Blackjack is a popular game of choice available in most casinos, on par with games like roulette, poker and baccarat. The rules are simple, but don’t take the game’s simplicity for granted — it’s packed with strategy!
Blackjack has one of the lowest house edges among all casino games, and what makes this game truly special is that blackjack players can further reduce the casino advantage through tactical thinking.
One of the most important aspects of playing blackjack in casinos is knowing how to distinguish one table from another and how the differences may affect your playing decisions. Whether you’re playing at a land-based casino or online, you’ve definitely come across mentions of the soft 17 rule.
WHAT IS SOFT 17 IN A BLACKJACK GAME?
To grasp the soft 17 rule in blackjack, let’s zoom out first and look at the fundamental elements of your standard blackjack game.
The game’s objective is to beat the house by forming a hand with a total value closest to 21 without going over it. All number cards take their face value, and face cards (J, Q, and K) are 10 points each. The ace counts as either one or 11, depending on the hand’s total value. If having the ace will push the hand over a total of 21, it will count as one.
What determines soft and hard hands is just one card — the ace. A soft hand in blackjack is any hand containing an ace counted at 11. If the total exceeds 21, the ace will be valued at one to prevent the hand from busting. For example, A-6 and A-3-3 are both a soft 17.
A 10-7 is an example of a hard hand, but so is A-7-9; if the hand doesn’t contain an ace or has one or more aces counted as one, then the hand is hard.
HOW TO PLAY A SOFT 17 IN BLACKJACK?
Following the number of decks in a game and the payout odds for hitting blackjack, the next important thing in line is: will the dealer hit on soft 17? The table will often indicate if the soft 17 rule is applied.
While the player has a certain level of freedom with their hand, the dealer plays only one of two moves — stand on a soft 17 (or higher) or hit. In this case, the dealer stands only on a hard 17 and up.
STANDING ON SOFT 17
When it comes to standing on a soft 17, players will do well to avoid it! With no risk of going bust, it is highly recommended to avoid this option, as it harms their chances of winning while helping the chances of the dealer hitting and scoring blackjack.
HITTING A SOFT 17
When the soft 17 rule is in effect, the dealer hits on soft 17 and usually busts more often. This sounds great for the player but is quite misleading. Hitting a soft 17 increases the dealer’s chances of busting, but it also increases their chances of building a stronger hand.
To put it in perspective, the odds of busting go up by about 0.40% when the dealer hits on a soft hand of 17, while the odds of forming a better hand increase by about 0.80%. In other words, when the dealer doesn’t bust when the soft 17 rule is in play, their hand is more likely to become strong enough to beat the player.
This means that the house edge increases by roughly 0.20% on H17 tables, which is enough to turn most players away. The house edge in online casino blackjack is one of the lowest among all casino games, standing at just about 0.50% — a 0.20% increase.
DOUBLING DOWN ON SOFT 17
When playing on a table that indicates that the dealer must stand on a soft 17, doubling down is a smart choice to make — the dealer standing on a soft 17 means the player has a better chance of reaching blackjack by choosing to hit. Doubling down on this rule means the increased risk of a bigger loss is reduced, giving the player a clearer shot at potentially winning the game.
DEALER STANDS ON SOFT 17
When the dealer stands on a soft 17, this is considered to be the most advantageous set of rules for the player at the casino. The dealer will reach a soft 17, that is, an ace card (valued at either one or 11) and a seven card, for example.
If the soft 17 rule is applied, the dealer will not hit again. For the player, this increases their odds of winning over the dealer because the less the dealer hits, the less chances the dealer will have to reach 21.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER BLACKJACK SOFT HANDS?
Other than the structure of the hand, the main distinction is how soft hands are played by the dealers and players.
The basic strategy suggests that a player should always go for standing on a hard 17 total, like 10 and seven, and never stand on a soft 17 total, like ace and six.
A player’s strategy should adjust depending on the dealer’s upcard and whether the table is S17 or H17 — every situation calls for a different approach!
SOFT 13 – 14 CASES
Soft hands of 13 and 14 — Hit on dealer’s two through four and seven through ace, double down if allowed on five or six; otherwise, hit.
SOFT 15-16+ CASES
Soft hands of 15 and 16 — Hit on two or three and seven through a dealer ace, double down on four through six if allowed; otherwise, hit.
Soft 17 — With a soft 17, you should hit on two and seven through ace, double down on three to six if allowed; otherwise, hit.
Soft 18 — Double down when the dealer shows two through six if allowed; otherwise, stand. Stand on seven or eight and hit on nine through ace.
Soft 19 — Opt for standing on a soft 19. Double down, if allowed, on six; otherwise, stand.
