Blackjack is a highly popular casino game. Although people often link it with poker, they are essentially two different games.
As it is with gambling, it’s pretty much a matter of luck and every time you play, you take a risk. But unlike many games, blackjack allows you to take a calculated risk and weigh the pros and cons of using a certain strategy to wager on some more.
One of those strategies is doubling down. Let’s find out what is doubling down in blackjack when is smart to use it and when is it best to avoid it.
What Is Doubling Down in Blackjack?
Unlike poker, where you compete against other poker players, in blackjack, you compete against the dealer. The objective is to beat the dealer’s score by getting closer to 21, but without exceeding the 21 value. Comparing the complexity between the two, It’s fair to say that poker is harder to learn and requires good practice skills while winning in blackjack is more feasible.
That’s not to say that winning in blackjack is easy-breezy. You do need to learn the game’s rules and use the winning strategies at your hand, but most importantly, be observant. This brings us to the next part – doubling down in blackjack.
What does it mean to double down in blackjack?
Each round you are dealt two cards at a time and the same goes for the dealer. One of the dealer’s cards is turned up and you’re able to see which card is it. This is the time when you need to be more observant and calculate your potential chances of winning or losing.
Blackjack is played with a 52-card deck. Except for jacks, queens and kings whose value is always 10, all other cards are the same as their face value ( 2 is valued at 2, 3 is valued at 3 and so on). The only exception is the aces, which can be valued as one or eleven.
Let’s follow this through an example. You have been dealt 4 and 5 which equals 9, and the dealer’s up card is 6. In this scenario, you stand a better chance of getting closer to 21 than the dealer and not exceeding the final number. Now is the moment to double down in blackjack.
So you take a calculated risk to double up your initial bet and increase your winnings by asking the dealer for an extra card (you’re allowed to get only one card per round).
Let’s say the dealer’s second card is 10. So his first two cards total 16 which is higher than yours 9. By requiring another card, the dealer gets one more card for himself. That extra card will determine your and the dealer’s final score.
Since the probability of both of you getting a 10-value card is higher, that means that the dealer’s final value will be 26 and yours 19. Because the dealer’s score exceeds 21 he is bust and you win.
Remember, if the dealer gets closer to the value of 21 instead, or you score over 21, then you lose. If you get close to 21 while your score is higher than the dealer’s, you win. You’re only allowed to double down in blackjack after your two initial cards and must wait for the next round to try it again.
In blackjack, you double down by placing the same amount of chips as for your initial bet after you have been dealt two cards. Then ask for a third card if you think you’re in a favourable situation and hope you’ve made the right decision.
Although it might seem like an easy guess, it’s still risky. The dealer might get closer to 21 and if you’ve been dealt a lower card, you lose and can’t hit again.
Difference Between Doubling Down and Splitting Up in Blackjack
Oftentimes inexperienced players think that doubling down means adding two extra cards to your initial in the same round. But remember, doubling down in blackjack means asking for a single card when you think you stand a good chance of hitting a blackjack. You are allowed to do it once at a time.
Splitting, on the other hand, is when you have two cards of the same value ( eg. two tens or any other two identical cards) and can decide to play them separately. Basically, you split the identical cards by adding an identical bet to each card and receive two new cards. You play them as separate hands.
How to Signal Doubling Down in Blackjack?
Once you have made an observation of yours and the dealer’s cards and you assume of standing a good chance against the dealer, it’s time to pull the double-down strategy.
Before you double down in blackjack you must signal to the dealer that you’re ready to play another card. How do you do that?
It’s very simple. Take an equal value of the chips as for your initial bet and push the stack next to your first wager. Then, by using your index finger to point towards the new stack of chips and the dealer will automatically know that you want to double down in blackjack.
Be sure to never put the new stack of chips on top of your initial amount as this can result in tampering.
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When to Double Down in Blackjack?
After we have talked about doubling down in blackjack and its rules, the question remains – when is it the best to double down? Determining the right moment is essentially what will cause you to make or break. Yet again, don’t forget that it is still a game of luck though, regardless of the calculations and precautions you take into account.
These strategies are recommendations based on the performance of taking calculated risks and the outcome of those. There is always a chance of slipping, however.
Following the charts, here’s when you should double down in blackjack.
When Your Cards Total 11
For the most part, having a total of 11 makes it a powerful combination that will set you up for a win. If your first two cards show a value of 11, but without having an ace, it’s a perfect moment to double down your hand. Having 11 means you have a high probability of getting close to 21 and not exceeding it.
