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Explaining The Soft 17 Rule in Blackjack

By: Staff Writer
For 2-6 deck games, always try to play in casinos where dealer must stand on soft 17.

For 2-8 deck games, always try to play in casinos where dealer must stand on soft 17.

As players access different blackjack games online, they will find that some games have various rules for the dealer. One rule that players will encounter is the Soft 17 rule, which states that dealers must hit when they have a soft 17. A soft 17 will include an ace, which will be counted as 11. When dealers have a soft 17 and the rule is in effect, they must hit. The rules of the game will clearly be displayed and any game that states dealer Must Hit on 17 indicates that the soft 17 rule is in play. With this rule, the house edge is increased, so players may want to find games that do not use the soft 17 rule so they have better chances at collecting winnings.

Even though there is a higher house edge, players should not always avoid this game. In some cases, the edge is made up for by offering a single or double deck game over a standard game that use 6 or 8 decks. This evens out the edge, providing players more chances to win with fewer decks in play.

Adjusting Playing Strategies

Most players who play blackjack will make use of standard game strategies and there are some alterations that will have to be made when the Soft 17 rule is being used. In regards to doubling down, players should use this option when they have a hand of 11 and the dealer shows an Ace. They should also double a soft 19 when the dealer shows a 6 and double with a soft 18 with a dealer card of 2.

With single deck games the basic strategy is slightly altered and players should hit a soft 18 hand when an ace is shown. They should also split a pair of 9s is there is an Ace. If the selected game allows for surrendering, choose this option with a hard 15 with a dealer Ace and a hard 17 with an Ace.

For double deck games, always double in a soft 14 with a dealer 4 and a soft 18 with a dealer 2. Try to use the surrender option when one holds a hard 15 hand against the dealer Ace. With these basic strategies, players can benefit from having the Soft 17 rule in play and will find they are able to win more hands.

Soft 17 vs Hard 17

When determining the blackjack rules, pay close attention to the term Soft and Hard 17. This means that the value of an Ace will be 11 and will help dealers create better hands. With Hard 17, the cards used will not contain an Ace, such as hands that have 10 and 7, 9 and 8 and so on. The soft 17 is only created with an Ace. The Ace does not always equal 11, as sometimes it can be worth 1. Any hand that uses an Ace to create a hand of 17 will be considered a soft hand. It is important for players to know the difference between soft and hard hands so they can better understand game rules and know which strategies to use when playing for real money.

The Soft 17 rule will benefit the dealer in most cases as it allows them to hit and possibly get a better hand. However, when the proper strategies are used, the rule does not alter the chances for the player much, especially when playing games that use fewer decks of cards. Most players will try to find games that do not have this rule as the majority of blackjack games do use more than two decks of cards. The soft 17 hand is a difficult one to play, but when the Soft 17 rule is in play, dealers have the ability to hit and have another chance at drawing a card that will get them closer to 21 without busting, especially since the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11.

Soft 17 Best Strategy Plays

The Soft 17 strategy will depend on several factors, such as the value of the player’s/dealer’s cards and the Soft 17 rule, which directs the dealer’s next move. In other words, the dealers are not at liberty to make their own choices about hitting or standing; instead, the game has pre-set rules, which automatically determine the next step.

Unlike the dealers who must follow the fixed pattern, the players have the freedom to strategize, adjusting their gameplay to the dealer’s upcard. Certain Soft 17 strategic rules are universal and should always be implemented – both in the Blackjack variants where the dealer stands on Soft 17, and on the tables where the Soft 17 hand requires them to hit.

The following S17 guidelines can be employed regardless of the variant:

  • Hit when you have hard 4 – 8 vs the dealer’s A or 2 through 10 upcard
  • Hit when you have hard 9 vs the dealer’s A, 2 or 7 through 10 upcard
  • Hit when you have hard 10 vs the dealer’s A or 10 upcard
  • Hit when you have hard 12 vs the dealer’s A, 2, 3, and 7 through 10 upcard
  • Hit when you have hard 13 or 14 vs the dealer’s A and 7 through 10 upcard
  • Surrender when you have hard 16 vs the dealer’s A, 9 or 10. If surrendering is not an option, then hit
  • Surrender when you have hard 15 vs the dealer’s 10. Hit if surrendering not allowed
  • Double when you have hard 9 vs the dealer’s 3 through 6
  • Double when you have hard 10 or 11 vs the dealer’s 2 through 9. Hit if doubling is not allowed
  • Double when you have hard 11 vs the dealer’s 10 or hit if doubling is not allowed
  • Stand on hard 17 and up

The principles listed above are quite easy to remember as the basic Blackjack rule for all multideck games is to hit when the dealer’s hand is 2 through 7 or an Ace.