Soft 20+ — Stand as the odds of improving this are very low, regardless of the dealer’s upcard.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOFT 17 AND A HARD 17 IN BLACKJACK GAMES?
S17 — Soft 17, which is a total of 17 made up from an ace (counting as one or 11) and another card, for example, a seven.
H17 — Hard 17, which is a total of 17 that does not have the flexibility of an ace. So for instance, a 10 card and a seven.
The difference is that on a soft 17 you can change the value of the ace if you hit (and avoid busting by going over 21), which a hard 17 means that if you hit, you are at a higher risk of busting as the value of each card remains the same (unlike the ace).
BLACKJACK SOFT 17: WHAT MISTAKES TO AVOID?
DON’T STAND ON SOFT 17
In blackjack games where you see the dealer hit on soft 17, this is because it ultimately benefits the house. Logically, it follows that if the dealer hitting on S17 increases the house edge, then the players that hit on a soft 17 increase their own odds.
The key takeaway is this: hit on a soft 17 to push your potential further, but avoid standing on the soft total! Irrespective of the blackjack games in question, it’s never in the player’s interest to stand on a soft 17.
DOUBLE DOWN ON SOFT 17
On tables that have rules allowing players to doubling down, it is wise to take up this option. This is because the dealer’s hand is at higher risk of going bust.
The basic playing strategy dictates that doubling down on a soft 17 applies to a single-deck game where dealers show two through six, and double-deck games (or multi-deck games) when a dealer’s upcard is three to six.
DON’T STAND ON A MULTI-CARD SOFT 17
There may be times when a soft 17 is made through the inclusion of another card. No big deal! In such cases, players may be tempted to opt for standing. However, don’t let the third card fool you.
This hand would still be a soft total of 17, and the basic playing strategy for a multi-card S17 remains the same: never choose standing! Go for hitting your hand instead, and double down if the game rules allow.
CHECK PLAYING RULES FOR DOUBLING DOWN
It is important to familiarise yourself with casino rules wherever you are, be it in land-based or online casinos. Not only a simple rule of etiquette, but some players might also be unsure of their options and settle for standing.
So if you see the dealer stand, aim to double down; just make sure the table rules allow it first.
BE CAREFUL WITH DOUBLING DOWN
As established, the house edge increases when dealers hit, and this means doubling down is advised when the dealer stands. However, don’t simply double down because you can! Once again, the basic strategy will help you navigate the game.
The basic strategy rule for a single-deck game dictates you should hit soft 17 against a dealer’s upcard of seven through ace. For the basic strategy player sitting for a multi-deck game, hit on soft 17 against the dealer’s upcard of two or a dealer’s upcard of seven through ace.
CONCLUSION — MASTER THE RULES OF BLACKJACK SOFT 17 AND START WINNING
When it comes to strategy in this casino game, the bottom line is that one size doesn’t fit all. Strategy is integral to the game — every rule matters and every situation calls for a different approach. No matter which blackjack hand you’re playing with, there is a mathematically optimal way to play.
Aside from mastering the rules of play, players should also manage their bankroll. Money management is as important as understanding blackjack rules and using the correct basic strategy, which will help you avoid common bankroll mistakes. Chance plays a role as significant as skill, so play responsibly!
✅ CAN I PLAY THE SOFT 17 RULE BLACKJACK AT LV BET?
Yes! If you’d like to try out the basic strategy tips you’ve picked up in this article, LV BET has a splendid range of S17 blackjack tables and countless other multi-deck games for you to try your luck on!
✅ IS THE BLACKJACK SOFT 17 RULE THE SAME AT AN ONLINE CASINO AND A LAND CASINO?
Yes, S17 is a rule which applies to the blackjack game itself. Games, where the dealer is standing on S17, do not express any discrepancies when playing at casinos, regardless of whether they are live casinos or online.
✅ WHAT EFFECT DOES THE SOFT 17 RULE HAVE ON THE HOUSE EDGE?
Hitting a soft 17 increases the dealer’s chances of busting but increases the chances of a stronger hand. When the dealer hits on a soft hand of 17, the odds of busting go up by 0.40%, while the odds of forming a better hand increase by about 0.80%. Therefore, when the dealer doesn’t bust, their hand may be strong enough to beat the player.
✅ HOW TO CUSTOMISE YOUR BASIC BLACKJACK STRATEGY FOR THE SOFT 17 RULE?
If you’d like to be aware of the different combinations of basic strategy plays when you play blackjack, a strategy chart would not be remiss at a table!
✅ DOES STANDING ON THE SOFT 17 HELP THE PLAYER OR DEALER?
Standing on a S17 is counterintuitive to the player’s chances, and when blackjack players choose standing, they are ultimately favouring the dealer. Conversely, the dealer standing is a good sign of boosting the potential for blackjack players to win.