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  • October 1, 2020

The Hard, The Soft, and The Stiff

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Under the rules of blackjack, an ace can have a value of either 1 or 11. A hand without an ace, or a hand in which all the aces have a value of 1, is known as a “hard hand”. So if you are holding an ace, a 7, and a 9, you have a “hard 17”.
A hand in which there is an ace that is counted as 11 is called a “soft hand”. So a hand comprising an ace and a 6 is a “soft 17”.
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A Key Factor in Blackjack Strategy
The concept of soft and hard hands is important for two reasons. First of all, it defines the rules of the dealer’s blackjack play. In some blackjack variations, the rule says “Dealer Must Hit Soft 17”. In other blackjack games, the rule says “Dealer Must Stand On All 17”. Now that you understand hard and soft black jack hands, you understand what the rules mean and you can anticipate how the dealer will play his hand.
More importantly, the concept of hard and soft hands is also a key factor in your blackjack strategy. A soft hand is a wonderful thing in a game of blackjack. As long as you are holding a soft hand, it is always possible to draw one additional card without going bust. In fact, most blackjack experts advise hitting with soft hands until they turn hard, except under certain circumstances.
Beware of the Stiff Blackjack Hand
A third kind of blackjack hand is a “stiff hand,”. This is a hard hand with a value of 12 through 16.
Stiff hands spell trouble for the online blackjack player. They are usually too low to beat the dealer, and yet they are too high to take another card without risk of busting. So deciding what to do with a stiff hand is a tough call.
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As mentioned, the concept of hard and soft hands is a key ingredient in the blackjack basic strategy. The black jack basic strategy table advises playing your hard hands as follows. With a hard 11 or lower, you should hit or double down. With a hard 17 or higher, you should always stand. With a hard 12 through 16 (the stiff hands), you should hit, stand, or surrender, depending on what the dealer is showing as his up card.
Soft-hand strategy is somewhat easier to decipher. If a player has a soft 19 or 20 (an ace with an 8 or a 9), he should always stand, and when he has a soft 17 or less, he should always hit or double down. A soft 18 (an ace and a 7) is a bit dicier. Depending on what up card the dealer is showing, how many decks of cards are in play, and the rules of how the dealer will play his own cards, the basic blackjack strategy table can advise hitting, standing, or doubling.
All this may sound confusing but that’s where the blackjack basic strategy chart comes into play. Study it, and follow it — it takes all the mystery out of hard and soft hands. And if you are playing blackjack in an online casino, you can keep a blackjack basic strategy table at your side and refer to it whenever necessary.
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