Double Down in Blackjack – Learn When You Should Be Doubling Your Bets

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Last Updated: December 27, 2023

double down in blackjack

While blackjack heavily relies on luck, if you want to win long-term, you must also account for a high degree of strategy. The only way to minimize the house edge in blackjack is to play every hand optimally. To do so, you should know when to hit, split, stand, or double down.

Focusing on the latter, many blackjack players often make mistakes when it comes to doubling down. As it’s one of the main actions you can take in blackjack, it’s important to understand how doubling down works and when you should use it.

In this detailed guide on doubling down in blackjack, we’ll go over when you should and shouldn't use this option and share other valuable tips that will help you optimize your blackjack strategy to see maximum long-term profits.

What is Double Down in Blackjack?

Doubling down in blackjack is the action of doubling your initial bet and getting only one more card in return. This is a potentially very rewarding but also very risky move as you can’t make any decisions after doubling down.

What makes it so risky is that you’re leaving the outcome entirely up to chance. There’s no telling what the value of your third card will be. If you get a low card, you’re stuck with a weak hand, and your winning chances won’t be great.

This is why knowing when to double down in blackjack will help you maximize your winnings while ensuring you don’t needlessly throw your money away.

When to Double Down in Blackjack

double down blackjack rules

As blackjack has been in the limelight for decades as one of the most popular casino games, experienced blackjack players who have come before us have already worked out the optimal decisions for all actions in blackjack based on their mathematical probabilities.

So, even if you’re a complete beginner, you can simply follow these tips for blackjack doubling down, and you’ll ensure you always make the right call. Here’s a more complete overview of when you should double down in blackjack:

You Have a Total of 11

The most common time when blackjack players decide to double down is when their two cards combine for a total of 11 points. Naturally, this hand puts you in the best position to win, as a ten-point card would instantly make your hand worth 21.

And, even if you don’t draw a ten-point card, you still have plenty of opportunities to get a high-valued hand. Equally as important, it’s impossible to bust when you double down with a total of 11.

Hard 9 or 10 and Dealer Low Card

When you have a hard hand of 9 or 10, you should also consider doubling down after taking the dealer’s upcard into account.

A hard hand is any hand that doesn’t include an Ace. If the dealer’s upcard is lower than your total, doubling down on a hard 9 or 10 is often the optimal move.

More specifically, according to most blackjack strategy charts, you should double down on a hard 9 hand if the dealer’s upcard is any card from 3 to 6. Furthermore, always double down on a hard 10 if the dealer’s upcard is from 2 to 9.

You Have a Soft 16, 17, or 18

Another instance when you should double down is if you have a soft 16, 17, or 18 hand. A soft hand is any that contains an Ace, as this card can be counted both as 1 and 11. For example, a soft 17 is an A, 6 hand.

That said, you shouldn’t double down every time with these three hands like you would when you have a total of 11. More precisely, only double down on a soft 16 to 18 if the dealer’s upcard is a 6 at most.

For more specific pointers, it’s good to use a blackjack strategy chart. This is because a strategy chart provides detailed insight into every hard or soft hand and when to double down depending on what the dealer is showing.

You Have a Soft 13, 14, or 15

when to double down in blackjack

If you have an Ace with a 2, 4, or 4, whether or not you should double down very much depends on what card the dealer is showing. Starting with a soft 13, you should only double down if the dealer’s upcard is either a 5 or a 6.

The same applies to a soft 14 hand, as you should only double down in those two instances. A soft 15 provides a bit more freedom for doubling down, as you can do so if the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6.

If you have a soft 13, 14, or 15 and the dealer has any other upcard, you should always hit.

Doubling Down on a Pair of 5s

A pair of 5s is a unique hand, as you should never split it, unlike most other pairs you can get in blackjack. Many beginner players make the mistake of splitting 5s, but this is never a good decision.

It’s always better to keep this strong 10-point starting hand than to get two opportunities with two very weak hands.

Considering that, you should play this hand as a standard hard 10 hand. In other words, double down if the dealer is showing any card from 2 to 9. If the dealer’s upcard is a 10-point valued card or an Ace, you should hit.

When to Avoid Doubling Down

The three above-listed scenarios are ones in which you can comfortably double down every time you want to do so. Moreover, you can double down if you have other hands as well, but these decisions are less than optimal.

That said, there are some situations in which you should never double down. The first and most obvious instance in which you shouldn’t double down is when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace.

The Ace is the most powerful card in the game and gives the dealer many options. With a face-up Ace, high chances are that the dealer will make 21 or at least get very close to it.

Another simple rule of thumb you can follow is to never double down if you have a hard hand worth 12 or more. Placing another bet on top of your initial one in this scenario exposes you to unnecessary risk with increased chances of going bust.

Instead, it’s best to stick to this lower-value hand and hope that the dealer will go over 21. If you’re more risk-prone, hit, but don’t put any more money into the game.

How to Double Down in Blackjack

doubling down blackjack signals

Like all other types of actions, you can make in blackjack, doubling down includes a specific hand signal you have to make to let the dealer know that you want to double down.

If you’re playing in a land-based casino, to signal you want to double down, you need to place an equal stack of chips next to your initial bet. Make sure you don’t put the chips on top, as the dealer might suspect you’re tampering.

Additionally, if you want to be certain that the dealer noticed you doubling down, you can hold one finger up. This is the universal signal for doubling down.

If you’re playing online or live dealer blackjack, doubling down will be even more straightforward. You’ll just have to press the button marked “double” or “double down”, and the rest happens automatically.

Important Doubling Down Rules to Remember

Additionally, it’s essential to know the house’s rules when it comes to doubling down. This is because rules can differ depending on where you play.

Primarily, know which totals you’re allowed to double down on. Some casinos will restrict you from doubling down on certain hand values.

Besides this, you should also factor in the casino’s rules for the dealer. In every blackjack game, the dealer will either have to hit or stand on a soft 17. This should also influence your disposition to double down.

To be more precise, if the dealer is playing by the blackjack rules that are more likely to make them bust, you should also be more inclined to double down whenever you have the opportunity to do so.

With all of this in mind, also remember the basics. You can only double down before hitting after you receive your first two cards. If you hit and get a third card, you won’t be allowed to double down for that round.

Moreover, make sure you know the casino’s rules on doubling down after splitting. In some casinos, you will be allowed to double down after splitting. However, this is far from the norm, so check whether or not this is allowed before you start playing.

Is Blackjack Doubling Down Worth It?

Keeping in mind everything we’ve outlined above, is it worth doubling down in blackjack, or should you just avoid this action when playing?

In simple terms, no, you shouldn’t shy away from doubling down when the situation is right. It is just one of the tools you should use to play blackjack optimally.

In fact, when you’re not doubling down on hands you should be, you’re playing the game less than optimally, therefore incurring a larger house edge.

So, remember the simple pointers on when you should and shouldn’t double down to ensure you stick to the correct strategy.

If you’re a blackjack beginner, you can even use a blackjack chart that will conveniently tell you when to double down.

You can bring these charts to land-based venues, as casinos approve players doing so. In this spirit, all that’s left is to pick a blackjack variation you like the most and start playing!

Blackjack Double Down FAQ

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