Being soft isn’t always good. Football teams with a soft secondary give up a lot of passing yards. District Attorneys who are soft on crime find themselves in a city with worsening crime. Parents who are too soft when punishing their children end up with undisciplined children.
With poker hands, though, soft is better. The advantage of a soft hand is that it removes the possibility of going bust by drawing a card. For that reason, you can be more aggressive in an attempt to improve your hand. If you draw a card that would cause you to bust, you simply change the ace to a 1 and now have a hard hand.
Blackjack basic strategy has specific moves for each soft hand. Earlier, I have written about what to do if you have a soft 13, 14, 15, 16 or a 17. Now I will cover the correct strategy for a soft 18.
If you have a soft 18, you should double down if the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5 or 6. If the dealer has a 2, 7 or 8 as his upcard, then you should stand. If, however, the dealer has an ace, 9 or 10, you should take a hit.
This strategy is a little more complicated than the soft hand strategies covered earlier. If the dealer shows a 3-6, he has a good chance of having a stiff hand, which has a high probability of busting the dealer. Combine that with the good chance of improving your own hand and the percentages say to put extra money on the bet.
If the dealer shows a 2, 7 or 8, you should assume that he has a 12, 17 or 18 (percentages say to assume a 10 in the hole). If that’s the case, then hitting your soft 18 has a better chance of doing harm than good. A 12 is a stiff hand, but is considerably less likely to bust than 13-16. The dealer will always stand on a 17 or 18, in which case you would either win or push with an 18 of your own.
If the dealer shows a 9, 10 or an ace, let’s face it: the dealer likely has a great hand. Standing on 18 likely means you lose from the dealer having a higher hand (assuming the dealer has a 19, 20 or 21). Your best chance is to draw another card and try to improve your hand.