The strategy is just as easy if you are the one holding the Soft 17:

  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 2 – hit
  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 3 – double down
  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 4 – hit
  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 5 – double down
  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 6 – hit
  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 7 – hit
  • Player’s Soft 17 vs 9 – hit

As one can easily conclude, there is virtually no standing on Soft 17 for the players. The reason is simple – there is no risk of busting (unlike with the hard hands), and the extra card can significantly improve your odds of beating the house.

Dealer Stands on Soft 17 Blackjack Variant – When to Stand, Double, Split or Surender?

Once again, we need to turn our attention to the dealer’s upcard and our hand. Generally speaking, soft hands are easier to handle, as hitting is almost always the best option. There are, however, some exceptions, and doubling would be the best move under the following circumstances:

  • The player holds a soft 13 – 17 hand and the dealer’s upcard is 5 or 6
  • The player holds a soft 15 through 17 hand and the dealer’s upcard is 4
  • The player holds a soft 17 hand and the dealer’s upcard is 3

If doubling is not permitted, the players should hit instead.

Doubling is also recommended on soft 18 but only if the dealer’s upcard is 3 – 6. Otherwise, the player should stand or hit on dealer’s 9, 10, or Ace. The soft 19 is generally considered as a favourable hand and the majority of players will decide to stand.

Most pairs should be split in the Blackjack variants which require the dealer to stand on Soft 17. The question is – when not to split? Once again, we should look at the dealer’s hand for guidance:

  • 2,2 or 3,3 – split if the dealer’s upcard is 4 through 7; the same pairs should be split if the dealer’s upcard is 2 or 3 and the players are allowed to double after a split. If not, then hit. 2,2 / 3,3 pairs vs dealer’s A, 8, 9, and 10 should be hit.
  • 4,4 – play separately if doubling is allowed after a split and the dealer’s upcard is 5 or 6. Otherwise hit.
  • 6,6 – split if doubling is allowed after a split and the dealer’s upcard is 2, otherwise hit. The same pair should be split on dealer’s 3 – 6 or hit on Ace, 7, 8, 9 and 10
  • 7,7 – split if the dealer’s upcard is 2 – 7, hit otherwise
  • 8,8 – always split
  • 9,9 – always split unless the dealer’s upcard is 7, 10, or A, in which case you should stand
  • A,A – always split

Soft 17 Strategy Explained

Dealer Hits on Soft 17 Blackjack Variant – the Strategy Variations

Most of the rules listed above will also apply to Blackjack games where dealers are required to hit on Soft 17, but certain discrepancies can be noted:

  • Instead of hitting on hard 11 when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, the players should double, and only hit if doubling is not an option.
  • If the player holds a hard 15 hand and the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, surrendering is recommended. Otherwise, hit.
  • Surrendering is also advised on hard 17 vs A. If the option is unavailable, then stand.
  • Doubling should be applied on soft 18 vs dealer’s 2, where possible. If not allowed, the players should stand. The same principle should be applied to soft 19 vs 6.

The splitting strategy is the same – the only difference is that the players should surrender 8,8 hand against the dealer’s Ace and only split if surrendering is not possible.

In Conclusion

When the Soft 17 rule is being used with online blackjack, players will have to understand the creation of hands and will also have to know how to change their game strategies to be a successful player. While the rule may not seem like a big deal to novice players, those with experience will know that it lowers the player odds of winning. When choosing blackjack games, always be sure to know the rules for the dealer. If the dealer must stand on all 17 hands, players will have the advantage but with the Soft 17 rule, allowing dealers to hit on these hands, the house edge is increased and players will have fewer opportunities to win, especially if they have not adapted their playing strategies to accommodate for this rule.

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