What Does Hard and Soft Mean in Blackjack

Learn the meaning and differences of both hard cards and soft cards in Blackjack, as well as how to best play soft and hard hands in blackjack.

hard and soft mean in blackjack
What Does Hard and Soft Mean in Blackjack

The concept of blackjack hard and soft hands (also known as hard and soft totals) is very crucial to strategic decisions that must be made by a player. Indeed, hard and soft cards offer different odds of winning against the dealer.

In blackjack, the words 'hard' and 'soft' are used quite frequently and though it might sound weird to a beginner blackjack player, the words actually refer to the two kinds of blackjack hands (comprising the cards) that a player can be dealt.

Depending on whether a player has blackjack hard hands or blackjack soft hands, the strategy is devised totally differently for the rest of the round.

So, here is everything about the difference between hard and soft cards, as well as an idea of what a player should do with each.

What are Blackjack's Hard and Soft Hands?

two aces icon

It is a single card, the Ace, that calls for the difference between a hard hand and a soft hand in blackjack. This subtle distinction has unfortunately given the rise of many misplayed hands.

Soft Hand

At the very beginning of the game, the player is dealt two cards and if one of these is an ace, then the player is believed to have a soft hand. This is because the Ace can be 1 or 11, depending on the other card(s). A soft hand automatically implies more liquidity and better choice for the player.

As an example, imagine a player has a soft hand comprising an Ace and an 8. Now, his hand could be either 9 or 19.

Blackjack soft hand example: A8

Hard Hand

A hard hand in blackjack, on the other hand, means the absence of an Ace. A hard hand is, therefore, more rigid and the player does not have any choices to exercise in certain situations.

For example, if the player has two 5, then he has 10 and if he holds a 10 and a Queen, he has 20, and so on.

Blackjack hard hand example: 55

Strategy for Soft Hands

The strategy for soft Vs hard blackjack hands is certainly different and a player must know how to play both. To be able to implement the soft hand blackjack strategy well, the player must have an understanding of the basic strategy.

A soft hand provides the player with some of the best opportunities to win a fortune. This is how it is possible. Let's assume that the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 as an up card and is in a bit of trouble. The player, on the other hand, has a soft hand. So, he can double down the hand to maximize the profits. This will also not pose any threat of busting. Doubling down soft blackjack hands is a strategy that professional blackjack players love to devise and execute.

Because a soft hand can be improved and used to lower the house edge even further, a rule allowing the dealer to hit a soft 17 was brought into place. When the dealer hits a soft 17, the house gets an opportunity to improve the hand against the soft and less risky hand of the player.

Differences between Hard vs Soft Hands in Blackjack
Differences between Hard vs Soft Hands in Blackjack

Strategy for Hard Hands

When dealt a hard hand, the player must devise a solid hard hand blackjack strategy, the success of which again, is largely dependent on his understanding of the basic strategy.

The best way to play a blackjack hard hand is to avoid deviating from the basic strategy. A player with a hard hand should assume that the dealer has a ten in the hole. For example, if the dealer shows his up card to be 10, assume that he has a 20. This calculation of an estimated total will be crucial in winning the hand most of the time.

However, if the dealer holds a lower card like 6 or below, then the player with a hard total must stand in this situation and hope that the dealer busts. One thing that a player should remember while playing a hard hand is not to hesitate to hit hard totals of 14, 15, or 16 against the dealer's 10. Hitting is the only option other than surrendering, which is often not allowed. The player must avoid the temptation to stand on these hard totals. He must always hit the hand till busting or reaching 17.

When to Double Down a Soft and Hard Hand?

Doubling Down is a profitable blackjack bet only if used correctly and at the right time. It means doubling your bet in the middle of a hand after the two initial cards are dealt. Doubling down means receiving just one more card and then, deciding to Stand.

Doubling down with a hard hand is risky and should be done only when the player has a hard 9 or 10. The dealer must also show a low card. If the player receives a reasonably high card, he will be in a better position against the dealer.

A player can also double down with a soft hand of 16, 17, or 18, provided that the dealer, too, has a low card. In such situations, the additional card can largely improve the player's chances of winning.

So, this sums up everything about hard hands and soft hands in blackjack. The way both should be played and strategized, as discussed, remains the same for online blackjack hands as well.

This article was published on March 31, 2021, and last updated on August 17, 2022.