Stories from the Casino Floor: Soft Hands in Blackjack

 Stories from the Casino Floor: Soft Hands in Blackjack

About a month ago, I told of being at a table with a blackjack player who insisted on standing on all 16s, including the soft ones, no matter what the dealer had.

In a common six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, basic strategy for soft 16 is to double down if the dealer’s up card is 4, 5 or 6, and to hit if the dealer has anything else. Never stand on soft 16.

My experience drew responses from others who have encountered players who have trouble with soft hands. Let’s share a couple of their tales.

MIRI: I swear, half the players I see have no idea what to do with a soft hand. They might not be as extreme as your Mr. Stand-on-soft-16, but we’ve all seen players who hesitate, think about it, and then make the bad play.

Last week, there was a player at my table who had soft 17 against a 6. He asked the dealer, what should I do with that?” The dealer said, “I don’t know. honey, I just deal the cards. Ask them.”

So he crowd-sourced it and asked everyone. I said to double down, someone else second the motion, two others said hit and one said, “Are you kidding me? He has 17. Why wouldn’t he stand?”

All advice considered, he decided to hit. Better than standing, anyway. Then he drew a 4 and had 21.

I couldn’t help myself. I said to him, “I bet you wish you’d doubled.” He said, no, he’d have been too nervous doubling on a hand he half-thought he should stand on.

It’s his hand, but I still shuddered a little.

THOM: My favorite was a young man, probably mid-20s, who loved his soft doubling. If he had a soft hand and the dealer had a 6 or under, he was going to double.

That even included a pair of Aces. He put his money out for a second bet, and the dealer went to split the Aces, and the player said, “No, double.”

The dealer did a double-take, then looked over at the supervisor and called out, “Doubling down on 2!’

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