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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

If You Don't Know the Right Soft Doubles, Don't Do Them

29 July 2006

There's no question about it. Not one blackjack player in 30 knows which soft hands to double down with and which ones to just hit. This is true at any stakes. Soft doubling is when you double down with an Ace and a small or medium card in your hand.

At the $10 tables many players have no idea what soft doubling is, so they never do it. At the $100 tables, players proudly think they know -- then proceed to make one bad soft double after another. It's such a shame, because most experienced players nearly give back all their profit from good soft doubles by making other bad ones.

You don't believe me? Then take a look at the ten soft hands below. Playing against a six- or eight-deck shoe, which of these hands should you double down with?

A/5 against a 2
A/2 against a 4
A/3 against a 3
A/4 against a 2
A/5 against a 3
A/2 against a 3
A/3 against a 4
A/2 against a 2
A/3 against a 2
A/4 against a 3

The answer is –- none of them. That's right. If you routinely double down with any of these hands, you're giving money away -- period.

There's one key reason why all 10 of the above hands make bad soft doubles -– and it should be obvious if you stop and think about it. If you don't see it, let me ask you this.

With any of those hands, how many cards can you catch that'll give you a made hand? There are only five. The other eight cards will all leave you holding 12 through 16. When you have Ace/2 for instance, the 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 will make you 17 through 21 – but the 2, 3, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace all leave you with a "stiff".

If you have Ace/5, the Ace, 2, 3, 4 and 5 give you a hand, but the other eight cards make a stiff. You've got exactly the same lousy odds with Ace/3 and Ace/4. So when you double down with any of these, it's 8-to-5 you're going to end up with a bad hand.

Why would you ever want to put yourself in the position of probably needing the dealer to bust, or you lose? There could be only one reaon -– and that would be that the dealer is at her absolute weakest. Problem is, with all the dealer's up-cards shown above, she'll break only between 35 and 40% of the time.

So let's see. Doubling with a hand like, say, Ace/2 against a 3, you'll end up with a stiff over 60% of the time, and then the dealer will break 37% of the time. Are you beginning to see the light? When you double with any of the soft hands above, you're pinning yourself up against the ropes. But if you just take a hit with that Ace/2, you could hit again if you caught an Ace, 2, 3, 4 or 9 and will sometimes make a hand out of a stiff.

Ironically, some of the biggest moneymaking double downs with soft hands are passed up by the majority of players. What are they? They're the Ace/7 against a 3, 4, 5 or 6. Most people just don't want to fool around with a made 18, so they play it "safe" with these hands –- and that costs them some more money.

You see, once your soft hand reaches Ace/6 or higher, your own hand-making odds reverse. Eight cards will now give you a made hand and only five cards will leave you stiff. Now, you're an 8-to-5 favorite to make a hand. As a result, you should double more aggressively with Ace/6 and Ace/7 than with Ace/2 through Ace/5.

Now if the dealer had a 5 or 6 up, then you should go ahead and double with any low soft hand like Ace/2 or Ace/5 (as well as Ace/6 and Ace/7). That's when she's at her weakest. The only other low soft hands you should double down with are Ace/4 and Ace/5 against a 4, specifically. That's because in those two scenarios there only one or two cards you could catch that would make you want to take a second hit.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey