When To Double Down in Blackjack?
Blackjack is of the most played casino games. It is famous for reasons. One, it has the lowest house edge among all the casino games. Second, It involves strategies and challenges your brain. Third, it offers different options for every hand, and finally, a variety of game versions are available. However, it offers the lowest house edge and pays off good only if you use the optimal strategy. So, in this article, I will discuss one of the moves that every blackjack player should have in their back pocket ready to use when they need to. The move is doubling down. Keep reading to find out everything you should know about this move.
In blackjack, there are four actions you’ll encounter during the game. They are hit, stand, double, and split. Well, hitting and standing are the most common options, and yes, it’s super important to learn when to hit and when to stand. Because in a game with a house edge of between half a percent and one percent, hitting and standing have a huge impact on the house edge. Check out my basic blackjack strategy guide if you want to know how to hit and stand well. But in a nutshell, the options you have in every hand are as follows:
- Hit: to take another card.
- Stand: to end your turn without drawing any cards.
- Double Down: to double your original stake by placing an additional bet.
- Split: to form two new hands which are independent of one another.
What Are Your Choices In A Hand?
In blackjack, once you receive your first two cards, you should decide how to play your hand. Your main options(which you will always have regardless of the variation you play) are to stand or hit. You should hit-request another card- when you believe that the total in your hand is insufficient to beat the dealer.
The stand is the opposite of hit. When you decide to stand, you basically choose to keep your hand’s total as it is. In such cases, you simply end your turn without performing any other actions. This way, if you have a high total in your hand, you won’t go bust and lose your bet.
However, every so often what you are dealt and possibly even what the dealer has means you have the option to double down or split a pair. Doubling down and splitting pairs are power plays only you get to use. The dealer can only have a hit or stand. So, doubling and splitting are in the player’s favor.
The availability of these options depends on the particular situation and circumstances or on the variation you play. In some cases, you are allowed to double down, split, take insurance, or surrender. By doubling down you double your bet. To do so, you should wager the same amount as your original bet once more by placing the respective chips and pointing them with one finger. Remember that this option is available only if you haven’t made any other major moves but at the same time you have already received your initial cards. So, for example, you cannot double down after hitting.
Sometimes during the game, you are bound to get a pair of two cards with the same rank. In such cases, you can choose to split them and form two new independent hands. Here, each hand gets one more card and if it happens to form a matching pair again, in some cases you can re-split it. But, remember the rules regarding splitting and re-splitting differ greatly from one variation to another.
In some variations, you can take insurance or in other words, you make sure you will win something even if the dealer has a blackjack. To take advantage of this move, you should place a side bet which should be half of the amount of your original wager. By insurance, if the dealer has a blackjack, your original bet losses but the insurance one wins. Its payout is usually 2/1.
The surrender option is not always available for you. In some variations, when the dealer’s up-card is a 10-valued one or an ace, you are allowed to surrender. This means you can give half of your original wager to the casino without playing the hand but you get to keep the other half.
Blackjack Basic Strategy
Before diving into the details about doubling down, I should refresh your memory on the blackjack strategy. Because blackjack is a game of skills and luck. So, it is possible to influence the outcome of every round by applying a strategy.
In fact, the basic strategy is a plan which gives you an idea of how you should proceed in a particular situation. The strategy takes into account your hand’s total as well as the dealer’s up-card. The suggested moves are entirely based on the probability of all of the card combinations that you can possibly get in a given scenario. However, the basic strategy doesn’t guarantee you will win all the time. But it can help you improve your game to some extent.
When To Double Down Or Split?
Both options let you increase your bet in the middle of the hand and you can use them aggressively or defensively. This means that sometimes decide to reduce your losses when you’re way behind. So, sometimes (in fact, most of the time) good doubling and splitting are used to press your advantage and maximize your profit when you’re ahead i.e when your hand has more potential than the dealer’s first card. Let me start with doubling down because it is more important.
Doubling down lets you double your initial bet once you receive your first two cards. In other words, it’s a bit like betting on your football team to win the match and then being able to double your bet once they go one-nil up at the same odds. But it’s not all good news. You only get one more card and you should be hoping to make a good hand but even when you don’t, you still have a chance to win. I will show you a classic example of that later. So, how does doubling down work? Well, all blackjack tables will allow you to double down once you’ve received your starting hand or your first two cards. But you might find slightly different rules at different tables. So, check the rules of the game you’re playing before you start. Because some blackjack variants will only let you double down on a total of 9, 10, or 11 while others let you double down on any total. Now, why is doubling down important? Well, the perfect doubling down strategy is worth about 1.6 percent of the house edge to you.
