What’s A Soft Hand ?
Games of blackjack start with players receiving two cards each, along with the dealer. Your two cards are referred to as your hand. In blackjack games, the ace is worth 11 or 1 – it can be the game’s highest-ranking card or its lowest. If one of the cards is an ace and it can be counted as 11 or 1, you have a soft hand. If you have a soft hand, it’s impossible for your hand to go bust (i.e. go over 21) when you receive a third card.
For example, let’s say you receive an ace and a 7 for your starting hand. The value of your hand, if you’re counting ace as 11, would be 17. However, if you count the ace as 1, the value is only 8. You then receive a third card, but there’s no card worth enough points to get you over 21.
Aside from the ace, the highest-ranking cards in blackjack are 10 and the face cards (jack, queen and king), all of which are worth 10. You can get a blackjack (a 21) after starting with a soft hand: if you receive a 10 and an ace, then receive another 10, you’ll end up with 21 (counting the ace as 1, of course). A soft 17 is a hand that’s made up of an ace (counting as 11) and a 6. Likewise, a soft 13 would be made up of an ace and a 2.
What’s A Hard Hand?
There are two types of hard hand in blackjack: those that don’t have any aces, and those that do have an ace. If a hand has an ace, it’s only classed as a hard hand if the ace has to be counted as 1 so you don’t go over 21. For example, if you have a 10, a 3 and an ace, the hand is hard. This is because if the ace is counted as 11, the value of the hand would be 24 and you’d be out of the game; with the ace counting as 1, the value is 14, and you’re still in the game.
An example of a hard hand without an ace is a 7 and an 8. If your hand is low enough that an extra card can be added without you going bust, your hand isn’t considered hard. Let’s say you dealt a 2 and a 3. You then decide to hit and no matter what your third card is, you’ll be nowhere near going over 21. Hard hands, therefore, are hands where there’s a risk of an extra card making you go bust.
Blackjack hands can be soft or hard, though some hands aren’t classed as either. When it comes to playing blackjack, soft hands are less of a risk. This is because you can hit, or have an extra card dealt to you, without going over 21. For hand hands, on the other hand, whether there’s an ace or not, there’s a chance you’ll go over 21 if you decide to have an extra card dealt.
If your first two cards form a soft hand, it’s a good idea to double down. This is a move that has you double your bet and agree only to draw one more card. Another recommended move is to keep on hitting until your hand is hard, i.e. keep on receiving extra cards until there’s a chance one more card could put you over 21.
There are all sorts of detailed blackjack strategies you’ll find online, many of them aimed at more experienced players of the game. If you’re still getting used to the game, a good strategy to adopt is the basic strategy. This tells you what the best moves for you to make are depending on what your hand is; it also takes into account whether your hand is hard or soft. The strategy is presented as a table, with the dealer’s possible cards listed along the top row and your possible cards listed in a column to the left. Once you know what the dealer’s and your own cards are, you can consult the table to see what the best move for you to make is. Using this table can slightly increase your chance of winning the game.