The double down feature is one of the primary moves in blackjack and one that any blackjack player should become familiar with. To double down is to increase the size of your bet to twice its value. When this happens, you will be dealt one more card and you will have to stand on that particular hand. The double down option gives you the opportunity to make great plays and exponentially increase your winnings potential. While this move does sound cut and dry there are certain subtleties to it and you should not take it lightly. Below, you will find a comprehensive guide about when it is a good idea to double down, as well as the different types of the double down option and the circumstances in which you can use it.
Double Down Variations
Double down comes in a variety of different forms, though some are more commonly seen than others. While you may only be interested in one type, it is a good idea to know the different variations so if you ever come across an unfamiliar type you know what’s going on and how to react.
Standard Double Down
The standard double down feature is the one that you will experience the most often. It is a simple as it sounds, all that happens is that you double the size of your bet and you win or lose depending on the outcome. There is nothing complicated to it, though knowing when to double down is a different matter. Additionally, some blackjack variations restrict your ability to double down only on hard totals of 9, 10, and 11.
Doubling Down on Three Cards
This is among the rarest double down variations that you will find in the gambling world since it pushes the odds in the player’s favor. While rare, it is not unheard of for casinos to allow this. Typically, you are only permitted to double down on your opening hand which consists of two hands. However, there are some establishments that will give you the option of doubling down after hitting. As you can imagine, this allows you to make much better plays that you would normally have the chance to make. Basically, with this double down variation, you have more options and that is never a bad thing.
Doubling Down for Less
Doubling down for less is an option at some land-based casinos and possibly certain online blackjack variations. The idea is that you increase your bet for a lower amount than its original value. For example, your starting wager is $10 and then the game gives you the option to double down for $5. This is the whole premise behind this double down variation and with that said, you should really avoid doubling down for less whenever possible.
The whole idea behind doubling down, in general, is to maximize your potential profit on the back of a strong hand. By doubling down for less, you reduce your winnings potential by a significant margin and this will hurt not only your bankroll but also how long you can keep playing. Furthermore, having standard double down options keeps the odds closer to you, even if still in the favor of the house. However, by giving up the opportunity to increase your bet, you push the advantage further in the casino’s favor and thus, reduce your overall chances of winning.
Let’s run a simulation. Suppose you have a hard 11 against a dealer’s 10. In this situation, you come out on top 54% of the time when you double down. At $10 per standard bet, assuming traditional double down rules and that you will double down on such hands, you will win $10*2 * 54 = $1,080 in gross winnings and $10*2 * 46 = $920 in losses, which makes for a net profit of $160.
However, when you play with ‘double down for less’ rules, things take a different turn. Assume that you double down for 50% of your original bet ($10 + $5) in the same scenario. Now you have ($10 + $5) * 54 = $810 in gross winnings and ($10 + $5) * 46 = $690 in losses, which makes for a net profit of only $120 or 25% less than you would with standard rules. The profit loss percentage only increases as you reduce the double down amount.
No matter how you split it, doubling down for less is a bad move and you should avoid such tables in favor of those with standard doubling down rules. The only acceptable situation for doubling down for less is when you are low on funds and close to losing what is left of your bankroll. You could make an argument for such cases, yet even then, traditional double down rules will still give you better chances of making it out with something.
Doubling Down on Soft Hands
Something that not many players think about is the effect that an Ace can have on their hand total. As you are aware, the Ace can have a shifting value of 1 or 11, depending on your current total. If your hand is lower than 21, the Ace will count for 11. But if it potentially exceeds 21, the Ace will revert to its 1 value state. For instance, you are dealt a hand of Ace and 3 for a total of soft 14. You choose to hit and receive an 8, for a total of 22. However, since the Ace can also count as 1, your new total is not 22, rather 12.
Something to note is that not all blackjack variations will allow you to double down on soft hands. By their very nature, soft hands are always totals of 13 or more, while certain games only allow you to double down on 9, 10, and 11. With this in mind, choose your game of choice carefully. Granted, where it’s allowed to double on any hand, soft totals could potentially be very profitable.
