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How to Play Soft 17 in Blackjack

It’s a well-known fact that most of the gamers who make Jackpot Capital online casino their go to casino play slots above all other games.  Truly, there is no better moment in casino gaming than winning a slot machine jackpot.  Still, Jackpot Capital casino also offers a couple of hundred games in several other game categories.

In this article, we will talk about one of the most interesting aspects of blackjack: how to play when you, as the player, have soft 17.

Why Talk about Blackjack?

Blackjack and its sister game, video poker, are in a way the exact opposite of slots.  While slots have so many themes and story lines that gamers can go from slot to slot having a great time doing so, blackjack and video poker are a lot more static in their game play.

Both of these games do have their exciting variations.  We will get into blackjack and video poker variations in other articles.  Here we would like to focus our attention on how to play soft 17 in blackjack since it is the most difficult strategy line for many players to accept and play correctly.

Let’s look at the importance of strategy in casino gaming.  Slots are a game of pure chance while blackjack and video poker combine skill with luck.  That means that there is really no in-game strategy in slots while there is a great deal of strategy in blackjack and video poker.  You can lower the house edge in both of these games with perfect strategy. 

Doesn’t Luck Play a Big Role in Blackjack and Video Poker?

Once you have made the correct decision on how to proceed, luck does take over.  The luck does affect the outcome of every hand but luck only goes so far.  If you as the player have made the correct strategic move, then the luck available to the house may be reduced to next to zero!

The Soft 17 Conundrum

Now we get to the subject of our discourse.  Soft 17 is a count of 17 that includes an ace.  It is usually an ace and a six.  This can be read as either a seven or a seventeen so it is called a soft 17.

The rules for proceeding with a soft 17 apply both to the dealer and to the player.  The house really has no choice; every move the dealer makes is built into the rules of the game. 

For the player, soft 17 presents a dilemma.  Most players, who have not yet learned basic blackjack strategy, see 17 points as a good hand.  They know that the dealer will bust on a lot of hands and they don’t want to risk getting a low card and actually harming their chances to either win the hand or to tie with the dealer at 17 points.

Thus the soft 17 quandary for players.

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What 17 Points Really Mean

Here it doesn’t matter if you have soft 17 or hard 17.   If the player has only 17 points, they can win only if the dealer busts.  If the dealer ends up with a hand, she will win with any point count other than 17 which will be a push.

So, 17 points for the player is not a great hand!

Statistically, in a blackjack variation where the dealer hits on soft 17, the player is at an extra measure of disadvantage.  However, when the player has 17 points and the dealer has soft 17, the player has a chance to win the hand by having the dealer bust.

What is the Best Strategy for a Player with Soft 17?

First we have to distinguish between soft 17 and hard 17.   If you as the player have hard 17, the best strategy is to stand.  This applies even if the dealer’s up card is an 8, a 9, or a royal, plus the ace.  The reason is simple: the chances that you will bust with a five or higher is far greater than the chance that the dealer will win with another high card to go with their high up card.

Not to get too deep into basic strategy but the best play changes as the player’s hand changes.  That has to do with the odds of busting on the next card.

Now we need to present a chart that shows the best strategy from the statistical point of view for a player’s holding of an ace and a six versus every card the dealer might have.

Basic Strategy Must Always Prevail

Before we run the chart, be prepared to go to basic strategy whatever the next card comes up.  If the next card is a 10 value card, you stand but if you get a 9 and have 16 points, there are cases when it is better to hit than to stand.  In the following chart, the player always holds ace-6.

  1. The dealer has a 2.  If you hit, you have much better chance to win than if you stand.  Standing here is very poor strategy as we explained above: you win only if the dealer busts.  In this example, doubling down is also good strategy but hitting is better.
  2. The dealer has a 3.  If you hit, you will win in the long run but if you stand, you lose a lot more often.  In this example, doubling down is the best strategy as you win more often than if you simply hit.
  3. The dealer has a 4.  You should hit or double down.  Your winning chances are twice as good if you double down but most players have a hard time getting their heads around this.  The dealer has a lot more chance to bust with a 4 than with a 2 or 3 so in many hands doubling down wins double your original bet!
  4. The dealer has 5 or 6.  The best strategy here is to double down.  Soft 17 comes up often enough that you really need to know that your best play with that hand often is to double down.
  5. The dealer has a 7.  Here, the best play is to hit.  Doubling down is a long term losing bet albeit just by a small percentage.  From here on out, you will hit knowing that it is not the most pleasant play but it is the only play.
  6. The dealer has an 8, 9, 10 count card, or an ace.  You should hit and accept that sometimes you can’t win them all.  Still, surrender is not the best play since when you surrender you lose half your bet but by hitting you will lose but a lot less than half your bet.

The Basic and Best Strategy in Blackjack

Some blackjack players still insist that counting cards is the only way to win at the game.  At any online casino, counting cards won’t work because the decks are automatically shuffled after every hand.  The same is true at most land based casinos these days.

Some land based casinos have shoes that hold several decks making card counting a lot less valuable as a method to win at the game.  Thus, the best way to win at blackjack is to learn the basic strategy for the variation you want to play and to learn that strategy backwards and forwards.

If you become a blackjack expert, you will win in many sessions.  Even in those sessions where you come up a bit short, you will come up just a bit short in money terms but way ahead in terms of gaming fun!

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