October 11, 2008.
Blackjack Tips From Pilarski: Soft Blackjack Hands Are Often Misplayed.Few blackjack hands are as poorly played as soft 18, an well known expert has suggested.
Responding to a question on whether a player should hit or stay with such a hand when up against a nine, Mark Pilarski wrote in the Detroit Free Press that hitting is definitely the right tactic - even though lots of people choose not to.
"No blackjack hands are misplayed more than the soft ones (those containing an ace)," Mark Pilarski remarked.
Mr Pilarski explained that the chances of winning go from 40 per cent up to 45 per cent when a player elects to hit as opposed to stay in these kinds of situations.
"Which is better, playing on a blackjack game where the dealer hits a soft 17, or on one in which he stands? Also, should the player mimic the dealer and hit or stand based on the dealer's rules? Finally, I would like to know the correct basic strategy play for a soft 18. " Bud W. asked.
"It's slightly better to play on a game where the dealer stands on a soft 17. When you play a game in which the dealer hits a soft 17, you give the house an additional two-tenths of 1% advantage. When a soft 17 is showing, an ace, 2, 3, or 4 improves the dealer's hand and a 10, jack, queen or king leaves it of equivalent value. Consequently, 8 of every 13 cards either improves the dealer's hand or keeps it the same. If any of the other five cards are drawn, the dealer still has a chance to convalesce his hand with another draw." answered the expert.
"As for the second part of your question, basic strategy dictates that the player should always hit a soft 17, or double down against a dealer who's showing a 3 - 6. Unfortunately, a 17 in blackjack is a hell-bound hand over the long haul. But, the alternative strategy of hitting a hard 17 would only multiply your losses. However, with a soft 17 you at least have the possibility of taking another card, which could improve your hand. This is why basic strategy charts dictate either hitting or doubling down, but never standing on a soft 17."
When the player asked how to play soft 18 (Ace-Seven), "when one has an ace/seven, the smart play is to stand on a dealer's 2, 7, 8, and hit all others", Pilarski replied:
"Your play is nearly correct. An Ace-7 is one of those tricky hands about which numerous experts disagree. The consensus is to stand on 2, 7, 8; double down when playing rules allows it against a 3-6; and hit against a 9 or 10 count card. But against an ace, the pros are nearly divided between hitting and standing. I side with the half that recommends hitting when confronting an ace."
Note: Blackjack 101 has optimal strategy cards for most popular versions of online casino blackjack games and several rules variations; follow left menu links.
Blackjack was recently put in the Hollywood spotlight when Kevin Spacey movie 21 hit the big screen earlier in 2008.
Based on the story of the legendary MIT blackjack team, the film did well at the box office, despite receiving mixed reviews.
Source: InterCasino and Mark Pilarski website www.markpilarski.com
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