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Jul

01

2011

Blackjack Strategy for Soft 17

 Blackjack Strategy for Soft 17

When I first started writing about casino games at the beginning of the 1990s, and really started watching what other blackjack players were doing, soft 17 seemed to be the most misplayed hand around. That 17 seemed to be a magic line that players would not cross, even the hand was Ace-6, or Ace-2-4, or Ace-3-3, or any other “soft” combination that included an Ace being counted as an 11.

The message that soft 17 is NOT a standing hand seems to have made it to average players, and I don’t see the hand misplayed as often as I used to. I suspect that as casinos spread across the United States, more players picked up on the fine points of strategy.

Still, there are players who understand that it’s too risky to hit hard 17, and that 17 is a standing total for the dealer, but have a hard time grasping that with soft 17, the best plays are to either hit or double down.

Seventeen is just not a very good hand. It can only win when the dealer busts. Otherwise, the best it can do is tie another 17. With hard 17, the risk of busting is too great, so we stand. But what’s the risk of hitting soft 17? At best, you’re breaking up a hand that potentially could push if the dealer also winds up with 17. Seventeen can’t win unless the dealer busts.

ANY hand can win if the dealer busts.

The main question is whether to double down. With a two-card soft 17, double when the dealer shows 3, 4, 5 or 6. In a single-deck game, also double against a dealer’s 2. Otherwise, hit. Also hit soft 17s consisting of three or more cards. Never stand on soft 17.

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