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Best of John Grochowski

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Soft 17: Hit or Stand?

10 September 2020

There are times blackjack basic strategy plays don’t feel right, but they remain the best way to go.

I recently had an extended email conversation with a player who called himself Acie. I have no idea if that’s real name or a gamblin’ moniker.

Acie’s four emails boiled down to this:

“I mostly play basic strategy, but some plays I don’t agree with. When I have 17, I’m going to stand, even if it’s soft 17 like Ace-6. At least that way I’m going to win every time the dealer busts. I’m always in the game when the dealer turns up his second card, and I always have a chance if the dealer has to take a third card.”

That’s fine with hard 17. On any hard hand from 17 on up, there’s too great a risk of busting to hit. It’s best to stand on those hands, and basic strategy tells you so.

But with soft 17, you can’t bust with a one-card hit. Unless you hit more than once, you still can meet Acie’s concern of still being in the game for a dealer draw, and you get a chance to improve the hand.

The chance to improve the hand is key because soft 17 can’t win unless the dealer busts. The best it can do if the dealer makes a standing hand is push a dealer 17. You lose to any dealer hand of 18 or higher, and the dealer hits 16 or less.

What if you hit soft 17 and draw a bad card, such as a 9 to give you hard 16? You still win whenever the dealer busts. You’ve give up the chance to push a dealer 17, but that’s far outweighed by the chance to improve the hand.

It should be noted that once you hit, basic strategy for your new total takes over. If you draw a 10 value and have hard 17, you’re in standing territory. If you draw a 9 and have hard 16, it’s time to stand if the dealer has 2 through 6 or hit against 7 or higher.

With that noted, let’s look at average results if you hit, stand or double down with Ace-6 in a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17.

Figures given are average win or loss per $1 of your original wager.

  • Ace-6 vs. 2: Hit, lose three hundredths of a cent. Stand, lose 15.3 cents. Double, lose five-tenths of a cent.

  • Ace-6 vs. 3: Hit, win 2.9 cents. Stand, lose 11.6 cents. Double, win 5.7 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 4: Hit, win 6.2 cents. Stand, lose 7.6 cents. Double, win 12.3 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 5: Hit, win 9.9 cents. Stand, lose 3.8 cents. Double, win 19.7 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 6: Hit, win 12.6 cents. Stand, lose 0.5 cents. Double, 25.2 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 7: Hit, win 5.4 cents. Stand, lose 10.4 cents. Double, lose 0.9 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 8: Hit, lose 7.1 cents. Stand, lose 38.3 cents. Double, lose 25.2 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 9: Hit, lose 14.7 cents. Stand, lose 42.1 cents. Double, lose 39.2 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. 10 value: Hit, lose 19.6 cents. Stand, lose 42.0 cents. Double, lose 45.5 cents.

  • Ace-6 vs. Ace: Hit, lose 22.1 cents. Stand, lose 52.4 cents. Double, lose 54.9 cents.

In every case, standing is an inferior option to hitting, and on some hands, doubling down brings the best return. That’s why basic strategy calls for you to double on Ace-6 when the dealer has 3, 4, 5 or 6 and to hit against anything else.


Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski