Blackjack is an incredibly amazing simple game available in online and land-based casinos. Unlike slots and roulette that purely rely on luck, you can use a strategy to lower the house edge in blackjack games. While the games are different, the rules of playing blackjack are basically the same. The objective of this game is to get a hand as close to 21 as possible but not exceed the number. Soft 17 is one of the common rules you'll find in all blackjack variations.
This article explains how the soft 17 rule in blackjack games works. Also, we have given reasons why many gamers always avoid this rule.
What is Soft 17 in Blackjack?
As earlier mentioned, the soft 17 is pretty common in most blackjack games. To put it in simple words, this is a blackjack hand worth 17, where the ace counted as 1 or 11. The unique thing about this hand is that it cannot burst if a player picks an extra card.
There are many ways in which a soft 17 hand can be made in a blackjack game. The most common hand known to many players is the soft 17. Alternatively, players can make a soft 17 using three or more cards. However, the ace must be counted as 1 in this case.
Since players cannot bust with the soft 17, the rules of playing this hand are slightly different from others. In a standard blackjack game, you can hit or double on soft 17. It depends on the upcard of the dealer and the rules in use. But the case changes when the soft 17 rule is in play.
Though players are free to do anything they want with their cards, dealers must stick to the basic rules. The dealer stands on soft 17 or higher or hits on soft 17. The good thing with blackjack is you can easily tell the rules in use as they are indicated on the tables.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with blackjack terms before you start playing, whether for fun or real money.
How the Soft 17 Rule Affects Strategy in Blackjack
There is only one way to play a hand with a high expected value when it comes to blackjack games. A good basic blackjack strategy helps you to increase the potential of winning by lowering the house edge.
Unfortunately, most players don't use a basic strategy when playing blackjack at online casinos. That's why you can find a blackjack game with a low house edge of around 0.5%, but the actual percentage in casinos is 5%. This is because many blackjack players don't use the correct basic strategy.
It is essential to understand that the basic strategy of blackjack changes based on the rules that are being followed. In a game where the dealer hits the soft 17 rule, the strategy may change but not significantly like other rules. There can only be big changes if the double-down strategy is being used.
Additionally, the number of decks in a game also matters a lot. A single-deck game allows you to hit on a soft 18 when the dealer has an ace. Also, a game with four or more decks allows you to double down on a soft 17 against the dealer's 2.
The Effect of the Soft 17 Rule on the House Edge
The house edge is basically the profit the casino makes from wagers in the long run. This profit can only be felt or enjoyed by the casino after thousands of hands. However, anything can happen in the short run.
For example, if you are playing a game with a standard house edge of 1% and you play with a stake of $100. It implies that you will be winning an average of $60 per hour. But this is only theoretical, as you cannot win $60 per hour, even with the best blackjack strategy.
Therefore, any adjustments to the rules of playing automatically affect the house edge of the game. For instance, if the dealer hits soft 17 instead of standing, the edge of the game increases by 0.2%. Though the percentage may appear small, it has an effect on the overall payout.
It is common for punters to argue that this rule benefits the player and not the dealer, as the chances to burst are high. While it is true that the dealer risks bursting often, his hand improves to the point of compensating any incurred losses.
Soft 17 vs. Hard 17 Blackjack Hands - Which One is Better?
Understanding the soft 17 and hard 17 hands in blackjack is crucial for developing a good strategy. As you expect, the odds of beating the dealer in soft and hard hands vary. That's why you need to know the type of hand you are playing.
The initial cards you are dealt will determine whether you have a hard or soft hand. The only card that makes a difference in blackjack is the Ace. If the first two cards have an Ace, it is considered a soft. This is because the Ace counts as a single number or 11, depending on your cards.
Most players consider the soft hand to be better as it provides multiple options for the players. To help you comprehend, imagine you get an Ace plus a 9 as the initial cards. In this case, it can be interpreted as either 10 or 20.
On the other hand, if the initial cards don't have an Ace card, it automatically becomes a hard hand. This had is quite rigid as it doesn't give you options. This reduces the chances of winning that you get in the soft hands.
Therefore, soft hands attract more players than hard hands in blackjack games.
Soft 17 Playing Strategies
So, if you are lucky to be dealt an Ace firsthand, you can apply these basic strategies to optimize your winning. The good thing is that these approaches work across all blackjack variants. This is what should do with a soft 17 hand:
- Always hit when you are dealt a soft 17 hand.
- Always hit when you are dealt hard 4 to 8 against the dealer's A or 2 through 10 upcards.
- Always hit when you are dealt hard 9 against the dealer's A or 10 upcards.
- Always hit when you are dealt a hard 13 or 14 against the dealer's A and 7 through 10 upcards.
- Always surrender when you are dealt hard 16 against the dealer's A, 9, or 10.
- Always double when you are dealt a hard 9 against the dealer's 3 to 6.
- Always double when you are dealt 10 or 11 against the dealer's 2 to 9.
- Remember to stand on a hard 17 and higher.
Note that there are more strategies you can apply when you are playing blackjack with the soft 17 rule. Make sure you master how each strategy works before using it in your game.
Card Counting and the Soft 17 Rule in Blackjack
Card counting is a common practice in land-based casinos. (But is card counting cheating? Read more here). This strategy requires you to know the high and low cards remaining in the deck. With this information, you can adjust your stake and system to beat the dealer.
However, there are many variables to consider in card counting. Players are advised to double down based on the True Count. A standard blackjack variation has a True Count of +1 or higher. Do understand that the True Count in a hard 17 hand needs to be a -1 or higher.
3 Common Mistakes Made When Playing the Soft 17 Rule
A soft 17 hand in blackjack can be profitable; however, there are common mistakes that are made by players when playing this hand. Here are the three common mistakes you must avoid if you want to benefit from the soft 17 rule:
- Standing on Soft 17
- Many blackjack players often stand on soft 17. The truth is that standing on a soft 17 will only lead to significant losses. Since the casino rules require the dealer to hit soft 17 instead of standing, it implies the potential payout is bigger. The same rule works for the players. Therefore, avoid standing on soft 17 at all costs.
- Failing to Double Down on Soft 17
- Some players make the mistake of hitting a soft 17 on blackjack tables when the dealer's upcard is a 5 or a 6. It is only recommended to double down in multi-deck blackjack games when the dealer's upcard reads 3 to 6.
- Ignoring the Double Down Rules
- Depending on the casino, you may not be allowed to double down on soft hands or not. The reason is that doubling down on soft 17 often occurs on single and double-deck games. Make sure you know the rules for doubling down on soft and hard hands before playing blackjack games.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the soft 17 is one of the most essential rules in blackjack. You will find this rule written almost on all tables in casinos. Though this rule may not seem like a big deal at first, it becomes profitable as you continue playing hands.
When choosing blackjack games, remember to check the game rules and the different combinations available. Additionally, you must play blackjack at fully licensed and regulated sites. Always remember to play responsibly and use a strategy to boost your winning opportunities.