Hitting or not “Soft 17” – what’s the right decision?

According to basic blackjack strategy, players have to hit “Soft 17” every time they get it. But vast majority of players usually don’t do this, mostly because they think that at least they could make “push” with the dealer. Below is the mathematical explanation why players should hit a “Soft 17”.


To begin with, 17 is not very strong hand, especially at the very beginning of the game. Below are the results with probabilities of win/lose:


According to this table, player stands on “Soft 17” – they have only ~33% chance to win, and it could happen if the dealer busted. In 14.61% of all similar hands player will make a “push” with the dealer, and it leaves us 52.24% of chances to lose. Keep in mind that standard payout – 1:1, and you will see that House Edge in this case is about 20% in favor of the casino.


Just to remind: do not hit “Hard 17”, it’s absolutely pointless. You have only 4 cards (Ace, 2, 3 and 4) to improve your current hand, so the chance to get more and do not bust is about 30.76%, which leaves almost 70% for busting out.

Using the Ace when you are on soft 17 is also good, because an Ace’s value also could be “1” and player would have no risk. They also will be able to take another one card, and max value of the hand they could get is “17”. And the probabilities to hit the hand with value from 17 to 21 are pretty high – approx. 61.5%. In 39% of all drawings player will get something between 12 and 16. The player will have equal chances to win if they stand on soft 17, and if player will have to hit – they still have approx. 45% probability to hit a card with “10” value. Below is the table showing probabilities for every possible result of hitting on soft 17:


As you can see, if player hits on soft 17 – they still have a good chance of improving their hand (44.45%).


After the final comparison it’s clearly seen that hitting on soft 17 is better choice than standing:


This move will drop house edge from 20% to almost 2%.

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Hitting or not “Soft 17” – what’s the right decision?
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