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How to Play Soft 18

Blackjack is a popular casino card game that allows players some degree of control by enabling them to hit, stand or double, depending on their hand value. A croupier in a live dealer game or an RNG system can produce multiple combinations of cards with different values, but soft 18 is one hand most punters tend to misplay.

Decisions made with this hand separate knowledgeable players from novices or gamblers relying only on gut instinct. This guide will offer an overview of what constitutes a soft 18 hand and share a few strategies to navigate all the circumstances of this blackjack hand and get a potentially favourable result.

What Is a Soft 18 in Blackjack?

Punters' decisions influence the course of a blackjack game, and that's one reason why this casino game offers the lowest house edge. However, you must remember blackjack is a game of chance, and no formula guarantees success. Still, it's crucial to properly assess the situation at the table and make the best choices when dealt a soft 18.

At the start of a blackjack game, each player and the croupier receive two cards. Cards numbered 2 through 10 retain their intrinsic values, while face cards are treated as 10s, and an Ace can count as a 1 or 11, depending on the value of the other card. The varying value of an Ace classifies any hand with an Ace in the mix as soft, compared to a hard hand, which is any hand without an Ace.

Despite the negative connotation of the word "soft," this blackjack hand is considered better than a hard hand because it creates more options for players. The combined value of the hand is adjusted with each new card added, reducing the risk of a bust by transforming the Ace from an 11 into a 1.

Several combinations of cards can result in a soft 18, such as Ace-7, Ace-2-5, 4-3-Ace, and Ace-6-Ace. However, aside from the advantages, a soft 18 places players in a tricky situation since they are already close to 21 but do not know how close the croupier is to hitting 21, facing them with a potentially risky choice for making the next move. Navigating this crossroad depends on several factors.

How to Play a Soft 18

When dealt a soft 18, you face three decisions: you can stand, double down or hit. It’s up to you to decide which option is the optimal choice. There is not one universal answer, but different strategies are tailored to provide an adequate response to any situation at the table, so take a look at this guide

One factor requiring consideration is the dealer’s upcard, but this is only the starting point of every strategy, which must work in tandem with other variables when playing a soft 18. Other crucial elements are the dealer’s standing rules at a given online casino, the number of decks used in the game, and how many cards compose your soft 18 hand. Having a soft 18 hand produced with two cards is not the same as a soft 18 with three cards, and each type of hand requires a different strategy.

Equally important is to consider the table rules, which might require a croupier to hit or stand on a hand with a combined value of 17. In some online casino games, the rules prohibit doubling down on [soft hands](/live-blackjack/guides/best-blackjack-hands. Let’s explore every available option in depth and see the best courses of action for playing a soft 18 in blackjack.

When to Hit on Soft 18

Requesting an extra card is a good option if the dealer has a 9, 10 or 11 showing in a multi-deck game, but only 9 and 10 indicate an opportunity to hit in a single-deck game. The reason is simple: 10s are the most numerous cards in a deck, allowing a dealer a decent chance to beat your 18. However, because an Ace is in play, you will not bust in a soft 18 and have a higher chance of getting a better hand if you hit.

When to Stand on Soft 18

Standing might appear as a passive move, but in some situations, doing nothing is the most practical course of action. Those situations include when a dealer holds a hand with an upcard card valued at 2, 7, or 8. In that case, you should stand because you are unlikely to improve your position by hitting. Plus, neither of the mentioned numbers, including the 8, is a powerful card, meaning a dealer has no significant advantage over your hand.

The croupier will probably end with a 12 if their upcard is a 2, which is a bust. Another option is a 17 for a starting combination with a showing card of 7, which you can easily beat with your soft 18. An equal score of 18 will result in a push. The worst-case scenario of the three options is that you do not lose your stake.

Selecting Double Down on Soft 18

The chances of a croupier securing a winning hand by holding an upward card with a value of 3, 4, 5, or 6 are significantly diminished from the start of the round. In this situation, the dealer will probably bust, making it advisable to double down on soft 18, which is a decent hand to hold. Doubling down allows you to boost the winning potential offered by your hand for that round. Doubling down works as a strategy in this situation for the same reason a hit is a good option in the above-mentioned scenario. There are more tens in a deck than any other card, which should never be ignored when playing blackjack.

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