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Blackjack Strategy

Standing vs. Drawing (Soft Hands)

Playing soft hands are really easy. Ignoring the double down option for the moment, the whole process is reduced to a simple 3 steps. Always stand with soft 18 or more. Always hit a soft 17 or less, and of course as an exception: hit that soft 18 when the dealer is showing a 9 or 10.

Hitting on hand totals less than 17 is a smart play because it is impossible to hurt this hand with a single card draw. The reasoning behind this is that all final totals of 16 or less are equivalent, they win if the dealer busts, and otherwise they lose. With a soft 17, even though the player has a remote chance of pushing the dealer (about 14.6%), the chances of improving the hand by hitting far outweigh the risk of ending up with a lower total.

The most important reason we hit soft 18 against a 9 or 10 is because the dealer’s average total in such situation is greater than 18. With the dealer showing a 9 the chances of them achieving a total equal to or greater than 19 is about 54%. With the dealer showing a 10 the chance that they will have a hand that exceeds or equals 18 is about 52%, this of course does not include Blackjacks. Another important reason for hitting is that more often than not the player will improve his hand to more than compensate for those times he hurts the hand by ending up with a lower total or even busting. In fact, computer studies have shown that the player gains about 9.2% by hitting soft 18 when the dealer is showing a 9, and about 4.5% when the dealer is showing a 10.

Although The table below says to stand on soft 17, and the game is dealt with a single deck, it is just barely better to stand on soft 18 rather than hit. But if the dealer hits soft 17, or the game is dealt with more than one deck, then it is definitely better to hit soft 18 rather than stand. A simple addition to the table you might want to include is “Hit soft 18 when the dealers hand is showing an ace”.

Basic Strategy


Player’s Hand Dealer’s Up Card
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
A,8 S S S S S S S S S S
A,7 S S S S S S S H H S
A,6 H H H H H H H H H H

Note: Doubling down not considered.

Legend:
S Stand
H Hit


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