When we're talking Blackjack strategy, we're talking about six basic components of the game. This section, Part 2, deals with: Soft Hands, Insurance, and Surrender.
We initially mentioned soft hands in Part 1, so now let's delve into the details. Soft hands can be tricky for the Blackjack layman because they have their own special rules when it comes to hitting, standing and doubling down. As a quick reminder, soft hands are any hand with an Ace, where the player can choose between 2 totals, i.e. Ace and 5 could be 6 or 16.
You want to hit a soft 13 through 17 whenever the Dealer is showing 7 or higher. Remember, with any soft hand, no matter what card you receive, you cannot bust. Now here comes the tricky part: doubling soft hands. If you've got a soft 13 through 17, only double down when the Dealer shows a 5 or 6. If you've got a soft 15 through 17, you can also double up if the Dealer is showing a 4. Most of the time you'll want to stand on a soft 18, but if the Dealer is sporting a 9, 10 or Ace, you'll probably be better off taking a hit. With your soft 18, always stand versus a 2, 7 or 8, and double down against a 3, 4, 5 or 6. No matter what the Dealer is showing, always stand on a soft 19 or higher.
Finally on soft hands, if the Dealer holds a 2 and you've got a soft hand, do not double down.
The other mistake players make when a possible Dealer's Blackjack rears its ugly head is insurance. In the long run, insurance is definitely not worth it, but one of the worst plays you can make is insuring a hand of 20 made of up two 10's. Think of it this way: you're insuring yourself against the Dealer having a 10 when you've already reduced the odds of him having one by having two yourself. Besides, don't we already spend enough money on insurance away from the Blackjack table?
Another mistake a lot of Blackjack players can make is choosing the wrong play when the Dealer shows an Ace and could be holding a possible Blackjack. This is one of the worst things that can happen to a player, when they get lucky and catch a Blackjack of their own. If a player has a Blackjack and the Dealer is showing an Ace, the player can still purchase insurance. Many players fear having a push forced on them and end up taking 'even money'. Taking Insurance on your Blackjack vs. a Dealer's Ace is called 'even money' because regardless of the Dealer's hand, you will take an 'even money' payout of 1-1 on your Blackjack.
By taking even money, you could be giving away potential winnings. You may lose out on a few wins once in awhile, but your Blackjack account will be reduced in the long run by taking even money.
One final tip before hitting the tables to make your Blackjack fortune: don't be afraid to surrender if the option is given to you. If, after the cards are dealt, the Dealer is way ahead and the chances of you pulling out a win are slim, surrender, get 50 percent of your bet back and live to play another hand. If you're stuck on when to surrender and when to play on, remember this: always surrender with a hard 15 when the Dealer has a 10, and always surrender with a hard 16 when the Dealer has a 9, 10 or ace.
If you're looking to avoid some other common mistakes, perk up your ears. If you think playing two hands instead of one against the Dealer gives you better odds of winning, you're mistaken. Playing two hands will give you the same advantage as two different players playing a single hand versus the Dealer using exactly the same strategy. The advantage there is zero.
Another way many players feel they can get an advantage is by increasing their betting or by using a progressive betting system. No matter if you're ahead or behind, your chances of winning the next hand remain static so increasing your bets during a streak of wins or losses is not necessarily a smart move. So-called progressive betting – betting one chip, then three, then five, etc. – is not a smart move either. This offers no increased chances of winning, and by losing the hand where you bet five chips after winning the two hands where you bet one and three chips, you wind up in the red. Unless you can count cards and know what's coming out of the shoe, progressive betting won't pay off.