A lot of blackjack players get perplexed when they hear people referring to ‘soft hands’ and ’hard hands’. They are essentially two different categories of hands that rely on totally different playing decisions to make the most out of them.
Among all the many terms used in blackjack, soft and hard are perhaps the most confusing for newcomers to the game. This is partly because there are a whole slew of articles and books written about the game that use these terms without really explaining them properly. As a result, many novices struggle to understand the peculiar lingo used at blackjack tables and end up getting confused over the entire concept of the game.
There are a few key concepts that you should be aware of before playing the game of blackjack, including the difference between hard and soft hands. The distinction is important because it has a direct impact on the expected value of your winning hands.
Hard hands are a group of cards that cannot be improved by any additional cards, whereas soft hands can. Typically, a hard hand does not contain an Ace or when it does, the ace is counted as 1, rather than as 11. The only way you can make a hard hand into a soft one is by adding an extra card, such as a 3 to a 10-7.
It is crucial to distinguish between the two because blackjack is a game of probabilities and understanding how your hands should be played will dramatically increase their expected value. In the long run, you will lose more often with hard totals than you will win with soft ones, regardless of the dealer’s up card.
Aside from a blackjack, the highest-ranking cards in a standard deck of 52 are the 10s and the face cards (jack, queen and king). You can make a hand of 21 after receiving all four of these cards – this is known as a ‘blackjack’. You can also receive a combination of high-ranking cards that aren’t the 10s or face cards – this is called a ‘soft’ hand.
A common mistake made by some players is to treat soft hands the same as they do hard ones, resulting in them losing out on the expected value of their wins. For example, some players will stand on soft totals of 12 through 17 when they should double down if the dealer’s up card is a 7 or worse. This is a major mistake because it will lead to the player’s bankroll disappearing faster than you can say “stiffies”. The most effective way to play these types of hands is by following basic strategy.