Single Deck Soft Total Strategy
The chart below should be memorized, and the best way to do that is to play out hands and refer to the chart till you have them down cold. It's easy to get mixed up with Soft totals. Most players don't really know what to do when they hold an Ace-3, for example. I've seen that hand and an Ace-2 doubled down against a dealer's 10 often enough to learn not to shake my head. I've seen more big bets lost by the inability of players to make correct decisions with soft hands.
So, it's essential that you learn correct Basic Strategy when playing out soft hands. You should know every play without hesitation before you attempt to play for real money in a casino.
Any hand that uses the Ace as an 11 forms a soft hand, and contains a soft total.
Single Deck Soft Totals Strategy Hitting - Standing - Doubling Down - Splitting
Player's Hand Dealer's Upcard Decision A-A 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Split A-2 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Hit 4, 5, 6 Double A-3 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Hit 4, 5, 6 Double A-4 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Hit 4, 5, 6 Double A-5 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Hit 4, 5, 6 Double A-6 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Double 7, 8, 9, 10, A Hit A-7 2, 7, 8, A Stand 3, 4, 5, 6 Double 9, 10 Hit A-8 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Stand 6 Double A-9 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, A Stand
Soft 12: Ace-Ace
It's an ideal split, with each ace forming the base of an 11, ready to receive a 10 for that 21. Remember, a 21 after splitting formed by an ace and 10 is not a blackjack, just a 21, and so don't expect to be paid off at 3-2.
Soft 13-16: A2-A5
The Ace-2, Ace-3, Ace-4 and Ace-5 (soft totals of 13-16) should either be hit or doubled down. One never stays with these weak totals. You can always improve them without worrying about busting. Against the dealer's worst upcards, then 4-6, you double them down. Against all other upcards, you hit them. Never, never stand with them.
Soft 17: A6
The Ace-6 gives the average player a lot of trouble. It's a 17, and there are many players who stand on that total, though the correct play is never stand on soft 17. You're either going to hit it or double down.
A few years ago, I was at a $25 table downtown, with three other players. And each of them, when dealt a soft 17, stood. They were not only betting quarter chips but $100 chips. And they didn't know the first thing about the game.
The soft 17 is strong enough to double down against a dealer's 2-6 upcard. You don't want to double down on any card higher than a 6, for you may get an odd card while the dealer may have a standing 17 or higher, and you've gotten yourself a double loss.
The reason you don't stand on a soft 17 against a 7 or any higher card is that you can't bust the soft 17, and if the dealer shows an 8 or higher, your 17 is probably a loser already. At least try to improve it. Even against the dealer's 7, you don't play for a push. It's a bad percentage play.
If you get an ace, 2, 3, or 4, on the soft 17, you've improved your hand. Even if you get the worst possible card, a 9, you now have hard 16, and chance to improve again against a dealer's 7 or higher upcard.
Soft 18: A7
Soft 18 (Ace-7) is another tough card holding for most players. They don't realize that a double down is a strong play against a dealer's 3-6, his magic stiff cards. It's a hand you stand with against the dealer's 2 or Ace, the two ends of the card spectrum, but you hit it against a dealer's 9 or 10. Why against the 9 or 10? If we assume the 10s are the most prevalent cards in the deck, there's a good chance the dealer is holding a 19 or 20, and our soft 18 loses to these holdings. We don't want to go down without a struggle.
One of the biggest bets I have ever made presented me with that situation. I was playing head-to-head with the dealer and had a humongous wager out. A floorman was watching. I had been losing and this one bet would put me ahead. I was dealt an Ace-7 and the dealer showed a 10.
I hesitated for a moment, but my mind told me to make the right move and the right move is to hit the soft 17. I hit it and got a 4, for a hard 12. Now I definitely had to hit again and got an ace, for a hard 13. The cards were grinding me out emotionally. I hit again and got an 8! I couldn't believe it. The dealer turned over a 10 as his hole card for a 20, but I beat him. Call it luck, but I found that luck follows good play and bad luck follows in the heavy footsteps of foolish moves.
Soft 19: A8
Ace-8 is a soft 19, a very strong hand, and you'd only double down this total against a dealer's 6, his worst upcard. Sometimes I've avoided this move, because it's an expert play and I was already drawing heat from the casino. If I had doubled down, I was sure I'd be barred. But it's the correct play.
Soft 20: A9
Ace-9 is a soft 20, and you're satisfied with that total any day in the week. You don't tamper with this hand. Just stand on it.
The Snapper: A10
And finally, Ace-10, the natural, the snapper, the best of all hands. Turn it over and collect your 3-2 payoff. Without hesitation.