For example, assuming 4-8 decks are in play and you have a soft 13 (Ace-2) against a dealer’s 5 or 6, you should double down. If this were a hard total, it would be advisable to stand, however, since you will not automatically bust by going over, you should take advantage. The same can be said of a soft 14 (Ace-3). When it comes to soft 15 (Ace-4) and soft 16 (Ace-5), you should always double down against a dealer’s 4, 5, and 6. Having a soft 17 (Ace-6) total is an advantageous position for you, even more so if doubling down is an option. Going into a soft 18 (Ace-7), it is important to take note whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17. If they stand, then you should only double down against a dealer total of 3, 4, 5, and 6. However, if they hit a soft 17, then a better approach is to double down against their 2, in addition to the previous totals.
If you hand consists of a soft 19 (Ace-8) or more and the dealer stands on soft 17, you should always stand. But, if they hit a soft 17, you should double down on your soft 19 against their 6. In all other situations, you should either hit or stand.
Doubling Down in Single- and Multi-Deck Games
Doubling down is not the same across multiple variations. When there is a larger number of decks, the odds significantly change as opposed to single-deck versions of the game. Below, we will outline some of the differences between doubling on single-deck and multi-deck variations.
Doubling Down in Single-Deck Variations
If you prefer single-deck blackjack, the conditions under which you want to double down are pretty specific. For example, holding a total of 9 against a dealer’s 2 through 6 is an ideal game state to double down. This is due to the fact that your hand will be made up of low-value cards, leaving all the high-value cards and Aces still in the shoe. Moreover, the dealer will also have the same chance of drawing similar cards, thus increasing their chance to bust. In the event that you hold a total of 8 (2-6; 3-5; 4-4) against a dealer’s 5 or 6, you should take the same action based on the same logic. When holding a hand total of 11 you want to double down, regardless of the dealer’s hand, as the chance to gain the upper hand is prime.
The reason why most of these situations are advantageous in single-deck versions is that doubling down on a low dealer’s total in multi-deck variations is too much risk to sustain long-term plays. All in all, single-deck variations give you more leeway in this regard, provided you know what you are doing.
Doubling Down in Multi-Deck Variations
Single-deck variations are popular but more often than not you will come across games played with 4-8 decks. Given the larger number of multi-hand titles, it is important that you also become familiar with those, as well. There is some slight variation if the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17 but we will get to that also. When holding a 9 against a dealer’s 3 through 6, it is in your best interest to double down. The same is also true when you hold a total of 10 versus a dealer’s 2 through 9. This gives you the best odds at scoring a good hand and getting that larger payout. When you hold a 10 against a dealer’s 2 through 10, you should double down. However, if the dealer hits a soft 17 and they hold an Ace, you should double down in that situation as well.
Doubling Down Tips
Doubling down is a crucial aspect of blackjack, one that has a great effect on your success in the game. But just like it can bring in a lot of profit, it can also ruin your bankroll if you use it carelessly. A double down is a calculated risk, allowing you to benefit from a statistical advantage in any given moment. There is a right time to use any move allowed in the game and it is empirical to learn when the appropriate time for each is. When it comes to doubling down, you are expected to do so in less than half of all possible situations. Therefore, do not expect to make all of your profit from it. Doubling down is a tool that you use when the occasion calls for it and when you stand to make a profit from it. Of course, you should also not expect every time you double down for the game to simply give you money. You will likely lose quite often, but if you play right, you will win more than you lose.
If you take away anything from this article, let it be this:
- Double down on 9 against dealer’s 3 – 6 total
- Double down on 10 against dealer’s 2 – 9 total
- Double down on 11 against dealer’s 2 – 10 total (if dealer hits soft 17 double down on Ace, as well)
- Double down on soft 13/14 against dealer’s 3 – 6 total (if allowed, otherwise hit)
- Double down on soft 17/18 against dealer’s 3 – 6 total (if allowed, otherwise stand)