In blackjack, an ace can have a value of 1 or 11, at the player’s choice. If the player uses the ace as an 11, it is called a “soft hand.” Though you are dealt “hard hands” more often, being a good blackjack player requires knowing the correct strategy for both. The strategy for soft hands is contained in any blackjack basic strategy chart, but here is more information.
The most important thing to remember is that you can never bust with a soft hand. If you draw a hand that could cause your soft hand to bust, that simply gives your ace a value of 1 and gives you a hard hand. You would then play according to the correct hard hand strategy. Since soft hands have an 11-value for the ace, the soft hands range from 13 (ace and a 2 card) to 21 (ace and 10-value card). Here is what to do if you have a soft 13 or soft 14 (more soft hand strategy will be revealed later):
Strategy is the same for a soft 13 and a soft 14. For both, you should double down if the dealer has a 5 or 6 as his upcard. If the dealer shows anything else, you should hit.
You should never stand on this hand because it’s a weak hand that is easy to beat and you can’t bust by drawing another card. Therefore, there is no risk to taking a hit. If you are dealt a 10-value card, you have the same hand (except it is now a hard hand) and almost everything else you can be improves your hand.
I said almost everything else. If you have a soft 13, being dealt a 9 does not improve your hand, because that would leave you with a hard 12. If you have a soft 14, being dealt an 8 or 9 would not improve your hand, because that would leave you with a hard 12 or hard 13 respectively. Still, due to the odds of improving your hand, taking another card is the high-percentage play.
If the dealer shows a 5 or 6, he has a stiff hand and has a good chance of busting. Therefore, doubling your bet is the percentage play there. Even if you don’t improve your hand, the dealer busting would cause you to win, because you can’t bust on a soft hand.
If you follow the above strategy along with blackjack basic strategy, you have better odds of winning. Coming soon: Strategy for a soft 15 and 16.