How to Handle a “Soft Hand” at the Blackjack Table

 How to Handle a “Soft Hand” at the Blackjack Table

While playing blackjack, I watched as a player who had an Ace and a 5 signaled to stand. The dealer urged him to take another card. All the players at the table urged him to take another card. He was determined to stand.

The dealer, who had a 10 face up and a 6 down, then drew the card the player WOULD have received: A 5. The player would have had 21. Instead, the dealer had 21, and beat the table. One fellow angrily gathered his chips, shouted at the man who stood on a hand that could have been counted as a 6, and moved to another table. 

Now, I’ll defend any player’s right to hit or stand their own way. In this case, the bad play hurt the entire table, but just as often someone else’s bad play will help everyone else. It’s not worth the rant.

Still, this was a bad play, a very bad one. Aces can be counted as either 1 or 11, and when it’s counted as 11, you have a “soft” hand, one that no one-card draw can bust. The worst this player’s soft 16 could have become with a hit was a hard 16. At hard 16, you can evaluate again, and if the dealer has a 7 or above you can hit once more, or stand at if the dealer has 6 or below. Basic strategy even calls for us to double down on Ace-5 when the dealer’s face up card is a 4, 5 or 6.

There’s never any reason to stand on soft 16. If someone makes that play where I’m playing, I won’t complain, but they are hurting themselves nonetheless.

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