Remember, if you follow the perfect blackjack strategy you’ll get the house edge of around let’s call it one percent. But if you don’t use doubling to your advantage then your house edge is going up to about 2.6% which is not good and not necessary okay. So, when should we double? Well, there are two opportunities to double down. First, if you have a strong starting hand that’s worth more than the dealer’s first card. Second, if the dealer’s first card is so bad that we double with almost any hand we have. Now let’s look at an example in a typical eight-deck European blackjack game.
Your cards: 5 and 4 = total 9
Dealer’s Up-card: 3
Your 9 versus the dealer’s 2 is a sign for a double down. Why? Because the 3 is a bad “bust” card for the dealer. He will likely have to hit (receive more cards) on whatever he holds and risk going over 21. BTW, if the dealer shows an ace, don’t worry about doubling. Because if he hits a 10 he makes 21 and you are only tying the hand at best.
Later on, I will outline common scenarios where you should double down.
Now, what does it mean to split pairs? When you’re dealt a pair as your starting hand, you can match your initial bet and split the hand in two so they each become the first card of two new hands. The dealer will give you a second card for both hands and you play each one independently one after the other. Remember, There are different splitting rules and every blackjack table will allow you to split a pair. But here are three classic conditions of splitting:
- You may only get to re-split up to three times or you may not get to re-split at all. Re-splitting is where you get dealt a pair and you split them. Here, one or even both of your cards becomes another pair and you may wish to continue splitting them again and again.
- This one is a subrule of splitting. This is when you can double after you’ve split a pair. this is a handy little advantage if you can get it. But some tables won’t allow it.
- The third condition about splitting is a special scenario. It is when you split a pair of aces. Here, you only get one more card on each ace and if you hit a 10 on either of those aces, it only counts as 21, not blackjack. This is pretty much universal across the blackjack world.
When To Double Down? Common Scenarios
Here are doubling down strategies for common conditions in blackjack:
Double Down on Hard Totals
Hard totals mean you have a hand without an ace. So, use the chart below to make your moves with doubling down:
|Martingale System in Action|
Doubling Down on Soft Totals
A soft total is a hand that contains an ace counting as 1 or 11). Here, you have more options available. Because the ace can count as 1 you can double down and hit a high card like a 10 or a low card and make your total that way. For instance, if you get dealt A-7, this is worth either 8 or 18. After doubling down, any 2 or 3 will make you a total of 20 or 21. But a 9 or 10 will make you 17 which is a good hand against a dealer showing a poor low card.
Blackjack Double Down Payout
In a nutshell, If you double down and win the hand, you win 1:1 on your money. However, always there is this risk that you double down and receive a terrible third card. Here, you may lose the hand and say goodbye to twice as much as your usual bet.
Blackjack Doubling Down FAQs
- Can you double down after hitting?
Nope! You cant. Because the double down option occurs only after the initial two cards are dealt by the dealer and you must then decide whether to go for the double down at that moment or not.
- Can you split and double down?
You should understand the optimal situations to split and double down. You can split your cards if you are dealt a matching pair e.g. 5-5, 7-7, J-J. You must cover the second hand with the bet size of your first bet and the dealer deals a second card to complete both hands. A further double down is not usually permitted. Make sure to check the casino rules whether playing live or online. Because there are often incentives hidden within the rules designed to encourage players to play.
- Should you Always Double Down on 11?
Because you and the dealer aim to get as close to 21 as possible to win the hand, you are in a strong position when holding 11 after two cards are dealt. If the dealer is showing a lower card than a 10, it is a good strategy to double down. Also, if the casino rules dictate the dealer must hit soft 17, always double down on 11 no matter what the dealer’s up card.
- How does doubling down works in rdr2 Blackjack?
In Red Dead Redemption 2 blackjack you can simply double down and win 5 times. But, remember that it is completely random and no skill is involved. So, you can literally double down every single hand!
When your hand has a better chance of winning, doubling down is like placing an extra wager. When you double down, you should pay double your bet, therefore risking more, but you have more complete information available in front of you. Remember, as I mentioned before, you can double down on a split pair in some games. So, if you get dealt 10-10 and the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5, or 6, you can split your tens, double down on both of them, and aim for 21 on both hands.
Remember, doubling down still carries some risk. The dealer always goes after the players and has more information at hand. This is what gives the house its slight edge over you. Also, if the hand is tied, only the player’s stake is returned. In the end, I recommend doing your homework, then go have fun with doubling down.