Posts Tagged ‘soft hand strategy’

Playing blackjack with soft hands

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Soft hands are great when it comes to women and blackjack. Aside from a pair of aces, which actually is also a soft hand, there is nothing I’d rather have in blackjack than a soft hand. Well, that’s not true, either. I’d rather have a blackjack or a 20. Still, soft hands are powerful hands that give you a lot of room to improve your hand without the risk of busting.

I have covered blackjack basic strategy for soft hands before, telling you what to do when you have a soft hand. This time, I want to go more into your mindset. In my mind, when you have a soft hand you are then the one with the advantage. You are the aggressor and should play accordingly. Too often I’ll see someone stand with a soft 17, probably because they think their hand is already pretty good, but it’s not. Since a dealer will draw to a 17, that hand will only win if the dealer busts. That means it’s not much better than standing on a soft 13 and no one would do that, right?

Still, from time to time you’ll see someone look at their soft 17, look at the dealer’s five up card and stand. And then the rest of the blackjack table groans and rolls their eyes. Not only should you not stand in that situation, but you should actually double down. Why? Because the dealer is likely to bust, so why not double your wager? After all, with a stiff hand you cannot bust.

Stiff hands allow you to be more aggressive in your play. If you have a good hand you can take a hit and try to make it into a great hand. If you draw a card too high, all that does is turn your ace into a 1 and you have a hard hand, but you can draw again.

In that situation, often times other players at the table and even the dealer will advise the player to hit. Usually they won’t listen. I can understand that, because the other players might not know basic strategy and the dealer, well, isn’t he the bad guy? The player is skeptical of the advice, much like I feel whenever a homeless person tells me a sob story about how his family was evicted and needs money for food yet rejects my idea to buy him a slice of pizza.

While it’s okay to listen to the advice of others, it’s best to know strategy yourself. That is why I always advise that players learn basic strategy before playing at any blackjack tables. If you don’t have it memorized, use a strategy chart while you play. The good thing about online blackjack is that you can take as much time as you need. You can look over a chart, look online and even call your friend the gambling expert and ask for advice. Just don’t do that in a Vegas casino.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft 19-21

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Welcome to the final segment in our ongoing series on blackjack strategy for soft hands. It’s been a fun journey, but all things must come to an end. Once you’re done learning this strategy, you will be ready to go out into the world with your newfound knowledge and make some money at a casino. Just make sure you have the rest of blackjack basic strategy memorized as well.

If you have a soft 19, 20 or 21, the strategy is very simple. Always stand. Stand if the dealer shows an ace. Stand if the dealer shows a 2-9. Stand if the dealer shows a 10. You should even stand if the dealer shows a 12. I realize that there is no card that has a value of 12, but if there was, you should stand then as well. Always stand.

Why should you stand? Well, because your cards are already pretty darn good. If you have a 21, there is no way to improve the hand and you cannot lose. At worst, you push, but you have a great chance of winning.

If you have a soft 20, then the only way you can improve your hand is by drawing a 1, and the odds are stacked against that happening. Anything else would make you turn the ace into a 1 and go with a hard hand that has a lower value than your 20.

If you have a soft 19, there are only two cards that can improve your hand: an ace or a 2. Your odds of drawing either of those cards is slim, so you have a better chance of winning if you stand and hope that you either beat the dealer’s hand or the dealer busts.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft 18

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft 17

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Soft hands. We all like soft hands, whether they’re those of a partner, a football player, or in blackjack. To be honest, my wife always complains about the calluses on my hands from working in the yard and playing guitar. She would prefer soft hands. So do I, especially in blackjack.

Soft hands in blackjack are great because you cannot bust when you draw a card with a soft hand. If you take a card that would cause you to go over 21, you simply change the ace into a 1 and now you have a hard hand. Soft hands take the risk out of taking a hit. Blackjack basic strategy has specific rules for each soft hand that you can have. Earlier, I covered the strategy for a soft 13, 14, 15 and 16. In this post, I will discuss what to do when you have a soft 17.

If you have a soft 17 and the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5 or 6, you should double down. If the dealer has anything else as an upcard, take a hit. Under no circumstances should you stand.
The reason you should never stand is that, like all soft hands, you can’t bust by taking a hit, so there is no risk in trying to improve your hand. If the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5, or 6, he probably has a stiff hand, which means he has good odds of busting. For that reason, since you would win regardless of your hand, doubling only increases your winnings in the event that you win.

Since the dealer has good odds of busting, there is no risk to trying to improve upon a 17, which is a decent hand. Even if you are dealt a 10 card, it gives you 17 once again (this time a hard 17) and you would follow basic strategy for that hand. Being dealt anything above a 4 causes you to go to a hard hand, but because the dealer is likely to bust, it is worth the risk of giving up the 17.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft 15-16

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

As I wrote in an earlier post, soft hands are valuable to the players because there is no possibility of going bust. A soft hand is a hand in which an ace is given a value of eleven. However, if you draw a card that would make that hand bust, the ace is then given a value of 1. The adaptable value of a soft hand makes them a good hand to have. Yesterday, I wrote what to do if you have a soft 13 or soft 14. Here is what to do if you have a soft 15 or 16. The strategy for these soft hands, like all soft hands, can be found on any blackjack basic strategy chart.

If you have a soft 15 or 16 and the dealer’s upcard is a 4, 5 or 6, then you should double down. If the dealer shows any other card, you should take a hit.

Like a soft 13 or 14, you would never stand on this hand because it’s a weak total that is easy for the dealer to beat and you can’t bust by taking another card. By taking away the possibility of busting, you are removing the risk of drawing another card, so there is no reason to not attempt to improve your hand. If when you take another card it causes you to make the ace a 1, then you now have a hard hand and should play that hand according to the proper basic strategy.

If the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, he probably has a stiff hand with a good chance of busting. That is because basic strategy recognizes that the dealer has a good chance of getting a 10 when taking a hit. If the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, he either has a total that will bust if he draws a 10 or will bring him to another stiff hand, which again would bust if he is dealt a 10. Therefore, since you have a good chance of winning anyway even if you don’t improve your hand, doubling your bet is a good move. If you’re going to win, you might as well win more.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft 13-14

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

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.