What does soft mean in blackjack? If you have played blackjack online for any length of time, you have probably heard the words “soft hand” before.

You might be wondering what does a soft hand mean in blackjack, and if you don’t know, that is okay. We have put together the definitive guide to help you understand.

In this guide, we will soon have you up to speed with blackjack soft hands, what they mean, how they work and when to use them. If you are ready to begin, read on to find out more…

Blackjack soft hand - The Definition

What is a soft hand in blackjack? The best way to look at the blackjack soft hand definition is to say this:

  • a soft hand over twelve which contains aces.
  • For instance, a soft hand of thirteen in blackjack would be counted as an Ace and 2, while a hard hand would be a 10 and 3.
  • When looking at soft vs hard blackjack hands, a soft hand can be either one value (thirteen, for instance) or another (four, in this case). A hard hand is a total that is set and cannot be altered. 

Besides learning blackjack bankroll management, and blackjack hit or stand rules, it is essential to learn how to play soft hands in blackjack. In combination, these skills can be used to boost your chances of landing a win whatever is dealt.

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How to use soft hands when playing blackjack

To see how to play soft blackjack hands, we would urge you to consult a Basic Strategy chart. This is ideal. Not only does it explain what is a soft 17 in blackjack, or what does a soft 16 mean in blackjack, but they tell you the best decision to make, based on the totals that appear in the hands. If you want to avoid going bust, then using a Basic Strategy chart is an ideal way to play blackjack for beginners.

Let us take a brief look at the main soft hands, what they consist of, and the reason they are essential in blackjack:

♠️ Soft 13-14: Soft 13 and soft 14 in blackjack are the two lowest soft hands.  A soft 13 consists of an Ace and 2, while a soft 14 blackjack hand is an Ace and 3.

♥️ Soft 15-16: Soft 15 and soft 16 hands are formed with Ace and 4, and an Ace and 5, respectively.

♦️ Soft 17: A soft 17 blackjack hand is essential (as you will see) and consists of an Ace and 6. 

♣️ Soft 18: If you hold an Ace and 7, you will have a soft 18 hand.

♠️ Soft 19-20: Soft 19 and soft 20 hands consist of an Ace and 8, and an Ace and 9, respectively.

There is no such thing as a soft 21 because this hand is deemed to be blackjack. If you have blackjack, you will win automatically, provided the dealer does not have the same hand.

Soft hands - The blackjack rules you need to know

Now that you know a bit about the formation of blackjack soft hands, it is time to look at their usage. It is important to check the rules of each blackjack game before you play. Some tables see the dealer hit on a soft 17, and in some games, the dealer will stand. Asking yourself, “when does the dealer stop hitting in blackjack?” will allow you to discover what you can do when they have this hand.

What does it mean for a dealer to hit a soft 17 in blackjack? If they hit or stand ultimately determines what you will choose to do with your own hand. Allow us to briefly run through the blackjack soft hand rules to expand on this:

➤ When you land a soft hand, you typically have three options: hitting, standing, or doubling down. Some games may allow you to engage in splitting or surrender, but they are not relevant for basic gameplay, only for advanced blackjack strategy.

➤ When playing with soft blackjack hands of 13 to 17, you should always consider the dealer’s upturned card.

➤ Never stand on a soft 17 or less, under any circumstance.

➤ Always stand on a soft 19, soft 20, or blackjack.

As touched on, a Basic Strategy chart is ideal if you want to see which of these hands is a soft 14 or discover which are the best hands in blackjack to have, given what is on the table. Instead of using further examples, check out the following chart to see what the best move to make is given the dealer’s up card:

Your Hand (Total)

Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)

Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)

13 (Ace and 2)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Double Down on 5 or 6
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Hit
14 (Ace and 3)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Double Down on 5 or 6
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Hit
15 (Ace and 4)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Double Down on 4 to 6
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Hit
16 (Ace and 5)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Double Down on 4 to 6
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Hit
17 (Ace and 6)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Double Down on 3 to 6
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Hit
18 (Ace and 7)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Double Down on 3 to 6
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Stand on 7 or 8, Hit on 9, 10 or Ace
19 (Ace and 8)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Stand
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Stand
20 (Ace and 9)
Dealer's Face Card (2 - 6)
Stand
Dealer's Face Card (7 - Ace)
Stand

What can I do when I cannot double down?

Further Information

As you can see, sometimes it is advantageous in blackjack to double down on a soft hand.

  • However, not all games permit doubling down.
  • When playing blackjack for real money, some tables forbid doubling down on softs, save for two-card totals of 9, 10 and 11.
  • This puts you at a disadvantage if the dealer has a face-up card of, let us say, six. This is because the dealer is strategically at their weakest (42% chance of busting) with a six-point card in a six-deck game if you have a soft 17. You would always want to double down in blackjack.
  • If you cannot double on a soft 17, then hit. Between hitting and standing on a soft 17, if you cannot double down, hitting in the lesser of two evils.

The pros and cons of playing soft hands in blackjack

There are pros and cons to playing soft hands in blackjack, and we have detailed them for you below:

PROS
  • Basic blackjack soft hands strategy is easy to learn for newbies
  • Soft hands are ideal for blackjack single deck gameplay
  • Blackjack card counting makes it easier to predict soft hand outcomes
CONS

FAQs: Your questions on soft hands in blackjack answered

Before beginning, take a quick look at this short but concise soft hands blackjack FAQ:

Any hand over twelve that consists of an ace. two aces in blackjack are not a soft hand, as you have a total of two or twelve.
The lowest possible hand is thirteen. This is because a theoretical soft 11 would really be blackjack (Ace and 10), while a theoretical soft 12 would be two aces and valued at two.
You should try to double down if the dealer has a 3 to 6 as their face card. If they have something else, or you cannot double down, then hit.
Absolutely not. Never hit on a soft 19, soft 20 and of course, never hit on blackjack.
The dealer is likely to bust 29.1% when they stand at a soft 17. However, on tables where the dealer must hit on a soft 17, that rises to 29.6%. Despite this, when the dealer stands on 17, they cannot improve their hand, but you can take a gamble on doing so. This makes games where the dealer stands on 17 arguably more beneficial to you.

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