We are sure that you have heard the “soft vs hard blackjack” term before: This is a quite common saying among blackjack players.

Have you ever wondered what it actually means? Blackjack soft vs hard distinction is actually more important than you think, because it defines and changes the best possible moves for any card combination.

In other words, your gameplay gets changed based on what kind of card you have, and for some card totals (for example, 17) this change is quite drastic.

Below, we explain the soft vs hard blackjack topic in detail and tell you everything you need to know.

Card values in blackjack

Before starting the blackjack hard vs soft topic, we need to quickly explain the card values in blackjack, so you can understand what a “hard” and a “soft” hand is. 

  • Cards with pictures (Queen, Jack, King) are always worth 10 points. 
  • Cards between 2 – 10 are worth their face values. 

Ace is the only tricky card: It can be 1 or 11 points. So, for example, two Aces in blackjack can count as 2 (1 + 1), 12 (1 + 11), or 22 (11 + 11) points – the choice is up to the player.

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What does hard and soft mean in blackjack?

The hard vs soft numbers in blackjack are based on whether you have an Ace or not. It is actually really that simple: Your hand can contain an Ace or not. If it does, you have a “soft” hand. If it does not, you have a “hard” hand. Let’s explain with more detail and by giving actual examples. 

What is a hard hand in blackjack?

A hard hand in blackjack is any hand without an Ace in it. As long as there is no Ace involved, every hand is “hard”. For example:

Blackjack hard hands examples

  • 3 + 8 = 11 points
  • 5 + 2 = 7 points
  • 2 + Queen = 12 points

What is a soft hand in blackjack?

So, what does soft mean in blackjack? Basically, a hand with an Ace in it is called “soft”. So, for example, soft 14 in blackjack is an Ace and a 3 (of any suit)? Why? Well, because, as we explained above, Ace counts as 1 or 11, and you need a 3 to reach 14 points. Here are more examples:

Blackjack soft hands examples

  • Ace + 5 = 16 points
  • Ace + 8 = 19 points
  • Ace + 6 = 17 points

Playing blackjack hard and soft hands

We briefly explained hard vs soft cards in blackjack above. So, let’s take a look at the optimal gameplay for these hands. The best possible move for a soft or hard hand is different, and if you are playing high limit blackjack, you should know this difference: It will greatly affect blackjack payouts.

Below, we are sharing two tables for hard vs soft in blackjack: The first one shows the best moves for hard hands and the second one shows the same thing for soft hands. Basically, these are the soft hit vs hard hit blackjack tables. 

How to play hard hand blackjack?

If you are playing blackjack for real money, here are the best possible moves for increasing your chances of winning with hard hands. 

Your hand total

Dealer’s Up Card 2-6

Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace

4-7
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
8
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT (DOUBLE IF 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
9
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
DOUBLE
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
10
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
DOUBLE
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
DOUBLE (HIT IF 10 – A)
11
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
DOUBLE
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
DOUBLE
12
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT (STAND IF 4 – 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
13 – 16
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
STAND
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
17+
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
STAND
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
STAND

How to play soft hand blackjack?

The table below shows the best possible moves in blackjack games that are played according to the “dealer must hit soft 17” rule.

Your hand total

Dealer’s Up Card 2-6

Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace

13
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT (DOUBLE IF 4 – 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
14
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT (DOUBLE IF 4 – 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
15
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT (DOUBLE IF 4 – 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
16
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
HIT (DOUBLE IF 4 – 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
17
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
DOUBLE (*)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
HIT
18
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
STAND (DOUBLE IF 3 – 4- 5 – 6)
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
STAND (HIT IF 9 - 10)
19+
Dealer’s Up Card 2-6
STAND
Dealer’s Up Card 7-Ace
STAND

(*) Soft 17 is probably the trickiest hand in blackjack online. The main difference between soft 17 vs hard 17 is the ease of play: You should always stand with a Hard 17. Most players, especially beginners, think that standing is also the best possible move with a soft 17 too. Actually, it is the opposite: This hand offers a chance to hit, even to double. Here is everything you need to know about soft 17, which is one of the best hands in blackjack:

♠️ If you are playing a blackjack single deck variant and the dealer has 2 – 6, you should always double. Even if the game is played with multiple decks, you should still double. However, if you are not a professional gambler and not sure how to analyze the rest of the game, you can also simply “hit” in a multiple deck game. In any case, never stand with a soft 17 no matter how many hands are in play. 

