Hit Soft 17 – Friend or Foe?

Most blackjack players are oblivious to whether the dealer stands or hits on soft 17.   Dealer stands on soft 17 was the standard  rule  in years past, but a growing number of casinos now require the dealer to hit on soft 17 (hands like Ace, 6). Not only do most players fail to recognize the difference, some believe that the hit on soft 17 rule works in their favor since the dealer will bust more often.  Yes, the dealer will bust more often, but the dealer also has the opportunity to improve on a weak total of 17.  The reality is the dealer will improve his hand often enough that it will more than offset the increase in dealer busts.  It’s a sinking feeling when you have 19 or 20 and then dealer hits on a soft 17 and pulls 21 to wipe out the table.

Below are the dealer outcome probabilities for a 6-deck shoe for stand soft 17 versus  hit soft 17.*

                          18              19            20              21           Bust

Stand Soft 17    14.62%    14.04       18.85%     7.65%       29.60%

Hit Soft 17        14.82%    14.24       19.06%     7.86%       30.00%

 

As you can see, when the dealer hits soft 17 rule is in effect there is a greater probability the dealer will draw to 18, 19, 20, or 21.  The net result of the hit soft 17 rule is that it adds .22% to the house edge.  All else being equal your odds are better when the dealer stands on soft 17.

* Probabilities rounded to the nearest one hundredth of a percent. With the dealer stands on soft 17 rule, the probability of the dealer drawing to 17 is 15.25%. With the dealer hits soft 17 rule, the probability of the dealer drawing to a hard 17 is 14.02%.

Comments

  1. Interesting article Mike. On a side note, what are your thoughts on BJ conditions that exist today as compared to those your team experienced throughout the 90s?

    Many players today are under the impression that BJ is a dying game with the advent of H17, lousy penetration, restrictions on mid-shoe entry, 6:5, etc. Do you still think BJ is a worthwhile pursuit for even the most skilled counters?

    MJ

  2. I only wish I understood what you wrote!

  3. I don’t think blackjack is dying at all. Even though multiple decks and auto re-shufflers make it harder and sometimes near impossible to count, the basic game of blackjack still offers one of the best odds in Vegas (next to craps). This article was interesting though because I’m only 24 so I never even knew Vegas use to have dealers stay on a soft 17. I played with someone at a house game recently and they questioned me hitting and I just thought they didn’t know what they were talking about. I guess Vegas is just always looking to improves their odds ( Luke the bonus bets you can do)

  4. I RECENTLY PLAYED BJ WHERE THE DEALER HAD A / 6 FOR A SOFT 17. SHE THEN DREW AN 8 FOR 15 TOTAL. SHE THEN DREW A 2 FOR 17 TOTAL AND DID NOT HIT AGAIN. I CLAIMED SHE HAD A SOFT 17 AND SHOULD HIT. THE PIT BOSS SAID SHE COULD STAND.
    CAN SHE SWITCH THE COUNT FROM 17 TO 7 DURING THE DRAW ?
    I HAD DOUBLED DOWN WITH MY 8 AND HER 6 EXPOSED. I DIDN’T DRAW A 10 BUT WOULD HAVE WON IF SHE BROKE. ONCE SHE MADE HER DECISION THAT A / 6 WAS A SOFT 17 CAN SHE THEN COUNT A / 6 AS 7 AND PROCEED TO DRAW ? SHE THEN GOT A HARD 17 AFTER DRAWING TWO CARDS.

  5. Hey Tom, a soft total is one that has an ace which can be counted as 11 without the total going over 21. An Ace – 6 is obviously a soft 17 since the ace can be counted as 11 for a total of 17. When the dealer hit her Ace – 6 and drew a 8 and then a 2, the total became a “hard” 17. With Ace – 6 – 8 – 2, the ace cannot be counted as 11 because the total would go over 21. That’s why it’s not a soft 17. It’s a hard 17 which is why the dealer stood at that point. As far as doubling down on your 8 versus the dealer’s 6, the correct play in that situation is to hit. The only time basic strategy dictates doubling down on 8 versus 6, is if you are playing single deck blackjack.

  6. Interesting article…some that I have read actually said it is better if the dealer hits soft 17. Yours is one of the few that seems to have it straight. I found an interesting article written from the casinos point of view. Eye opening…instead of putting a % on it to indicate house edge…they show the extra $$$$ the casino makes when the dealer hits soft 17.

    http://www.lastresortconsulting.com/e-zine/articles/hit_vs_stand_17_01_08.pdf

  7. if the dealer has 6 showing, no one hits with 12 thru 16 against soft 17 ( the ace down) therefore the odds dramatically change in the house favor

  8. Carol D says:

    What is the difference in basic strategy when you have S17 or H17?

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