The “soft 17 rule” is a rule that requires the dealer to hit on soft 17. For many blackjack players, this rather innocuous rule doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the fact of the matterHenry Tamburin is the editor and publisher of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter and author of the best-selling Blackjack: Take the Money & Run. He is also the lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, a feature writer for Casino Player magazine (and 6 other publications); an owner of a casino gambling publishing company (www.rsucasinobooks.com) and the host of www.smartgaming.com. For a free three month subscription to the Henry's Blackjack Insider Newsletter with full membership privileges go to www.bjinsider.com/free.Henry's website is www.smartgaming.com it is.
First, a quick review of what we mean by a soft hand. Any blackjack hand that contains an ace counted as an 11 is a soft hand.An ace-6 hand is a soft 17 and so is an ace-3-3 hand. These hands are played much differently than their corresponding hard hands. For example, ace-6 is soft 17 whereas 10-7 and 7-9-ace hands are hard 17’s (notice that if your hand contains either no ace, or one or more aces that are each count as one, the hand is hard).The reason the distinction is made between soft and hard hands is that they are played quite differently. For example, a player who is dealt a 10-7 should always stand whereas a player who is dealt an ace-6 should never stand.
In the world of blackjack some casinos require dealers to stand when their hand is a soft 17 (designated as s17), whereas others require dealers to hit soft 17 (i.e. they have implemented the soft 17 rule or h17). You can always tell whether a casino has the soft 17 rule or not by reading the wording on the table layout. If it reads “Dealer Must Stand on all 17’s” it means the dealer will stand on soft 17. If instead it states “Dealer Hits Soft 17”, it means the dealer will hit soft 17.
What happens to the odds when the soft 17 rule is in effect? Usually the dealer will bust more often which is good for the player. However, when he doesn’t bust, what would have been a 17 often ends up to be a higher hand that more often then not will beat the player’s hand. Overall the player’s net expectation is reduced by 0.20% with the soft 17 rule which is another way of saying the casino’s edge over a blackjack player increases by that amount. The soft 17 rule, therefore, favors the casino not the player.
Fortunately, there aren’t too many adjustments that you need to make to the basic playing strategy if you are playing in a game with h17. When you are playing, in general you should:
double down on 11 against a dealer’s ace
double down on soft 19 against the dealer’s 6
double down on soft 18 against the dealer’s 2
A more accurate set of playing strategy modifications that takes into effect the number of decks of cards being used is summarized below. Notice the additional hands that you should surrender with h17. The reason is because the player’s chance of winning these hands decreases enough with h17 compared to s17, that surrender becomes the better option.
Modifications to Basic Playing Strategy for Soft 17 Rule
Hit soft 18 against ace
If double after pair splitting is allowed, split a pair of 9’s against an ace
If surrender is allowed, surrender hard 15 against an ace and hard 17 against an ace.
Double down on soft 14 against 4
Double down on soft 18 against 2
Double down on soft 19 against 6
If surrender is allowed, surrender hard 15 against dealer ace.
4, 6 or 8 Decks
Double down on 11 against an ace
Double down on soft 17 against 2
If surrender is allowed, surrender hard 15 against ace, hard 17 against ace, and a pair of 8’s against dealer ace.
Unfortunately, the number of casinos that are switching to the soft 17 rule is increasing. I can remember not too long ago when nearly 100% of the strip casinos in Las Vegas had the s17 rule on their shoe games. That’s not the case anymore. Based on the information of blackjack playing conditions reported in Stanford Wong’s “Current Blackjack News” only 17% of the Strip casinos offer “only s17 games”, 40% “only h17”, and 43% a mix of s17 and h17 games. Also, just about all the casinos that cater to local players offer only h17 games and ditto for the majority of casinos located in the downtown area.
However, you shouldn’t judge a blackjack game solely on the h17 rule. Why?Because even though the casino gains an extra 0.20% with the soft 17 rule, many casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere also give some of that edge back to the player by offering single or double deck games in lieu of 6 or 8 deck games. Throw in a few more player favorable rules, such as double after pair splitting (das), resplit of aces (rsa), or late surrender (ls), and all of a sudden a h17 game isn’t such a bad game after all.
For example, summarized below is the casino’s edge for typical blackjack games you will find in Las Vegas (this of course excludes those dastardly 6-5 single games which you should not play). . Note that the casino edge over a basic strategy player for a single deck game with h17 is only 0.18%, a good blackjack game by anyone’s standard. Compare that with the rather high 0.79% for the comparable 6-deck game. In fact even a h17, 6 deck game with a bunch of added player favorable rules still only makes the game average for basic strategy players by Vegas standards.
