Skip to main content

Soft Hands in Blackjack

S. Stoynova (editor) |

Playing Soft Hands the Correct Way

Soft Hands in BlackjackWhile blackjack rules are pretty straightforward, there are a few game specifics you need to know well before you start playing the game. While most of the cards in the game carry the value depicted on them, there are several cards that will have a specific number assigned to them. All face cards (Jack, Queen, and King) carry the value of 10, making them extremely sought after as they can easily form a natural. Another special card in blackjack is also the Ace, which has the ability to change its value, depending on your total.

In this article, we will focus on hands consisting of an ace and a regular value card, or to be more specific, soft hands. It is crucial to recognize soft hands and learn the optimal decision on different ace combinations. We suggest you keep reading as we will cover everything you need to know about this type of blackjack hand.

What are Soft Hands

Blackjack Soft 15In brief, soft hands contain an ace and the reason why they are beneficial is that their total can be changed according to your needs. The ace is the most powerful card in the deck due to the fact that it can be counted as either one or eleven. This gives you the freedom to adjust the total of your hand so that you don’t bust.

As a matter of fact, when you have such a combination, you cannot exceed twenty-one by taking a hit which brings the needed peace of mind and lets you enjoy the game even more. For instance, if you have a soft 15 that consists of an ace and a four and you draw an eight, you would bust if it wasn’t for the ace.

You can avoid losing by switching the ace to one in which case your total becomes thirteen. By getting this card, you have the chance to improve your hand without risking your wager. When you receive your first two cards and if any of them happens to be an ace, then the dealer will announce your total by counting the ace in both ways.

For example, if you have an ace and a three, the dealer will refer to your hand as four or fourteen due to the fact that it is entirely up to you how the ace will be counted. It is important to mention that two or more cards can form a soft hand. In other words, not only 2-card hands containing an ace are soft. If you hold 3-5-Ace, then you have soft 19.

In general, it is always recommended to take into account the dealer’s up card when determining your next move.

Strategy for Playing Soft Hands

Strategy for Playing Soft HandsSince blackjack is a skill-based game, it gives you the opportunity to apply a strategy and this way decrease the house edge. Soft hands are no different than any other card combination in the game. They also require a proper approach and a strategy. It is essential to know how to play them correctly if you want to make the most of every game.

Let’s have a look at some of the soft hands that you can possibly get during the course of the game and how to tackle them successfully. It should be noted that in order to make the best possible decision, you should always take into account the dealer’s up card as after all, you compete with them.

Whenever you get a soft hand, you can choose from three options – to hit, stand, or double down. The first situation we will consider is having an ace and a two as your first two cards, forming a soft 13. In such cases, it is recommended to hit, unless the dealer’s up card is a five, or a six as then it is best to double down.

Let’s assume that this time you get soft 14, 15, or 16 hands and the dealer is waiting for your decision. In such cases, you should first remember that the strategy for these three hands is the same and that if the dealer has a four, a five, or a six, your best option will be to double down. If the dealer’s up card is any different, you should simply hit and hope for the best.

The same strategy applies for the cases in which you have a soft 17 with the difference that if the dealer is showing a three, you should also double down instead of hitting. The reason why is that you should try to take full advantage of such beneficial situations and increase your chances of winning more money.

Blackjack Soft 16 Hit

Playing Soft 18: Stand or Double Down?

Another case that is worth discussing is when you have a soft 18 hand or in other words, if you have an ace and a seven. In such situations, you should always carefully consider the up card of the dealer as your best move strictly depends on it. Let’s assume that you happen to have a soft 18 hand when the dealer is showing a two, a seven, or an eight. In such cases, you should stand due to the fact that your hand has a better chance of winning than the dealer’s.

If the dealer’s up card is from three through six, you should apply a different approach which is riskier. In such cases, perhaps your best move is to double down due to the fact that the croupier is in a weak position. Therefore, you have decent chances of winning and you should try to make the most of this situation by increasing your wager.

In general, doubling down should be performed whenever the dealer is in a seemingly unfavorable position and your hand is good. Such opportunities don’t occur too often and it is essential to know how to take advantage of them in order to make up for your previous losses.

For the rest of the cases – whenever the dealer has a nine, a ten, or an ace, it is recommended to simply hit. At first glance, hitting when you have a soft 18 seems inappropriate due to the fact that most players consider eighteen to be a fairly decent total. However, bearing in mind that the average winning hand in blackjack has been estimated to be 18.5 points, a total of eighteen is simply not enough to beat the dealer if they have a powerful card. Even though in order to improve your hand by hitting, you need to draw any of the three cards – an ace, a two, or a three and your chances of doing so aren’t high, it is still your best choice. In general, a soft 18 hand is a very tricky combination that puts you at risk.

Dealing with Soft 19 and 20: Your Best Bet

Last but not least, you should consider the cases when you have either a soft 19 or a soft 20 hand. It should be noted that these are among the best card combinations that you can possibly get in blackjack because the chance of going bust is very low. Such strong totals are almost impossible to improve. Whenever you have these two hands, you are in a great position and you have very realistic chances of winning. Depending on the dealer’s up card, the number of decks used, and the dealer’s play rules, you can either stand or double down.

Provided that you play a single-deck blackjack variation where the dealer hits soft 17, you should stand unless the dealer’s up card is a 6. Then, you are advised to double down because the dealer’s chances of going bust slightly increase. You should also double down on soft 19 when you play single-deck blackjack or where the dealer stands on soft 17.

But if you play multi-deck blackjack where the dealer stands on soft 17, you should stand regardless of the dealer’s up card. Provided that you play multi-deck blackjack where the dealer must hit a soft 17 and you hold a soft 19, then it is again better to double down.

Even if your soft 19 hand consists of more than two cards, you should double down when the dealer’s up card is a 6. However, some casinos allow players to double down only on their first two cards. So, if your soft 19 consists of three or more cards and doubling down is not an option, then your best option is to stand.

Strategy for Soft Hands
Your HandThe Dealer’s Up Card


ConclusionSoft hands in blackjack are extremely important card combinations that every player should be familiar with. In rare cases, they can result in a bust but they can also help you to win a decent amount of money as the choice of how to play them is entirely yours. Understanding how to tackle soft hands successfully will help you to increase your chances of winning and will make the game more enjoyable. Although it might take some time until you master the above-mentioned strategy completely and apply it without much thinking, as soon as you start using it, you will notice a visible change and improvement in your game.

FAQ: Playing Soft Hands in Blackjack Correctly

A soft hand in blackjack includes an ace counted as either 1 or 11, depending on what’s best for your hand. It’s called “soft” because you can add more cards without the risk of busting (going over 21), giving you more flexibility in your play.

Soft hands are great because they give you a safety net, helping you to avoid going above the total of 21. With an ace acting as 11 or 1, you can hit (take another card) without worrying about busting right away. This means you can try to improve your hand to get closer to 21 with less risk.

Not always. While hitting is a good option for soft hands like 13 to 17, when you have soft 18, 19, or 20, you might want to stand or double down, depending on the dealer’s up card. It’s all about maximizing your chances based on what the dealer shows.

Consider doubling down on soft hands (especially soft 17 or lower) when the dealer’s up card is weak (like a 4, 5, or 6). By betting more on your soft hand when the dealer is likely to lose, you can potentially double your winnings.

In most cases, it’s better to hit or double down on a soft 17 because you have a chance to improve your hand without busting. However, if the game rules or a particular situation suggest that standing is the smarter choice (like in specific blackjack variations or strategic scenarios), you should trust your judgment.