Hard Hand vs Soft Hand in Blackjack What Is The Difference?
Written by Phoebe
Published date · July 9, 2019 | Last Updated · July 6, 2022 | Read Time: 5 mins
Blackjack is considered one of the most popular casino games by many players around the world. The game is exciting and requires every player to be involved throughout the entire gameplay. But, there are many rules that apply to this famous casino game and requirements for a blackjack hand. There is a difference between soft hands and hard hands and it is essential for every blackjack player to know what these are.
So, especially if you are new to the game, make sure to learn the basic blackjack rules including the concepts of soft hands and hard hands, before you start betting real money. In this article we will explain what soft and hard hands are, the main difference between them, and how they apply to basic blackjack strategy. We want to help you explore your potential and get you a step closer to becoming the winning blackjack player that you are supposed to be.
What is a Soft Blackjack Hand?
The blackjack rules mean that each game starts with players receiving two cards each, along with the dealer. Your two cards are referred to as your “hand”. When you play blackjack, the ace is worth 11 or 1 – it can either be the game’s highest-ranking card or its lowest. If one of the cards in your hand is an ace, which can be counted as either 11 or 1, you have a soft hand. If you have a soft hand, it’s impossible for your hand to bust (i.e. go over 21) when you receive a third card.
For example, let’s say that you are dealt two cards in your starting hand, and you receive an ace and a 7. The value of your hand, if you’re counting ace as 11, would be 18. 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. Blackjack soft hands strategy ultimately makes it impossible to lose your hand when you have an Ace. If you are playing blackjack online and you have an Ace, it will automatically be counted as 1 if your hand goes over 21. Clever.
What is a Hard Hand in Blackjack?
There are two types of hard hand in blackjack: those without aces, and those with an ace. If a hand has an ace, it’s classed as a hard hand when the ace counts as 1. This rule applies so you don’t risk to go over 21. For example, if you have a 10, a 3 and an ace, the hand is hard. Let’s break it down. If your ace counts as 11, the value of your hand would be 24 (10+3+11) and you would “bust” or be out of the game because you would go over 21; but, if your ace counts as 1, your hand value would total to 14 (10+3+1), meaning that you are still in the game. At this point you can decide to “hit” (you are dealt another card) or “stand” (you end the game and wait to see if the dealer can beat your 14 or if you beat the dealer).
An example of a hard hand without an ace is a 10 and a 6, which would make a hard 16. This is one of the trickiest hands in blackjack, because your chances of winning are drastically reduced. But no hope is lost! Make sure to look at the rules of a hard 16 hand to learn what you should do in this situation, and turn the game back in your favor.
So does it mean that every time you are dealt cards without an ace you have a hard hand? The answer is no. Your hand is not considered hard if you can add another card to your hand without going to bust. This happens when you have low value cards in your hand, such as a 2 or a 3. You then decide to hit and no matter what your third card is, you won’t be going over 21. Hard hands, are hands where there’s a risk of an extra card making you go bust. If you don’t know what to do when you are dealt a hard hand, make sure to check our article on blackjack strategies where you can find helpful information and game history on how to overcome this situation. Ultimately soft hands are probably more favorable as a blackjack hand.
Blackjack Strategy with soft or hard hands
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 hard hands, 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 single 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 – it’s a pretty basic unwritten rule within players.