Multiple-card Soft Hands

Of course, even a two-card hand where one card is an Ace is a multiple-card soft hand, but players who have memorized the proper basic strategy know what to do when they get one.

The problem seems to arise when a hand like A,2 (3 or 13) is hit with another small card, say a 5 and now we have A,2,5 (8 or 18); is it a hit or a stand? Naturally, it all depends upon what the dealer is showing, but I see a lot of you out there make the wrong play when faced with this type of hand.

So, let’s review some situations and from that we can develop two simple rules which may help you.

I think one problem some players have in dealing with this area of the game is that they try to work the doubling rules into their thinking when faced with a 3 or more card soft hand.

They then realize that they can’t double, since it’s no longer a two-card hand and then they get confused. For example, A,7 against a 4 is a double; A,2 against a 4 isn’t. So, you get an A,2 against a 4 and hit, receiving a 5. You now have the equivalent of A-7, but can’t double and the ‘general’ rule in Blackjack is: If you can’t double, hit. Gosh, hit an 18 against a 4? Confusion.

The answer is that you do not hit an A,2,5 against a 4, you stand. This leads us to a new ‘general’ rule Always stand with a multiple-card (3 or more) soft 18 or higher, EXCEPT hit soft 18 vs. 9, 10, A. With me on this?

Now, remember, we’re talking about 3-cards or more in our hand. So, we’ll always stand with a soft 18, 19 or 20, except we’ll hit a soft 18 against a dealer’s up card of 9, 10 or A.

The hand of soft 18 is usually the problem. Most people think it’s crazy to hit an 18, but most people are wrong. Against a dealer’s 9, a soft 18 is a losing hand, no matter what you do. But, by hitting, we trim the loss from 18.3% to 9.8%.

Against a 10, it’s not as dramatic, but still significant; by hitting, we cut our loss from 18% to 14.3%. If the dealer is showing an Ace, and stands on A,6 it almost doesn’t matter if you hit A,7 or not and that’s why there are so many different basic strategies out there for this play. Because it’s so close, a lot of authors advise standing. But in a 6-deck game it’s a hit, since hitting reduces the loss from 10.0% to 9.5%, if the dealer stands on A,6.

If the dealer hits A,6, it’s definitely a hit, since that reduces the loss from 22.5% to 16.1%. (Did you think the loss was that big?) Now, just to confuse things more, in a single-deck game, soft 18 is a hit IF the dealer hits A,6, but a stand if s/he stands on A,6. So, the conclusion to which we can come, as a ‘general’ rule, is to always hit a soft 18 against a dealer’s 9, 10 or A. The only time you’ll be making a mistake is at a single-deck game where the dealer stands on A,6. In that case, standing loses 10.1% and hitting loses 10.9%; not a big difference.

Thus far, we agree to stand on all soft hands totaling 18 or more, EXCEPT we hit soft 18 vs. 9, 10 or A. Let’s now look at soft 17 from the players’ point of view. Ace,6 is most often misplayed as a two-card hand; a lot of people stand with it, particularly if the dealer is showing a 7. To me, it’s just like a 9; double vs. 3-6, otherwise hit – that’s how a 9 is played. In a multi-card hand, it’s nearly as simple and goes back to the general rule If you can’t double, hit. An initial hand of A,2 vs. 3 is a hit; let’s say you get a 4 and now have soft 17. It’s a hit, because you can’t double.

Yes, I know, the other players at the table groan when you hit it, because they think you might be “taking the dealer’s ‘bust’ card.” Poobah! If you stand with a soft 17 against a dealer’s 3, you’ll lose 11.4% of all the \$\$\$ bet in those situations, but if you hit, you’ll win 3% and that’s a 14.4% swing.

Let them grumble. Similar numbers apply if the dealer hits A,6 and in single-deck games, whether or not the dealer hits A,6. Any way you cut it, A,6 is a hit until it turns into a ‘hard’ 17, or becomes a soft 18 or more. If you hit A,2,4 and get an A, it’s a soft 18 and you’ll stand unless the dealer’s showing a 9,10 or A.

This has led us to two general rules about soft hands made up of 3 or more cards:

Rule #1. Stand with soft 18 or more, except hit soft 18 when the dealer is showing 9, 10 or Ace.

Rule #2. Always hit soft 17 or less, and if it becomes a soft 18 or higher, see rule # 1.

Simple. Just the way I like it.