Basically, what it means is that you must have any two cards that make an 11. But before doubling down in blackjack, take a look at the dealer’s upcard value and make sure he doesn’t have an Ace.
Let’s check out an example. You have two cards, a five and a six and the dealer has a four. The probability of you and the dealer getting a 10-card value or lower is pretty much the same. In either case, you stand a better chance of beating the dealer’s score.
However, even though most casinos will allow you to double down no matter what the dealer’s score is, the same may not apply in some.
When You Have a Soft 16, 17, or 18
Next case scenario to double down in blackjack is if you have a soft 16, 17 or 18. This means that, if one of your cards is an Ace and the second one is 5, 6 or 7 your total score is either 6, 7 and 8, or 16, 17 and 18. Because as we already mentioned, Aces are valued as either one or eleven.
But it’s only wise to do so if your dealer has weak or mediocre cards so the third card he pulls will not make much of a difference.
When You Have a Hard 9 or 10
Let’s have a look at another situation. Your dealer’s flipped card is between 2 and 6 (no Aces). Your first two cards are between 2 and 8 so your total score is either 9 or 10 and you don’t have an Ace in your hand. This is considered to be a hard 9 or 10 and puts you in a superior position to pull off the double down move in blackjack.
But if you get an Ace and a 9 or a 10 (which is considered a soft nine and ten) then it’s better to stand and not go bust with the next card.
Another thing to keep in mind when doubling down in blackjack is the rules that the casino has in place. If they don’t allow doubling down when the player feels like it, it would be best to hit instead. Likewise, some online casinos don’t allow doubling down in blackjack on specific soft card values. So make sure to always check the rules so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
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When Not to Double Down in Blackjack?
After showcasing the most favourable situations of when to double down in blackjack, what are the moments when it’s best to withstand going further?
There are certain instances when deciding to double down will most likely cause you to go bust. Like it is the situation when the dealer has an ace or you have high-value cards. In both situations, you’re passing the advantage to your dealer of him having a 53.8% chance of outperforming you.
When the Dealer is Showing an Ace
So far we have learned that an Ace is a powerful card as it doubles up the chances of hitting a blackjack. Whoever got the Ace, stands a better chance against the other. So if the dealer’s upcard shows an Ace, then it’s not wise to go for doubling down in blackjack. This will most likely cause you to lose because the dealer can easily get close to 21 or hit the 21.
If you don’t want to hit your bankroll and lose more money, then refrain from doubling down in this type of scenario.
If You’re Showing Anything Higher Than an 11
Having anything higher than 11 increases the risk of going bust by exceeding the 21. For instance, you have a total of 17 or higher. Deciding to double down in blackjack on such a strong hand it’s not the wisest thing to do and you don’t need such a risk.
Whether you have tried your hands at playing blackjack or you’re yet to do that, it is a great challenge to not only beat the dealer but hit the blackjack too. Blackjack is somewhat more of a strategic game unlike poker, but it’s still a form of gamble.
When doubling down in blackjack you must signal for a new card after you received the first two. Be wary of your score value and the face-up card of the dealer, before you go for the doubling down. If your total score is higher than the dealer’s total score and you’re closer to 21, then you win.
Like with all games in gambling, you need luck most of the time so “may the odds be ever in your favor”!
It’s essentially a strategy to double up your bet by asking for a new card when you think the odds of winning the hand are in your favour. After a careful calculation, you can decide to make a double bet by putting the same amount of stack of chips as for your initial bet. Then signal for a new card, expecting to get a total close to 21 but not to overcome that value.
Generally speaking, when doubling down in blackjack the rules are that you can only ask for one card at a time and wait until the next round if you want to double again. Also, depending on the casino’s rules, some will allow doubling up only if you show a total of 10 or 11. So make sure to check what are the rules before you start playing and you will know what is and isn’t allowed.
Many blackjack strategies consider the 11 to be a powerful combination that has the highest probability of hitting up the blackjack or at least coming close to it. So if the dealer has a card lower than a ten, then it’s probably best to double down in blackjack.
Although doubling down in blackjack always poses a risk like with any activity that involves gambling, knowing when to pull off a certain strategy is essential. Many would think that going against the dealer’s ten when you have eleven at your hand is probably deemed a failure.
Most blackjack charts support doubling down on an 11 against a 10. This is because more than often the outcome is in your favour and it gives you a higher average profit. However, the risk is still there.