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Accounting for the Dealer's Preference on Soft 17s in Blackjack

By: Mark Freedman, Wednesday January 14th 2015
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Blackjack is known for having tons of different variations based on slightly different rule sets. One of the things that you have to learn to do if you want to be an exceptionally strong blackjack player is use these changes in rules to play better. One small change in the rules of the game can lead to some major differences in strategy, and what we want to do here is show you how to work with one of the most common rule changes in the game: the dealer standing or hitting on a soft 17.

Standard play is for the dealer to stand on soft 17. However, if the dealer hits on a soft 17, then you get a number of options to make atypical plays that can increase your payout rate. One of the first places to look is surrendering with hard hands. Specifically, you're going to want to surrender slightly more often when you're facing an ace. This can mean that surrendering with a hard 15 or even a hard 17 against an ace can be correct, and this is especially true in multi-deck games because of the lack of influence from card removal.

Another place to look is when you have soft hands against a weak dealer card. Essentially, this will increase your advantage in these scenarios because the dealer will be slightly more likely to hit and run into a busting scenario or a scenario with a weak hand that's easy to go bust. Compared to normal strategy, there are two differences that you'll want to account for. First, you'll want to always double with a soft 18 against any two through six which is atypical since you usually stand against a two. Second, you'll want to double a soft 19 if and only if you are facing a six.

Finally we have one more specific change that you'll want to make, and this is probably the difference that the fewest players know about. In typical blackjack where the dealer stands on a soft 17, you'll usually split paired eights against an ace instead of surrendering like you would with other hard 16s. When the dealer hits on a soft 17, however, you'll actually want to go ahead and surrender when you're facing an ace. This is somewhat atypical, and it's easy to forget to do.

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