Doubling Down

How to Win More by Doubling Down

Have you ever wondered how you can possible break even or win at blackjack when overall you stand to win only 47% of the hands dealt to you? One reason is the double down option.

Most of the time when you play blackjack you must play defensively because the dealer's hand has a higher probability of beating your hand. But when you learn when to double down you get to go on the offensive at the best possible time-when the dealer has a relatively high probability of busting or when you have the edge over the dealer on the hand.

There are two schools of thought on why casinos introduced the double down option in the first place. Some say it was to spur more interest in the game by lowering the casino edge to a more respectable level. Others say it was just another way for casinos to win more money from unskilled players. I believe both reasons are correct.

There is no question that casinos make a lot of money on the double down option. I could write a book on the horrific double down plays that I've seen players make. The worst was a player doubling on a hard 12.

If you remember anything about this article remember this - do not double down on a hand that could bust with a one-card draw!

What is ironic about doubling down is that with some hands, you will actually be reducing your chances of winning the hand because you only get one draw card. Take a 6,3 against a dealer's 5 face card. If you double down and draw a 2 for an 11 the only way you could win the hand is if the dealer busted.

If you didn't double down you could have drawn another card to your 11 and improved your chances of winning. Nevertheless the right play is to double down because of the extra money you put into action.

Here's why.

If you hit a two-card 9 you stand to win 59 percent of the hands and lose 41 percent of them. This means you will win on average $18 (59-41) per $100 bet on the hand. If instead you doubled down, you stand to win only 57% of the hands but at double the amount bet. Your net gain by doubling is 57-43 times 2 (double bet) or $28 per $100 bet. That's $10 more gained over hitting which is why doubling is the better strategy in this case.

The two variables that determine whether or not you should double down are your hand and the dealer's face card. As a general rule the hands you are most likely to double are hard 9, 10 and 11 and the soft 12 through 18 hands.

Hard hand doubling strategy (multiple deck games)

Double down on hard 11 when the dealer's face card is 2 through 10.

Double down on hard 10 when the dealer's face card is 2 though 9.

Double down on hard 9 when the dealer's face card is 3 through 6.

An easy way to remember the hard doubling strategy is to only double on 11 when the dealer shows 10 or less. Likewise, double on 10 only when the dealer shows 9 or less. For hard 9, just remember that 3 plus 6 equal 9 (double on 9 when dealer shows 3 through 6).

If you follow the hard doubling strategy your gain will be about 1.3 percent. We can do even better by learning the strategy for soft doubling.

Soft hand doubling strategy

Double down on soft A-2 and A-3 when the dealer's face card is a 5 or 6.

Double down on soft A-4 and A-5 when the dealer's face card is 4, 5 or 6.

Double down on soft A-6 and A-7 when the dealer's face card is 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Most players understand that the main reason for doubling on 9, 10 or 11 is to draw a 10 or picture card, which will give them a strong hand. But the logic for doubling on soft hands often isn't clear to players so they pass up the opportunity. The reason you double on soft hands is not so much to out draw the dealer but on getting more money on the table when the dealer is vulnerable to busting (shows a low value face card). Learn when to double down on soft hands and you'll gain another 0.13 percent.

Some casinos allow players to double down on 3 or more cards. In other words of you had a 5,3 and drew a 3 for an 11 your could double down after the third card was drawn. This option will give you another 0.2 percent gain.

One finally tip. Some casinos allow players to double down for less. This means if you bet $10 on the hand you could double down for only $5. But it not wise to do so because you will maximize your gain only when you maximize the amount of your double down bet.