♠️ Once again, no matter how many decks are used, if the dealer has 7 and more, you should simply hit.

The famous hard vs soft blackjack rule for the dealer

Are you curious about when does the dealer stop hitting in blackjack? Dealers also have to make a blackjack hit or stand decision, but they are not free like you: The table rules determine whether they will hit or stand. When you look at the blackjack table, you will see what the dealer rule is. The table will display one of these two rules

  • “Dealer must hit soft 17” 
  • “Dealer must stand on 17”

Note the difference: The first one says the dealer will hit with a soft 17 and the second one says the dealer will stand with a hard 17. So, what is the difference between these rules and how do they affect gameplay?

♣️ The house edge of hard 17 games is 0.64%.

♣️ The house edge of soft 17 games, on the other hand, is 0.66%. 

♣️ If you are playing a hard 17 game and get a soft 17 hand, you should only double if the dealer has 10 or 11.

♣️ So, basically, “hit” is your only option and the most optimal gameplay unless you have 18 (or more) on your hand.

The difference between these two game modes (and the difference in house edge/optimal moves) is simple:

  • If the soft 17 rule is in effect, the dealer still has a chance to beat you or push you. So, the house edge increases a little.
  • But if the hard 17 rule is in effect, he won’t be able to exceed 17 points most of the time, so the house edge drops a little.
  • In general, you should prefer hard 17 games because of the house edge difference, but unless you are playing blackjack on a professional level, the effect of this slight difference will not be too significant.

Hard vs soft hand blackjack: Which is better?

Obviously, the winner of the blackjack soft vs hard comparison is the “soft” hands: They contain an Ace and let you get 11 points from the beginning.

Most of the time, the most ideal gameplay will be hitting until you reach 18 points and standing from after that. Soft hands offer a relaxed gameplay that favors you.

However, this does not mean that you will “lose” the game if you get a hard hand. Since the number of Aces is limited, you will play with hard hands most of the time, and you can still get an advantage with optimal gameplay. It will be harder than soft 17, but it is possible.

There is no “best” hand: There is only “best” player.

FAQ about blackjack hard soft hands

The hard total is a fixed number and cannot be changed. For example, if you have 5 and 9, the total is 14. However, a soft total can be changed because the Ace can count as 1 or 11. For example, if you have an Ace and a 5, the total can be 6 or 16.
Hard hands have a higher frequency of occurrence. This is normal because the number of Aces in a deck is limited and if a hand does not contain an Ace, it is a hard hand. As can be expected, players get hard hands much more often.
This means you have an Ace and a 6 on your hand. Any hand with an Ace in it is called a “soft” hand, and Ace is worth 11 points. So, the other card on your hand can only be a 6.
If you are playing a single-deck blackjack variant and the dealer has 2 – 6, you should double instead of hitting. If the dealer has 7 and more (or multiple decks are involved), you should hit.
You should always stand if you have a soft 19: You already have one of the best possible hands. In fact, you should not even double if the dealer has a low card (i.e. 2). Standing is always the best decision with a soft 19.

Learn the best blackjack strategy soft vs hard, win big

We explained the differences between soft and hard hands in blackjack and what to do in each scenario: The rest is up to you. You should practice hard until you learn all possible variants of soft vs hard blackjack: We are sure that you will start winning big in no time. Make sure to take a look at our advanced blackjack strategy guides too: If you are a beginner, start with blackjack tips, how to play blackjack, and, of course, blackjack for beginners. If you are a veteran, you can check out blackjack bankroll management and blackjack card counting guides. As always, we will be here to help you along the way: Good luck out there!