Blackjack: Hard Hands and Soft Hands Explained

September 6, 2017

Knowing the difference between hard hands and soft hands is essential when learning how to play blackjack because even though it is only a small detail in the basic rules of blackjack, it is a small detail that can mean a great deal to winning or losing.

The basic difference between a hard hand and a soft hand is an Ace. A hard hand is one that does not necessarily have an ace so whatever the cards value would be a hard hand of that specific value but if an Ace is present then it is only valued at 1.

A soft hand is one that is dealt an Ace which can be counted as a 1 or as an 11 so it gives you some leg room to play with when valuing your hand. An example would be if an Ace is dealt alongside a 3 then the soft hand can be valued at a 4 or a 14.

When you know the difference and which play to make, you can increase your chances of not going bust. There are certain rules associated with hard hands and soft hands on different blackjack variations and especially so for the dealer who has to hit on a value of 16 or less.

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The Advantage Soft Hands Have

Soft hands have the advantage over hard hands because hard hands are inflexible. Soft hands on the other hand can be either one or the other value and give you the choice and flexibility to play the Ace as a 1 or an 11.

If you are dealt an Ace and a 4 you could value your hand at 5 or 15 which means if you hit and are dealt a 7, you don’t have to go bust because you can count the Ace as a 1. If you happen to be dealt a 6 or less then you have 21 or less and a greater chance of having a hand higher than the dealer.

If you are dealt the 7 and count the Ace as a 1 you will only then go bust if you hit and are dealt a 10. When the Ace becomes a value of 1 officially because as an 11 it will have gone bust, the hand then becomes a hard hand and no longer has the flexibility of a soft hand.

Playing a Soft Hand Strategically

Playing a soft hand strategically will give you the upper hand because of its flexibility. You can consider what play to make based on what the chances are of getting certain cards over others. As explained before, if you are dealt and Ace and a 4 and then hit and receive a 7, you will only go bust if a 10 card is dealt. Essentially the 10’s and face cards are less than all of the other cards and you ultimately have better chances of not being dealt a 10.

If you have a hand and count the Ace as a 1 and only need a lesser valued card, say a 5 or less, to not go bust and reach the value of 21 then your chances become far less. It is wise to consider which is the best play based on your hand and what card the dealer holds.