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What Is Soft & Hard In Blackjack? How To Play Soft & Hard Hands

What Is Soft & Hard In Blackjack? How To Play Soft & Hard Hands

Here at Slot Sites UK, we'll unravel the mysteries of soft and hard hands in blackjack, a game beloved by many for its blend of skill and chance. Whether you're a beginner or just looking to refine your strategy, understanding these two types of hands is crucial. 

We'll explore what soft and hard hands are, how to play them, weigh in on which one could be considered better, and address some common questions. 

What Are Soft & Hard Hands In Blackjack?

Every player is initially dealt two cards at the beginning of blackjack; this is your hand. Every hand can be categorised as either hard or soft, but what do these terms actually mean? Well, it all comes down to whether the value of your hand is fixed or flexible, which is dependent on the presence of an Ace. Read on to learn more. 

Soft Hand

A soft hand in blackjack refers to any initial hand that contains an Ace. The Ace can be counted as 1 or 11. The term "soft" signifies flexibility - i.e. the Ace can still be counted as an 11 or a 1, which gives you the option to adjust the hand's value. 

For example, if you have an Ace and a 6, this can be either 17 or 7, depending on your next move, but initially, this hand is classed as a soft 17. The beauty of a soft hand is that it offers a safety net. 

Hard Hand

A hard hand in blackjack is any initial hand that doesn't include an Ace. A hard hand can also be a hand containing an Ace, but the Ace is counted as 1, not 11. This is because counting the Ace as 11 would result in a total that exceeds 21, causing the player to bust. Hard hands are less flexible than soft hands, as they offer fewer options for adjusting your total without the risk of going over 21. 

For example, a hand with a 10 and a 7 is considered a hard 17, as the value is fixed. Using the above example of initially having a soft 17 (with an Ace and a 6), if you then hit and receive any card higher than a 4, the Ace must be counted as a 1; otherwise, the total exceeds 21, and you go bust. Therefore, this would become a hard hand. 

How To Play Soft Hands In Blackjack

Playing soft hands in blackjack requires a blend of strategy and intuition. Basic blackjack strategy offers guidelines to use the statistically best move based on your hand and the dealer's up-card. 

For soft hands (where your hand includes an Ace counted as 11), the flexibility of your Ace is your greatest asset. Here's a simple breakdown: 

  • For a soft 13 to soft 15 (Ace-2/Ace-3/Ace-4), consider hitting to improve your hand, as you're fairly far from busting and have a chance to get closer to 21. 
  • With a soft 16 to soft 18 (Ace-5/Ace-6/Ace-7), the decision to hit or stand becomes situational. If the dealer has a lower up-card, you might stand; if the dealer shows a stronger card, taking another card could be beneficial. 
  • For a soft 19 or soft 20 (Ace-8/Ace-9), it's generally best to stand, as you're already in a strong position to win, and drawing could lead to going bust. 

Remember, the goal is to achieve a hand value as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it, and using the flexibility of soft hands wisely can significantly improve your game. You can find basic blackjack strategy cards online easily, which outline the statistically most advantageous moves in every scenario based on your hand and the dealer's visible card. 

How To Play Hard Hands In Blackjack

Playing hard hands in blackjack, where the hand doesn't flexibly include an Ace as 11, requires a straightforward strategy. Here's a concise guide: 

  • If your hard hand totals 8 or less, always hit. You can't bust, and there's a good chance of improving your hand. 
  • For a hard total of 9 to 11, consider doubling down if the dealer shows a weaker upcard (2 through 6), as you're in a strong position to get a higher total. 
  • With a hard 12 to 16, the decision to hit or stand depends on the dealer's upcard. If the dealer shows a 2 through 6, stand, because the dealer may be more likely to bust. If the dealer has a 7 or higher, it may be better to hit, aiming for a stronger total. 
  • For a hard 17 and above, always stand. The risk of busting is too high, and you have a competitive total. 

When To Double Down a Soft & Hard Hand?

Doubling down in blackjack means doubling your initial bet in exchange for receiving exactly one more card. It's a useful move that has the potential to significantly increase your winnings, but timing is crucial. Here's when basic strategy suggests doubling down for both soft and hard hands: 

  • Soft Hands: Double down with a soft 16 to 18 (Ace-5/Ace-6/Ace-7) when the dealer shows a weak upcard (2 through 6). The flexibility of your Ace increases your chances of ending with a strong hand. 
  • Hard Hands: For hard hands, double down when your total is 9 to 11 and the dealer's upcard is between 2 and 6. This is because your chances of hitting a 19 to 21 are good, while the dealer is likely to bust or end with a lower total. 

Remember, doubling down is a risk that can lead to higher rewards. Knowing when and when not to take this risk is a key part of a successful blackjack strategy. Since you are increasing the bet amount by doubling down, it is important to carefully consider this option. Please gamble responsibly. 

Is a Soft Hand Better Than a Hard Hand?

Deciding whether a soft hand is better than a hard hand in blackjack isn't straightforward - it largely depends on the total value of the hand. Generally, a higher hard total can be more desirable than certain soft totals because it puts you closer to 21. 

However, the inherent flexibility of a soft hand, primarily due to the Ace being valued at either 1 or 11, offers a strategic advantage. This flexibility allows for more options and decision-making opportunities, such as safely drawing another card without the immediate risk of busting, which could turn a less favourable situation into a winning hand. 

While a hard hand of 18 is strong, a soft 18 (Ace-7) provides options to improve the hand, making it potentially more valuable in some scenarios. Ultimately, the decision-making process in blackjack involves assessing the total value of your hand in relation to the dealer's upcard and determining the best course of action. 

Soft & Hard Hands FAQs

Do You Hit on a Soft 18?

This depends on the dealer's up-card. If the dealer is showing a stronger up-card, it's best to hit. However, if the dealer's visible card is on the lower side, you can choose to stand, as 18 is a strong total. 

Do Most Casinos Hit Soft 17?

Although it can vary from casino to casino, most casinos do indeed have their dealers hit on soft 17 because it gives the dealer a chance to improve his hand. Many view this rule as making the game more competitive. 

Should You Hit on a Hard 14?

Basic strategy suggests that if you have a hard 14, you should stand if the dealer's up-card shows 2-6 and hit if the dealer is showing anything higher (including an Ace). 

What Is a Soft 17?

A soft 17 is a hand that totals 17 with an Ace present that is worth 11 - i.e. an Ace and a 6. 

What Is a Hard 17?

A hard 17 is a hand that totals 17 with no flexibility. So, there is either no Ace present or, if there is, the Ace is only worth 1 because the hand would go bust if counted as 11.