Effect of Playing Rules on Casino’s Edge in H17 Games
h17 = dealer hits soft 17
das = player can double down after pair splitting
rsa = player can replit aces
ls = late surrender is offered
# Decks Rules Casino Edge
Single deck h17 0.18%
Single deck h17, rsa 0.15%
Single deck h17, das 0.06%
Double deck h17 0.53%
Double deck h17, rsa 0.48%
Double deck h17, das 0.40%
Double deck h17, das, rsa 0.35%
Double deck h17, das, rsa, ls 0.28%
6 deck h17 0.76%
6 deck h17, rsa 0.69%
6 deck h17, ls 0.67%
6 deck h17,das 0.63%
6 deck h17, das, rsa 0.56%
6 deck h17, das, ls 0.54%
6 deck h17, das, ls, rsa 0.46%
You can of course reduce the casino edge in 6 (or 8) decks by simply playing in a casino that offers the s17 rule rather than h17. For example several Strip casinos offer these set of rules in their 6-deck game: s17, das, ls, and rsa.The casino edge over the basic strategy player is only 0.26%, which is 0.20% lower then the best 6 deck, h17 game. Likewise a 2 deck, s17, das game has a casino edge of only 0.19%, which is 0.21% lower than the corresponding 2 deck, h17, das game.
In northern Nevada most casinos offer single deck games with h17 but they restrict doubling to only hard 10 and 11. The latter is a casino player favorable rule that results in this game having a casino edge of 0.44% (ie. it converts a good blackjack game to at best average).
The bottom line is that the soft 17 rule is tolerable in a single deck game (with no restrictions on doubling) and also in a double deck game if das, rsa, or lsis offered. For 6 (or 8) deck games, given a choice between h17 or s17 game, you are better off playing a s17 game.
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If it's good enough for the dealer, it's the same for players … hitting soft 17 is always better than standing. Therefore, one of the golden rules of smart play is this: No matter what blackjack game you are playing, never stand on soft 17.Is it better if dealer hits on soft 17? ›
These days you almost have to play in games where the dealer hits soft 17, as most casinos have adopted this policy. But if you have a choice, playing where they stand is better. Hitting soft 17 increases the house edge by 0.22%.Does dealer stay on soft 17 in blackjack? ›
The Dealer must draw on 16 or under and must stand on 17 or over. The Dealer's first ace counts as 11 unless it busts the hand. Subsequent aces count as one. If the player's total is closer to 21 than the Dealer's, the player wins even money (1 – 1).Do casinos usually hit on soft 17? ›
But there is one significant difference. In most casino blackjack games, a dealer must take a card if he hits 16 or below and stand at 17 or above. Some tables, though, say the dealer must hit soft 17, meaning he has a chance to increase his score up to 21.When should you never hit in blackjack? ›
When holding nine or less or 12-16 it's best to hit, but stand on a total of 17 or more. If the dealer's card is a four, five or six it is vital you do not bust. It is common practice to hit on eight or less, but stand on anything 12 or higher.Do you double down on soft 17? ›
Player is dealt a Soft 17. Dealer's Up card is a 6. Player should Double Down.Do you hit 13 against a 2? ›
13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit. 12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit. 11 always doubles.Do you hit soft 17 against a 7? ›
HITTING SOFT 17
For double- and multi-deck games, hit when the dealer's upcard is a 2 or 7 through ace. For a single-deck game, hit when the dealer's upcard is 7 through ace.
Question: “When should I hit on my 15?” Sam says: “Always hit a hard 15 when the dealer's up-card is a 7 through an ace. If you stand on that 15, you will win 25.36 percent of the time and lose 74.64 percent of the time. That makes a net loss of 49.28 percent.Should I hit or stay on 16? ›
Never hit your 16.
And you'll lose nearly 70% of the time when you hit your 16. Here's the statistics. If you hit on your 16, you'll win 25.23% of the time, push 5.46% of the time, and you will lose 69.31% of the time. That's a net loss of 44.08% when you hit your 16.
American roulette offers odds of 38-1 and the payout is still 35-1. Simply put, you are less likely to win while playing American roulette, although the reward is still the same.What is the busiest day at a casino? ›
Payouts are higher throughout the weekend: Many gamblers believe payouts are higher on Saturday and Sunday due to a higher turnout during the weekend so that casinos can encourage more spending.What is the best slot to play at a casino? ›
- Ugga Bugga 99.07% RTP - Playtech. This curious offering is unlike other slots. ...
- Mega Joker, 99% RTP - NetEnt. This NetEnt classic is beloved by slots fans. ...
- Jackpot 6000, RTP 98.8% - Netent. ...
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Never double down when you're showing anything higher than an 11, as the chances of going bust are too high to risk. It's better to simply hit or stick on a lower total, and then hope that the dealer goes bust. Basically, if you're ever unsure whether to double down, stick to the safe option and keep your bet as it is.Should you always double on 11 in blackjack? ›
For most people, particularly those who are newer to blackjack, it's almost always a good idea to double down when you are showing an 11.How do you almost always win in blackjack? ›
- Play games with liberal playing rules.
