4, 5 or 6 up. Against a 5 or a 6, you will always pull the trigger, and against a 3 or a 4, you will play by the Rule of Nine.
This lesson provides an easy way to learn correct blackjack soft hands strategy and brings to mind the popular Beatles’ lyrics of number 9, number 9, number 9....

Blackjack Soft Hands Strategy is followed by Profits by Card Counting
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Split Blackjack Tip
Never split a pair of 10s.
A hand of 20 is the third most powerful hand for the player, behind a blackjack and a multiple-card 21.
The chances of getting two 10s on your split 10s are not good since you have taken two of the 10s you need out of the deck or shoe to make that original 20. You’ll likely get a hand that is a loser or two losers if you always split your 10s.

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