The majority of people know the gist of blackjack. You hit or stand, try to get as close to 21 as you can without going over, and then you hope that you finish up with a better score than the dealer. But there’s a lot more to blackjack than just those basics and the more you know, the better your chances are of winning.
There are a number of different strategies that you can be presented with, from the option to buy insurance to the possibility of doubling down. Focusing on the latter choice, when is the right time to double down in blackjack? Let’s dive in and take a closer look.
What Is Doubling Down In Blackjack?
Doubling down is an option that’s afforded to you almost every hand in blackjack. What it means is after the dealer has handed you your initial two cards, you can then double down. What happens is you double your initial bet after you’ve had a look at your cards, and then the dealer hands you one card – no more, no less. When you get that card, that’s the end of your cards, and then the dealer plays out and settles bets.
It’s a risky proposition because if you get the right card and the math adds up, you’ll double up your winnings. However, if you go bust because of that card, or the dealer still wins because you didn’t get the optimal hand, then you’ve now lost double.
This is the crux of doubling down and why people have to understand the strategy behind it. If you just blindly do it, you’ll not be putting yourself in the best position to win.
How To Double Down
When you’re playing blackjack, the dealer isn’t going to openly ask everyone at the table every single hand if they want to double down. The way this process works is you have to let the dealer know. The easiest way to do this is before you make your decision to hit or stand or anything else, you tell the dealer you want to double down. Then you have to move the chip or chips into the table to show that you’ve doubled your stake. Remember, your second bet has to match the stake of the first bet – it can’t be any more or less.
If you don’t signal that you want to double down, there’s no way for anyone to guess or know. It’s your responsibility to communicate it. Make sure you make it known what your play is before you ask for any more cards. If you don’t follow the proper schedule of events, you won’t be able to go back later and say you wanted to do it. Give them a heads-up first and then you’ll be able to double down.
When Is The Right Time To Double Down?
There are pros and cons to doubling down, and the house is counting on most players not knowing the difference. We’ll get you up to speed so you do.
When Your Cards Add Up To 11
The first scenario where you can consider doubling down is when your cards add up to 11. In this case, you’re at a pretty decent number, and no matter what comes out, you can’t bust. If you get something small like a 3 or 4, it’s not great, but you still have a chance. If you get a 10, you’re now in fantastic shape with your bet doubled. At 11, you’re not going to bust on a double down, which is key.
When You Have A Soft 16, 17 Or 18
The second scenario to consider doubling down is when you’re on a soft 16, 17 or 18. This means that you have an ace in your hand, which has helped you add up to a 16, 17 or 18. If you double down and hit again, and you happen to “bust,” then your ace can turn into a 1 instead of an 11. So if you have 16 with an ace, and a king is delivered, then you now have 16 again and still have a shot to win. However, if you do get a small card, you have just doubled your bet and improved your chances of winning.
When You Have A Hard 9 Or 10
Another situation where you would consider doubling down is when you have a hard 9 or 10. In this case, you’re again trying to hit something that delivers more for you while doubling your bet. In this case, you end up with something like 19 or 20 and you’ve doubled your stake. This is the ideal situation. However, the worst-case scenario here is that you’re still protected from a bust.
Remember that with each of these three, just because you’re doubling down doesn’t mean you’ll win (obviously). However, in the game of blackjack, the optimal strategy helps you get closer to winning more often. The more you know the strategy – especially related to doubling down – the better your chances. If you’re just randomly doubling down, you’re decreasing your chances of success.
When Not To Double Down
Now that we’ve covered the scenarios where doubling down makes sense, let’s take a look at a few where you absolutely want to avoid this type of strategy.
The first one is when the dealer is showing an ace. The ace is one of the best cards that you can have in the game of blackjack, and if the dealer has this as their face-up card, then you’re not in a position of strength. You are better off not to double down.
Another situation where you’d rather not double down is when you have a hard hand equaling 12 or more. What that means is if you’re holding something like a 13, 15 or 17, you don’t want to double down. The logic is quite straightforward: one more card can bust you. Do you really want to double your bet and then take on that risk? The math would suggest that this is not a wise decision.