Players’ strategy with an ace

In our previous article on using the basic blackjack strategy card, we covered the first section of the card beginning with a point count of 8 through a beginning point count of 17.  Now we can continue with the second section.  By the time we complete our tutorial of the basic strategy in blackjack, you’ll understand why it will help you get as close as you can to a 100% return to player rate whilst playing at an online casino.

You’ll also become much more aware of how relatively easy it is to memorize the basic strategy chart when we divide it into its logical parts.  So, the next time you play blackjack at Springbok Casino, the top online casino for South Africa, you’ll be much more able to compete on a nearly equal footing with the house.  All that’s left for you to do is get just a bit lucky!

Soft Counts

At this point, we can show two major elements in basic blackjack strategy.  The first is that there are three logical ways to organize and categorize the hand you get dealt.  Today we will cover hands that include an ace.  Last week we covered hands that don’t include an ace and are not a pair.

So, every hand is either a hand with an ace, without an ace, or a pair.   There is some overlap but by dividing the starting hands in this manner, it’s much easier to see the logic behind each strategic action.

A starting hand count that includes an ace is called a soft count as opposed to the hard count of a hand without an ace.  The ace can count as 1 point or as 11 points so with an ace in your starting hand, you have a great deal of flexibility.

The chart doesn’t have an ace-10 entry because that’s blackjack.  By this fact alone, we can see the enormous power of an ace.

Hands to Stand On

The chart tells us to stand with ace-8 and ace-9 regardless of the card the dealer is showing.  That’s because 19 or 20 points are strong hands and there is no statistical reason to try to improve an already strong hand.


This is the only hand that gives the player three options: standing, holding, and doubling down.  Ace-7 gives you 18 points which is not considered a good point count by statisticians; there are too many ways for the dealer to win.  With a hard 18 count, you’ll stand in all cases because the chances of busting are too high.

In fact, the top section of the strategy chart doesn’t even list a hard 18 since it is so obvious that you’ll stand.

A soft 18 is also an 8 count.  That means that if the statistics are favourable, your best action may be to hit or double down as well as to stand.  If the dealer is showing an ace, 10, or 9 there is a very strong possibility that your 18 points won’t be good enough to win or tie.  Therefore, the best play is to hit even though you do have 18 points.  Your goal now is to improve the 19-21 points.

If the dealer is showing a 7 or an 8, there is a good chance that your 18 points will push and that your 18 points will beat the dealer’s possible 17 points.  So, you stand.

If the dealer has 3-6 your best play is to double down.  Statistically, there are many ways for the dealer to bust and this is a case where you need to maximize the amount you can win on a hand by doubling down.  This is statistically the case even though you do risk making your hand slightly weaker.  Keep in mind that with a soft 18 you can’t bust.

Now, many players also double down if the dealer is showing a 2.  This is statistically not the best play.  Instead, you stand with 18 points.  The difference between a dealer 3 and a dealer 2 changes the strategy.

Now, look at all of the other entries in the section on hands with an ace.  In every one of these lines, the player has two options that reflect the best strategy.  But the best play is either to hit or to double down.  In none of these hands, is it good strategy for the player to stand.  The best option in each line is based on the card the dealer has showing.


This is the outlier of the five remaining hands with an ace.  The other four are actually two pairs where the best strategy is the same for both but ace-6 is somewhat different.

In all of the five remaining hands, the player has to play aggressively.  The ace provides a lot of flexibility and it is very common to improve your hand by taking at least one card.

With ace-6, you double down if the dealer is showing 2-6.  This is the same as in ace-7.   Remember, when you have ace-6, your hand is rather weak but if the dealer has a potentially weaker hand, you need to maximize the money you can win so you double down here.

However, with ace-6, you hit if the dealer is showing 7-ace.  In fact, in all five of the remaining examples, you hit if the dealer is showing 7-ace.  That’s because your hand is weak and you need to try to improve it.

Ace-4 and Ace-5

These are very weak hands so you try to improve them.  However, if the dealer is showing 4-6, your hand is statistically better so you double down

Ace-2 and Ace-3

Here you hit on all dealer cards as in the above pair and you also hit when the dealer shows a 4.  That’s because statistically, the dealer, in that case, has a slightly better hand than you do so you don’t double down.  With ace-2 or ace-3, you double down only when the dealer shows 5 or 6.  That’s because the dealer may end up hitting with 15 or 16 points which are the worst point counts for the dealer.

Logic and Statistics

You don’t have to be a professional logician or a professional statistician to gain a much deeper understanding of the nuances of the blackjack strategy chart.  Next week we’ll conclude the tutorial with an article about how to handle pairs.