Doubling Down in Blackjack


The blackjack strategy of doubling down has gained such notoriety over the years that it has become synonymous with more than just gambling in a casino or online – it is now used as an apt descriptor for any situation where someone takes risks that involve pushing the envelope.

Technically speaking, doubling down in blackjack is a situation where, after you are dealt your two original cards, you decide to double your initial bet in return for a single card – with your option to hit or stay eliminated – in the hope that you will either hit a hand that beats the dealer’s or the dealer will bust when their turn comes. It can be a risky strategy, but it’s a chance you’ll have to take if you want to win at blackjack.

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Only double down if your hand totals 11 or less.

When to Double Down – Rules to Live By

The first rule of doubling down is much the same as the first rule of blackjack – assume any card you can’t see has a value of 10. Counting the four 10s and 12 face cards, there are more cards in the deck that are worth that amount than any other value. Since blackjack is about playing the odds, it’s a rule of thumb you’ll want to follow in any situation, but especially when it comes to doubling down.

Because of that rule, you will only want to double down on a hand where the combined value of your cards is 11 or fewer. That way, no matter what card you’re dealt on your double down, you’ll never have the chance to go over 21, or “bust” as it is more commonly known. You never want to put yourself in a position where you press your bet with the chance of busting.

In some venues, whether at a casino or online, you will only be allowed to double down if you’ve been dealt two cards that combine to equal nine, 10 or 11. In those cases, the decision to double down is made a bit easier. You will only have to look at the dealer’s up card and determine whether they are weak, i.e., showing a number between two and seven. If they have that type of hand, you’ll almost always want to double down.

And, though this rule is a simple one, always remember that once you opt to double down you will only receive one card. Many amateurs make the mistake of thinking that by doubling their bet they will be able to continue pursuing their hand as they normally would. The whole gamble behind a double down is that you’re relying on one more card to make your hand.

Finally, remember that doubling down is one of your best chances to rake in the big money, so you should be looking to do it at every possible opportunity. Winning at blackjack, or really any type of gamble for that matter, is about being aggressive, searching for opportunities where you feel you have an advantage and pressing your bets.

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Decide whether to double down based on your hand and the dealer’s face-up card.

In blackjack, doubling down provides you with that opportunity as well as any bet you’ll encounter.

When to Double Down – Strategy

In more common scenarios where the casino or website do allow double downs on cards of any value, the strategy behind doubling down becomes much more complicated, but also affords you the opportunity to really press your bet when the table is running hot, or the odds or your instincts tell you to do so.

You’re still going to want to look to double down any time you are dealt two cards equaling nine, 10 or 11. In fact, you’ll want to double down every time you are dealt one of those three combinations as long as the dealer’s up card isn’t a 10 or a face card. In the case when the dealer’s up card is worth 10, you should still double down on all 11s, but use your best judgement when you have a total of 10 and avoid it altogether if your hand equals nine.

Doubling down gets really tricky when you have two cards that combine to make a low total or you have an ace and a number card. In both of those cases you are in a position to take a hit without busting and, if the dealer’s up card is anything between two and six, meaning they are in a very good position to bust, you will want to consider doubling down and hoping they go over 21.

However, making that determination can be tricky. If you play by the book, you will want to double down in those situations almost every time, with the idea being that over the course of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of those circumstances you will end up winning. So, playing strictly by the book, you should double down any time the dealer is weak and you can take a hit without busting. But there is more to it than that.

As with many decisions at a blackjack table, you’re going to want to base your choice on both odds and instinct. For instance, if a dealer has been running hot – meaning they haven’t been busting much and have been making good hands even when starting with a bad combination – you might want to avoid doubling down in all but the most advantageous situations.

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Make the choice to double down based on both odds and instinct.

Conversely, if the dealer has been running through a string of busts, or you seem to be making winning hands no matter what you’re dealt, you should be looking for any situation where you can double down. Taking advantage of good runs, and holding your bets on bad ones, is as important to winning at blackjack as knowing the rules and the odds.

Doubling Down as a Key to Winning

If you just play blackjack straight and never split (which you can find a guide to elsewhere on this site) or double down, your chances of going home a winner become almost nil. It will require a huge amount of luck, and in the long run it will work against you.

Unfortunately, many players, especially amateurs, are afraid to press their bet and will eschew the double down even when it is obviously the best option. In the end, if you want to win, you’re going to have to swallow your fear and make the plunge. If anything, you should look at opportunities to double down as your friend.

Blackjack is all about the thrill and the action. The reason you play should be to have fun and, one hopes, make some money – situations that usually go hand in hand. Doubling down will help you accomplish both. Throw caution to the wind, double that bet whenever you have the opportunity and the winds of luck are blowing in your favor, and when the dealer offers to peel that one card off the deck and slide it to you face down, leave it unseen. That way you can watch the action unfold and discover your fate when the time comes to collect your money or deliver your souped up bet into the house’s coffers.