Blackjack basic strategy isn’t terribly complicated, but it can be a lot to remember if you are new to the game. Luckily, some parts of it are easier to remember than others. For instance, if you remember the doubling down strategy for a soft 13, which I wrote about earlier today, then the strategy for a soft 14 is easy. Do the same thing.
The strategy is the same for a soft 14 (ace, three) as it is for a soft 13. In both cases, if the dealer shows a five or six as an up card, you should double down. If the dealer shows anything else, you should take a hit. You should never stand on a soft 14 because there is no risk of busting by taking another card.
The reason you want to double when the dealer shows a five or six is that the dealer has a good chance of having a 15 or 16 in that case, taking into account the fact that there are more cards with a value of ten than any other value. Hands of 15 and 16 just so happen to be the two worst hands in blackjack, because they are likely to bust but not high enough for the dealer to stand.
How likely are those two hands to bust? Let’s look at them individually. With a hard 15, there are only five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that will improve the dealer’s hand and seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will cause him to bust. An ace doesn’t help, either, because it leaves dealer with a hard 16 – another stiff hand likely to bust. If the dealer has a hard 16, there are only five cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) that will improve his hand and eight cards (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will make him bust. Therefore, in both cases, the dealer has 8/13 odds against him. With odds like that, doubling your bet is a good idea because even if you draw a bad card you will win whenever the dealer busts.
You may think that since 12-14 are also stiff hands that you should also double down in those situations. Many people do. However, basic strategy says to hit in that situation. That is because though those are stiff hands that are likely to bust the dealer, his odds are better than with a 15 or 16. For example, if the dealer has a 12, there are five cards (5, 6, 7, 8, 9) that can help him. There are four cards (10, J, Q, K) that will cause the dealer to bust. The other four cards (ace, 2, 3, 4) will leave the dealer with another stiff hand. Therefore, there are still only 5/13 odds of improving his hand, but the odds of busting have dropped to 4/13. For that reason, you do not want to double your wager.
Also keep in mind that the dealer might not bust. Keeping that in mind, remember that 14 is a bad hand. You have an advantage, though, in that it’s a soft hand, so you can be aggressive and hit without fear of busting. If you double, though, you can only receive one extra card and if that doesn’t help your hand you’re out of luck. In essence, doubling down with a soft hand takes away part of the advantage of having a soft hand. If the dealer has a 15 or 16, though, it’s worth it because the dealer has such good odds of busting.
As always, this strategy applies to both brick and mortar and online casinos.