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Hard Hands vs. Soft Hands in Blackjack

by Ethan more
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The game of twenty-one, Vingt-Un, Pontoon, or most popularly referred to as blackjack, is the most favored casino table option ever. It not only has a house edge that is lower than all other gaming products, but it is one where decision-making plays a massive role in all outcomes. Instinct will only get you a bit of the way towards profiting when sitting at a blackjack table. The rest is up to calculating the winning probabilities of each hand. Thankfully, you do not have to be a math wizard to pull that off. Such charts that other people have created already exist. You only need to memorize them before visiting a land-based venue or deciding that you should test yourself playing online blackjack.

Blackjack’s ruleset is rudimentary. You only need to hit twenty-one to win or get a card total nearest to this number and higher than the one present in the dealer’s hand whom you are facing. That is all there is to it. However, there are different principles in play when it comes time to hit or stand. If you are a newbie, you may have come across phrases like breaking cards, five-card Charlies, and soft and hard hands. Below, we will break down the latter two concepts, which rank as some of the most confusing blackjack lingoes for newcomers. We explain what they are and which is better.

What Is the Difference Between Hard & Soft Hands?

Well, simply put, the only difference between them is an Ace. Soft hands have it, and hard ones do not. So, if one of the two initial cards that you get dealt in a hand is an Ace, you possess a soft one. The Ace can either count as a one or an eleven, which provides more flexibility in how you may play out that specific round, or as some players like to say, it offers a bit of liquidity.

For example, if you have an Ace and an eight in your hand, your card total can count as either nine or nineteen, depending on your next move. If the dealer gets twenty, you have no choice but to hit, in which case, a two would get you to twenty-one, and anything below a queen will also keep you in the game. Naturally, because of this versatility, soft hands are always the more desirable option. With hard ones over twelve, you are likely (40%) to go bust with the next card coming gclub.

The Soft Seventeen Rule

If you have ever looked up blackjack tables at top-end locales in gambling tourists hot spots like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, you may have noticed a disclaimer that reads – hits on soft seventeen rule. It entails that if a dealer gets a soft hand that totals seventeen, he can hit or deal himself more cards to better his hand. That incurs no risk for him, as he can only improve his total. Thus, increasing the house edge of blackjack by 0.22%. Busting is not possible since his hand also counts as seven, and the potential highest card up next is a king.

In Atlantic City and Las Vegas, in most cases, the higher-bet limit tables all stand on soft seventeen, while the lower limit ones hit on this total. That is so because high-rollers tend to be more knowledgeable players who better understand the odds of this game. The casinos know this, and they aim to make their blackjack tables more appealing to this group, as they can make more money from their betting action, regardless of losing the extra 0.22% added to their house edge by hitting on a soft seventeen. They make up the difference in the long term by still holding their overall advantage and end up profiting more from high-rollers’ aggregated wagering activity.

Hitting on a soft seventeen is an example of gaming establishments trying to balance the conflicting imperatives of increasing their advantage without alienating gamblers. If you are a low-roller, look for tables that stand on soft seventeen. Also, keep in mind that there are slight modifications to basic strategy when encountering a table where a dealer can hit on a soft seventeen. In general, you should double down on eleven against a croupier’s Ace. Also, double down on soft nineteens and eighteens against a dealer’s six and two, respectively.

To Wrap Up

The difference between a soft and hard hand in blackjack is that the first contains an Ace, and the latter does not. Pay attention to the hit/stand soft-seventeen rule. If you are serious about getting into blackjack for real money, read in-depth articles on how it affects optimal strategy and how you should tailor your gameplay to fit it.

About the Author

Shelly Schiff has been working in the gambling industry since 2009, mainly on the digital side of things, employed by OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com. However, over her eleven-year career, Shelly has provided content for many other top interactive gaming websites. She knows all there is to know about slots and has in-depth knowledge of the most popular table games. Her golden retriever Garry occupies most of her leisure time. Though, when she can, she loves reading Jim Thompson-like crime novels.

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