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Soft Doubles Backwards
The typical ham'n-egger wants to double with an Ace/3 against a 3 all day long, but won't double with Ace/7 against that same 3 up. He doesn't want to tamper with a made hand (the soft 18). Fact is, doubling with Ace/6 and Ace/7 are your biggest soft double moneymakers! Here's the key reason why.

When you double down with a hand like Ace/3, how many cards can you buy that will give you a made hand? Think about it. There are only five. Just a 3, 4, S, 6 or 7 will give you 17 through 21. The other eight cards all leave you with 12 through 16 -- a stiff. Now you need the dealer to break, or you lose (if you think the dealer is "supposed" to bust just because she's showing a small card, see "Dealer's Bust-out Rate" coming up next). You've also got exactly the same poor chance to make a hand when you double with Acel2, Acel4 or Acel5.

But as soon as you reach Acel6, it's the other way around! Eight cards will now make you a hand and only five leave you stiff. Because of that, you've got to be against a very weak dealer's up-card to double with Ace/2 through Ace/5, but should be more aggressive with Acel6 and Acel7.

To do things right, you should soft double down in eighteen specific situations where you have Acel2 through Acel7 against a small dealer's up-card. But which ones? It can get pretty confusing looking at all those zig-zag steps in your basic strategy chart. So to zone you in on the right moves, just use these next three simple rules of thumb as your guide. They'll get you to pull the trigger correctly on seventeen of them.

1) Never soft double against a deuce. (where normal basic strategy is concerned).
2) Always soft double against a 5 or 6.
3) When the dealer has a 3 or 4 up, play by the "Rule of 9".
Now what'n blazes is the Rule of 9? Simply add the dealer's up-card to your "kicker" (the card next to your Ace). If they total 9 or more, double down! If it's less, just hit. The following example should make the Rule of 9 crystal clear.

Since the dealer has a 3 or 4 up, the "Rule of 9" applies. So before acting, Joe adds his own 5 to the dealer's 3. Since that equals only 8, he should not double but just hit. However, Jenny's 6 plus the dealer's 3 equal 9, thus she should double down. Got it? And as for that 18th hand not covered by these three rules? If you can remember, you should also just barely double with Ace/4 against a 4. But if you always simply hit that one hand instead, don't worry .- it's a borderline double. Missing out on it every time will take just one thousandth of one percent off your overall game.

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Now, let's examine other possible buttons on the machine. Many machines give you credit instead of payoff if you collect. The reason for this is simple: Not only do you avoid hearing the jangle of coins dropping, but you can more easily continue betting your credited coins, albeit, as often happens, using them up in a losing cause.
We now have a pair of kings. Depending on the machine, either five coins will clink down into the well, or we'll get credit for five coins. The screen will proclaim, "Winner!" but all you've gotten are your coins back. It's stretching the definition of "win" when you're not paid more than you've bet, but in any event you haven't lost anything.
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