How to play hard and soft hands in online blackjack

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For many players, it can take some time before you first encounter the terms hard and soft in relation to online blackjack hands.

Pretty much, this is due to the fact that online blackjack games are not there to educate you and will not provide lengthy lists of rules.

The terms hard and soft are more commonly encountered when playing around the packed blackjack tables of a real-world casino.

Some dealers will describe your 11 as a soft 11, while players might explain how they won on a hard 16.

So, what on earth does all of this talk of hard and soft mean in relation to online blackjack rules and how you should play the game?

Well, is here once more to help sharpen up your online blackjack strategy.

What is a hard hand in blackjack?

In blackjack, the term “hard hand” is simply used to explain that there is no room for maneuver in the scoring.

For example, you have a king and 8, which total 18.

Neither of those cards can be scored in any other way, so the fact of the matter is that you have a hard 18.

What is a soft hand in blackjack?

Just above, it was explained that hard blackjack hands don’t provide room for maneuver in the scoring process.

However, the exact opposite can be said of soft hands, as they can be one score or another.

And this is because soft hands contain an ace, which can be scored as 1 or 11.

As an example, let’s say that you have a soft 18 because the hand is comprised of an ace and a 7.

The 18 is soft due to the fact that an 18 has been used to reach that score.

If you preferred, then you could score the ace as 1 and treat the hand as if you were on an 8.

In online blackjack, the score would appear as 8/18 until you had decided whether or not you wanted to stand on 18 or else hit to receive another card on 8.

Hard hand blackjack strategy

The majority of online blackjack tables bear the house rule of the dealer hitting on anything up to and including 16, while having to stand if they reach 17.

There can be slight variants here and there, but that is the most common set up you should expect to encounter.

In blackjack, you cannot win if you go above 21 and end up busting.

As such, you are wise to utilize the following blackjack strategies online based on the following situations.

Player’s HandDealer’s up-card
Hard hand (no A)2 to 67 to A
4 to 8HitHit
9Double betHit
10 to 11Double betDouble bet
12 to 16StandHit
17 to 21StandStand

With a hard hand, you don’t have the freedom to change your score.

However, you can maximize your winning potential by implementing the above decisions based on your hand what the dealer’s up-card is showing.

In the event that you have 10 to 11, it’s worth checking to see if your score is higher than the dealer’s up-card.

If so, then go right ahead and double your bet against them.

Don’t forget to always check the dealer’s up-card and factor this into your blackjack decisions.

Soft blackjack strategy

If you are fortunate enough to have a soft hand, then you can use that ace to your advantage to adjust your score.

Here, however, we are going to be treating the ace as if it’s scored as 11.

Just below is a list of recommended actions based on your soft score when compared to what the dealer’s up-card is showing.

Player’s HandDealer’s up-card
Soft hand (has an A)2 to 67 to A
13 to 15HitHit
16 to 18Double betHit
19 to 21StandStand

As you can see, you get to act much more aggressively when they dealer is show from a 2 to a 6.

In fact, you can even go so far as doubling the bet if you have a 16 to 18 in that scenario.

However, you will be wiser to simply hit if the dealer shows 7 to A.

By treating the ace as an 11, you can make much clearer decisions when in the heat of t he moment.

This will be especially important if you want to try and tackle a live blackjack dealer.

There is a clock on your decision-making and they will not let you wait around and hold back the other players.

A useful piece of advice is that you shouldn’t stand on a soft 17, as the ace gives you the luxury of hitting again without going bust, as you can score it as 1 rather than 11.

Splitting strategy

When playing at online blackjack sites, it can also be quite common to start with a matching pair.

At the same time, the dealer could also be showing an ace and have the advantage of a soft hand.

As such, we are also going to provide you with a table of basic decisions that can help out with choosing to split or not:

Player handPlayer HandDealer’s up-card
Split hand (matching pair)2 to 67 to A
8, ASplitSplit
2, 3, 6, 7, 9SplitDon’t split
4, 5, 10Don’t splitDon’t split

You should always split on a pair of 8s or aces, based on the fact that those cards have an excellent chance of being used to beat the dealer.

Of course, 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, and 9s, do have their moments as well, but not whenever the dealer is showing a risky 7 to ace as their up-card.

Please be aware that 4s, 5s, and 10s are not strong cards to use against the dealer and can leave you far from 21 yet to close to hit.

As such, you should just play with the hand based on the hard strategy suggestions displayed in the table above.

Final online blackjack tips

As an added treat, here are some final tips that you should also consider using when playing at blackjack casinos online:

• Surrender with a 16 against a 10: You are in such an awkward position with the dealer fully capable of beating you. Hitting on a 16 could easily result in a bust, so take advantage of surrendering and take back half of your stake.

• No surrender: Let’s say that you are playing at a blackjack casino site that doesn’t have the surrender option. If you are 16 against the dealer’s 10 up-card, then you should hit in that instance.

• Double unavailable: If the online blackjack table does not permit doubling where recommended by the tables above, then you should hit at the very least.

• Avoid insurance: This is a side-bet and these are generally best to avoid unless you have extremely deep pockets for your bankroll. For clarification, the insurance bet is available when the dealer’s up-card shows an ace.

You can also check out our other helpful blackjack guides if you want to read through any further information on this incredible casino game. Below are links to casinos we recommend depending on your location:


Mitko Atanasov

Mitko Atanasov is a highly respected expert in the online casino and slot review industry, boasting over 14 years of experience. He is dedicated to providing unbiased and accurate reviews, empowering players to make informed decisions. His vast knowledge and expertise make him a trusted source of information for both novice and experienced players.

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