Blackjack Strategy: Soft Hands that offer greater value when Doubling

Playing online blackjack is easy because it affords less experienced players the opportunity to look over an advanced blackjack strategy chart for as long as they need before making a decision. The same cannot be said of land-based casinos where the pressure of other players at the table coerces quicker reactions. But that doesn’t mean novitiates can’t entertainment advanced blackjack strategies in certain situations.

In this easy blackjack strategy, we’re going to discuss a winning tactic that requires very little memorization or mental calculation. It deals with soft hands (i.e. two card hands that contain and Ace) and the option to double down on your original bet. For optimal results, this strategy should be practiced at online blackjack tables before visiting a live casino.

As we all know, there is no blackjack variation that gives players an advantage. There will always be a house edge involved, no matter how miniscule. The only way to turn the tides to the player’s favor is to win above average payouts as often as possible. Obviously, counting cards will tell you when to place higher bets to increase your chances of winning big on a natural blackjack, but beginners aren’t necessarily adept at such complex blackjack strategies. The other way to increase winnings is to double down.

Many blackjack variations will allow a player to double down on any two-card total (not just 9, 10 and/or 11). You’ll need to play one of these. Remember, to double down is to double the original wager on the first two cards dealt, taking only one additional card and automatically standing on the total. If the hand beats the dealer, the player wins twice the amount they originally bet. Then again, losing a doubled hand results in the opposite, so you have to be punctilious about which hands to double on.

When to Double a Soft Hand

The only soft hands worth doubling are Ace-6 and Ace-7. I’ll explain why in a moment. First, we’ll discuss why you should never double down on A-A, A-2, A3, A-4, A-5, A-8, A-9 or A-10.

Obviously, A-10 is 21; even if it’s not a natural blackjack due to previously splitting, it shouldn’t be hit.  A-8 and A-9 have totals of 19 and 20, which should always be stood on. A-A should be split whenever possible. Otherwise, A-A through A-5 have a low potential for producing a strong hand with a total of 17+.

Let’s look at A-2. There are only 5 cards that will produce a high enough hand to stick with (17+); 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8. That’s a 5-in-13 chance of producing a positive result. Likewise, there are just 5 cards that will help an A-3 through A-5. The odds are simply too low to be worth doubling down.

As for A-6 and A-7, the range of productive cards is much higher. An A-6 would be helped by an Ace, 2, 3, 4, 10, Jack, Queen or King. That’s an 8-in-13 chance of producing a good enough result. Ace-7 is the same, benefiting from Ace, 2, 3, 9, 10, Jack, Queen or King. Note that a 9 would actually reduce the total from 18 to 17, but still gives a positive result.

Considering the Dealer’s Up-Card

As with any blackjack strategy, it’s best to take the dealer’s up-card into consideration. If the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing, it can increase the range of soft hands in which you can double down on. In general, landing a stiff hand (12-16) is bad mojo in blackjack, but if the dealer shows 5 or 6, his chance of busting is slightly above 42%. That combined with moderate odds of a good result and 0% chance of busting is worth the risk.

In direct contrast, it is ill advised to double down on any hand when the dealer is showing 7+. The dealer’s odds of winning are much higher in this case, therefore it is not worth risking 2x your original bet amount.