Soft 17 Rule in Blackjack Guide | LeoVegas

Soft 17 Rule in Blackjack

The soft 17 rule often confuses blackjack players. It’s an important rule to bear in mind because it changes how the dealer functions, it affects the house edge, as well as the way you play. A soft 17 is a blackjack hand that is valued at 17 and includes an ace which is worth 1 or 11.


The Soft 17 Blackjack Rule Defined

Explanation of a Soft Hand

In a blackjack game, a soft 17 refers to a hand that includes an ace. In this case, the ace’s value is either one or 11. A soft hand cannot bust. The value of a soft hand can also be improved, or worsened, by adding more cards. In other words, its value is flexible.

For comparison, a hard hand is a one on which you would a hard hand is one where its value is set, or non-negotiable. It may or may not include an ace, and can bust if another card is added.

Defining the Soft 17

In simple terms, a soft 17 can be explained as a soft hand valued at 17 in total, which includes an ace card that can act as a value of one or 11. A soft 17 can be made in several ways, the most popular make-up being the ace + six hand. In this case, the ace is worth 11. Other ways include the ace + three + three, ace + two + four, ace + two + two + two. A soft 17 can be made up of three or more cards, so long as the ace acts as a value of one or 11.

Historical Context and Origin

The soft 17 rule seems to have popped up around the mid-20th century. At this point, casinos were looking for ways to increase their house edge and although the rule wasn’t originally uniformly adopted, as more casinos recognized its benefits, its popularity grew.

This affected player strategies, which had to be adjusted accordingly. Even so, the rule had an impact on the game’s dynamics and ended up sparking debate among players because of its influence over the game’s odds. It’s still a matter of discussion among players and experts today who continue to debate the rule’s effectiveness.

Impact of the Soft 17 Rule on Gameplay

Effects on House Edge

The soft 17 rule brings a few changes to the house edge, and this purely depends on the specific game rules. If the dealer is forced to stand on a soft 17 hand, then the house edge is reduced which benefits you, the player. The rule limits the dealer’s chances of improving on their hand, so you’re more likely to beat them. But this completely changes if the game allows the dealers to hit on a soft 17.

In this case, the house edge increases, shifting the odds in the casino’s favour. Since the dealer can improve their hand, the chances of them beating your hand also increases, giving them a significant advantage. So, ultimately the soft 17 rule’s effect on house edge will largely depend on the blackjack rules variety you choose to play.

Influence on Player Decisions

The rule brings a lot of new strategic adjustments to the table. As mentioned above, these can be influenced by the dealer’s potential moves. When a dealer must stand on a soft 17, you might decide to get more comfortable standing on lower-hand values, knowing that the dealer cannot improve on their own.

Alternatively, if the dealer is allowed to hit on a soft 17, you might push for riskier plays, hitting more often to increase your chances of beating the dealer’s hand or forcing them to bust out.

Once again, this will depend on how your choice of blackjack variation deals with the soft 17 rule. But as you’ll see from the strategies below, you might want to take an altogether different approach.

Blackjack Strategies with Soft 17

How to Adjust Basic Strategy

Your strategy with a soft 17 hand depends on how the dealer is allowed to react to a soft 17. Whenever a dealer stands on soft 17, you should take a more aggressive stance. Since the dealer cannot improve their hand further, you should try to hit and get a higher hand value, something that the dealer cannot hope to match with their potentially weaker hand value.

But should the dealer be allowed to hit on a soft 17, then you should go the other way, with a more conservative approach to hitting. There is an increased risk of the dealer improving their hand so you should consider standing more often to minimize your chances of busting out. Try to find a comfortable hand value which might encourage the dealer to hit more and in turn increase their chances of busting.

In following a basic strategy, you should always stand when you have a soft 17 or higher to reduce the risk of busting. The only exception is when you have a soft 17 hand made up of an ace and a six. In this case, you can comfortably hit and increase your hand’s value – just as long as you don’t go over 21.

Ultimately, your strategy will need to find a balance between taking calculated risks and sticking to a safer hand value, something that you’ll need to actively review every round.

How to Adjust Card Counting

Although the soft 17 rule doesn’t change all that much in terms of card counting, there are a few nuanced approaches that can help you optimize the technique’s effectiveness.

You’ll need to reassess the value of certain cards about the dealer’s potential actions with a soft 17 rule in play. For example, a high card count could potentially suggest a higher chance of the dealer busting if they stand on a soft 17, which could prompt you to hit more. But if the dealer can hit on a soft 17, a high count means you should be more cautious and consider the potential of the dealer having a stronger hand value.

Soft 17 Rule in Blackjack FAQs

What is a soft hand in blackjack?

In blackjack, a soft hand is a hand that includes an ace, of which its value is one or 11.

How does the soft 17 rule impact the odds?

The soft 17 rule in blackjack games can impact the game’s odds based on how the dealer is allowed to function. When a dealer is forced to stand on a soft 17, the odds shift in your favour. But when the dealer can hit on a soft 17, the odds are improved in the casino’s favour.

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