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How Double Down Works in Blackjack

Blackjack Double Down Rules

Staff Writer 07/13/2021 Blog 3,452 views

The Double move in blackjack simply means to increase your stake if the situation calls for it. However, if you take a look at a basic blackjack strategy chart, you’ll notice it‘s an essential part of a winning game. Many pros consider simply hitting instead of doubling to be a loss in some situations.

It can be a confusing concept to a beginner. Whether you choose to double or not doesn’t really affect your chances of winning, right? That’s true, but there’s a lot more to unpack with doubling in blackjack. Let’s go over some simple rules for blackjack double.

Blackjack Strategy and Double Down

The easiest way to understand why doubling matters is to consider the RTP rate in blackjack. The first thing to remember about the blackjack return to player value is that the amazing 99.50%+ figure applies strictly if you use basic blackjack strategy. If you’ve ever seen a blackjack chart, you’ll know that it suggests doubling down in some circumstances. In other words, if you don’t double down here and there, you’re not getting the most bang for your buck.

Remember, RTP is not simply the likelihood of winning. It’s the ratio of your theoretical return compared to what you’re spending. That means that your stake plays a pivotal role in RTP calculations. As a way of controlling your stake to your advantage, doubling down in blackjack is an incredibly useful tool.

Importantly, you should also pay attention to the table rules. Some blackjack rule variations directly relate to when and how you can double. For example, some tables only allow you to double on a hand of 9, 10, or 11. Others allow you to double whenever – not that you should be doing that. Lastly, rules also vary on whether you can double after splitting or not. Ideally, you want to be able to double after splitting in blackjack. It’s not exactly all-important, but the added option can be good for your bottom line.

When to Double Down in Blackjack

Glossing over the blackjack charts, we can notice some patterns on when it’s generally a good idea to double down. Most of these are what you’d call “soft” rules, which means they don’t necessarily apply to every situation imaginable. Blackjack is simply too complex to cover every possible scenario. Especially if you consider multi-deck versions, rules variations, and so on. Still, they can make remembering when to double in blackjack much easier.

1.      When your hand totals 11

This one is quite easy to remember – a hard 11 is the strongest initial hand in the game. Even if the dealer is showing a strong card, doubling on an 11 is almost always a smart move. The one exception is probably a dealer Ace in a multi-deck game. In that case, simply hitting is wiser.

2.      When your hand totals 10 – unless the dealer is stronger

An initial hand of 10 is quite strong, but nowhere near the level of 11. The reasoning is simple – your chances of getting 21 on the next card are considerably lower. Still, it’s one of the better initial draws that justifies doubling down in most circumstances. However, if the dealer is showing a 10 or 11, play it safe and go for a simple hit. You still have a decent shot at winning, but upping the stakes is not worth it.

3.      On a Soft 16, 17, or 18

This rule is a bit less clear-cut. First of all, a ‘soft’ hand means that one of your cards is an Ace. In other words, you’ll want an Ace plus 5, 6, or 7. Now, doubling on one of these hands is definitely not as safe as the previous two, depending on the dealer’s up-card. As a general rule of thumb, if the dealer is showing 7 or higher, simply hitting is the better call. Also, if you have a soft 18 and the dealer is showing 7 or 8, you may actually want to stand. The logic here is simple – at most online blackjack tables, the dealer stands on a 17. As such, an 18 is usually good enough to beat them, but hitting on a 17 may be too risky.

4.      On a Hard 9

Again, this hand is considerably weaker than a hard 10 or 11. However, it may be worth doubling for. This is especially true if the dealer’s up-card is 7 or lower. Otherwise, take the safer option of just hitting.

When Not to Double

Lastly, we’ll leave you with some rules on situations in which you should never double down. Most of you probably wouldn’t even think about doubling in these circumstances, but it can’t hurt to go over them.

1.      Never double on a dealer Ace

Seems fairly obvious, but it’s worth specifically mentioning. A dealer with an Ace showing is one of the most difficult situations for the players. Even if the dealer checks for blackjack and doesn’t have one, the chances of them getting close to 21 are quite high.

2.      Never double if your hand is higher than 11

The risk of busting is simply too great. There are definitely situations in which you should hit despite the high total. However, those are almost always bad hands in which your cards are horrible and the dealer’s are looking strong. This makes a lot of sense from where we’re standing – don’t increase the stakes if it looks like you’ll probably lose.

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