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Best of Alan Krigman
How Important Are Doubles on Soft Blackjack Hands?5 January 1998
o Ace-two & ace-three: double against five or six, hit against two to four.
o Ace-four & ace-five: double against four to six, hit against two and three.
o Ace-six: double against three to six, hit against two.
o Ace-seven: double against three to six, stand against two.
On any individual hand, breaking these rules may work out well for yourself and your tablemates. But results of particular hands aren't what separate proficient players from solid citizens who think it's all just luck - mostly bad. That distinction involves knowing which decisions maximize "expectation" - yield the most expected profit or least expected loss - before the fact.
How important is proper doubling on soft hands against low dealer up-cards? I'll give some examples for six-deck games.
Consider another situation. You have soft 14 - ace-three - and the dealer shows a three. The "book" says hit. If you do, expected net profit is $0.050 per dollar bet. Doubling in this case is unfavorable, an expected loss of $0.003 per dollar initial bet. Now, the wrong move not only cuts expectation by $0.053 per dollar initial bet, but also shifts edge from you to the house.
These are intermediate cases of decreased earnings potential. Here are the expectation penalties per dollar initial bet in the six costliest situations. Values are for common departures from basic strategy; gross incompetence, like standing on ace-two vs two or hitting ace-seven vs six, would be worse.
Some differences in expectation arising from incorrectly playing soft hands against low dealer up-cards are admittedly small. Here are the penalties per dollar initial bet for common basic strategy violations in the six least costly situations.
Another way to rank penalties for common breaches of basic strategy on soft hands against low dealer up-cards involves errors which shift edge from player to dealer. This occurs when players double rather than hit on the following seven hands, in decreasing order of severity.
Overall, properly doubling soft hands in six-deck games reduces house edge in blackjack by approximately 0.09 percent. This is not insignificant; it exceeds the benefit offered by the highly-prized ability to resplit aces. Further, a double when a hit or stand would be preferred is a double whammy, since it adds to the house advantage. So it's well worth the effort to follow the correct strategy for these hands. As Sumner A Ingmark, a poet with a soft touch if not soft hands, said:
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