- Learn the basic playing strategy.
- Use a strategy card.
- Avoid making the insurance wager.
- Ignore your fellow players.
- Avoid progressive strategies.
- Don't believe you are due to win.
- Don't play on tables that use a continuous shuffler.
In shoe-dealt blackjack and double-deck variations, you must always hit your soft 18 when the dealer's exposed card is a 10 or an ace. Here the dealer is in a particularly beneficial position and stands good chances of outdrawing you and beating your 18.Do you split 8s against a 6? ›
Other experts advise against splitting 8s against anything but a 7, or unless the dealer shows a bust card of 3, 4, 5 or 6. (In the latter case, you likely would split anything short of 9s or 10s.)Do you split 8s against a 2? ›
A split pair of eights is expected to win against dealer upcards of 2 through 7 and to lose less against dealer upcards of 8 through ace. If a player hits on a pair of eights, he is expected to lose $52 for a $100 bet.Do you double down against a 9? ›
Hard 9 Against the Dealer's Low Cards
When you are dealt a total of 9, double down when the dealer shows a card between 2 and 6 (any card below 7, not including the Ace). This must be a hard 9; meaning there is no Ace in your hand – so the combinations could be 2-7, 3-6 or 4-5.
Purely based on statistics, some casino gamblers get lucky and win money. Blackjack, however, can be beaten based on skill—no luck involved.Should you split 4s in blackjack? ›
Once you split your 4s, getting low-value cards afterwards won't be much of a trouble as you can simply double down. Splitting 4s is also recommended only when playing single-deck blackjack. Well, when playing this game, it's also recommended that you split 4s only when the dealer has a 5 or 6 and you can count cards.What are the odds of dealer hitting soft 17 in blackjack? ›
If the Dealer Stands on a Soft 17: They have a 14.62% probability of a total of 18; a 14.04% probability of a total of 19; an 18.85% probability of a total of 20; a 7.65% probability of a total of 21.Should you always double down on 11? ›
For most people, particularly those who are newer to blackjack, it's almost always a good idea to double down when you are showing an 11.Should you hit on a soft 19 in blackjack? ›
The soft 19 total is a strong hand for the player. In fact it is such a strong hand that it is profitable against every dealer's up card.What is the 17 rule in blackjack? ›
When the dealer has served every player, the dealers face-down card is turned up. If the total is 17 or more, it must stand. If the total is 16 or under, they must take a card. The dealer must continue to take cards until the total is 17 or more, at which point the dealer must stand.What is the dealers weakest hand in blackjack? ›
the dealers 10 up card is the worst possible starting hand a player can have. This total yields a negative expectation of 0.5398%.What is Dealers weakest card in blackjack? ›
You will see that the worst cards for the dealer are the 5 and 6, followed closely by the 4. When the dealer is showing a 5 or a 6, they have a 42 percent chance of busting and a 40 percent chance when they have a 4 showing. This is why you double down more often when the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6.Do you ever split 10s? ›
Splitting a 10-10 hand is fine, but not a jack-queen hand, for example. After the first split, doubling down and further splitting of hands may be limited. After the first split, an ace and a ten-card may be regarded as a non-blackjack 21. After splitting aces you're generally not allowed to hit more than once.Do you hit 16 vs 7? ›
If you play basic strategy at blackjack, you'll hit 16 if the dealer's face-up card is 7 or higher.
The answer is, yes, for several reasons. Playing two hands is an excellent way of increasing your bet spread when the count is in your favor. You can also bet 50% of what you would have bet on one hand, on each of two hands, with less risk and variance.Do you hit soft 17 against 2? ›
CARD COUNTING AND SOFT 17
If the count is positive, double down on soft 17 against dealer's 2 upcard. If the count is negative, hit against dealer's 3 through 6 (rather than double down).
If you hit the 16, you will win 25.23 percent of the time, bust out 69.31 percent of the time and push 5.46 percent of the time for a net loss of 44.08 percent of the time. By standing on the “hard 16” you will win 29.01 percent of the time and lose 70.99 percent of the time for a loss of 41.98 percent of the time.What is an example of a soft 17 in blackjack? ›
One key variation comes on whether dealers hit or stand on soft 17. A soft 17 includes an Ace being counted as 11. Ace-6 is a soft 17, as are Ace-2-4, Ace-3-3, Ace-Ace-5 and others.Do you hit 13 against a 2 in blackjack? ›
13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit. 12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit. 11 always doubles.Do you hit a 10 against a 17? ›
If you have soft 17 or less, always hit (i.e., never, never stand with soft 17 or less regardless of what the dealer shows). 2. If you have soft 18 - 21, always stand, except hit a multi-card soft 18 against a dealer 9, 10, or ace.