By Charles Jay

One of the player’s most important options available is that of SOFT DOUBLING. This concept applies when the player holds a SOFT HAND, meaning a two-card hand which contains an ace. Of course, a hand with two aces is technically a soft hand, but the player would always split that hand, not double (If you were in a brick and mortar setting, however, and you doubled, you’d probably find pit bosses falling over each other to give you casino comps).

Another soft hand to which the doubling principle does not apply is the Ace-10 deal which naturally (pardon the pun) is a blackjack and constitutes a 3-2 payoff. That leaves us with the hands running from Ace-2 through Ace-9. By the way, an Ace-2 should be referred to by the player as “Ace-Two” and not as “3 or 13”. When this category of hand is dealt, it is the player’s option to take a one-card draw for twice the original bet, which of course is the concept of DOUBLING.

When you double soft hands, they differ from the process with hard hands since you can use either the soft or hard total of the original hand. With a hand like Ace-Five, you can improve your hand by a high card (Ace), bringing the total to 17, or by a low card (2, for example), which would bring the total to 18.

A potential danger to soft doubling as opposed to hard doubling has you making things worse for yourself by using the option. For instance, let’s say you held an Ace-7 which totals 18. The dealer holds a five, signaling the player to double. The player is dealt a six, producing a very weak total of 14. The dealer now has to bust for the player to win.

The soft doubling option does produce a tremendous potential opportunity for the player. Removing the option represents a disadvantage of approximately .14%. That figure at first glance may seem inconsequential but actually is very important, considering the maximum advantage a good card counter can procure, for example, is between 1.25% and 1.5%.

Put that in perspective, and it’s easy to see why the option can be critical.

The Basic Strategy decisions with soft doubling at first can seem a little confusing but become easy after familiarizing yourself with them. The hands are grouped in two — (A,2-A,3), (A,4-A,5), (A,6-A,7), and (A,8-A-9). In a multi-deck game, the Ace-2 and Ace-3 hands should be doubled when the dealer shows a 5 or 6 upcard. The Ace-4 and Ace-5 are doubled when the dealer has a 4,5, or 6 showing. The Ace-6 is doubled when the dealer is showing anything from a 3 through 6.

For all of the above hands, the player will hit on any other dealer’s upcard. The Ace-7 hand is similar to the Ace-6, with a double required when the dealer shows 3-6. But the Ace-7 differs from all other hands, because the player must stand with A-7 against the dealer’s 2,7, and 8 upcards. The two is never doubled upon, and the seven is already beat, for the most part, with a soft 18. A push (or tie) is very possible with the 8 showing. The only way to beat the dealer’s projected total of 18 is to draw an ace, 2, or 3, making it not a very strong option.

The Ace-8 and Ace-9 hands are already PAT, or standing, hands, and should be left alone. In all likelihood, these are winning hands.

All it takes is a little memorization of the basic rules to get yourself in tune to the correct plays. You might want to try a soft hand drill to facilitate learning. Just take one of the soft hands – Ace-4, for instance, and leave it as a constant. Then deal out samples of dealer’s upcards and practice making your decisions. Go through the deck a few times, keeping the rules handy for quick reference. It won’t be long before you know when to hit, stand, or double on soft hands.

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