Blackjack is a game that has a reputation for being simple and easy to play. While it is true to an extent (blackjack is a very simple game to learn how to play), it is not completely true. Blackjack is a game that has a large amount of depth, and to become a good blackjack player, it requires a great deal of knowledge and study. There are a number of different options available to players beyond that traditional “hit” and “stick”. One of the most popular is doubling down.
What is doubling down?
Doubling down is actually quite a simple concept. Once you are dealt your first two cards, you can choose to “double down”. When you make this choice, you will be given one additional card in return for you doubling your wager. You will not be allowed to ask for any further cards after this – the next card that you get is your last card for this hand. Also, you cannot double down if you have chosen to hit after receiving your first two cards. The only time that you can double down is right after receiving your first two cards. It is a pretty simple concept. However, it is not simple to master when to double down. Remember, blackjack might seem simple, but there is a large amount of depth under the surface.
Should you always double down?
There is an easy answer to this: no. However, the reasons behind that are slightly more complex. If you have received a two and a five when playing Blackjack, then you have a score of seven. At this point, doubling down would be a big risk. You will not go bust, no matter what card you get next. However, the chances of you getting a winning hand are relatively slim. By the same token, if you have two kings, then doubling down would be a bad idea. The chances of you getting an ace as your next card are incredibly small, and as such, doubling down would be a very bad idea.
When should you double down?
There a number of reasons why choosing when to double down is a complicated matter. The first, and biggest, consideration to take into account is whether your hand has an ace in it or not. Your decision to double down on a particular score depends on whether your score is hard or soft. A hard score is when it is created without an ace, and a soft score is when it is created with an ace.
The second consideration is your score. Your decision to double down or not will vary depending on what you have in your hand. The final consideration is what card the dealer is showing. The main thing about the three considerations that you have to take into account is that all three of them work together. There are no hard and fast rules – each consideration is tied to the other, and from there you make your choice.
It is a very long process to go through everything that you need to know when deciding if you should double down or not, so we are going to cover the absolute basics at first. The simplest time to double down is if you manage to get a score of 10 or 11 that is also hard. In this case, as long as the dealer is showing a card that is not a 10, you should double down.
Things become slightly more complex when you are holding an ace though. When you are holding an ace, this is known as a soft hand. The choices that you need to make here are a lot more wide ranging and complicated than if you have a hard 10 or 11. The first rule that you need to know about having a soft hand is when you should never double down.
If you have an ace and your other card is an eight or higher, then you should not be doubling down. In this situation, you have a score of 19 or more. Your chances of beating that score are almost impossible, so doubling down means that you will almost be guaranteeing that you will double your bet but with a lower score. It makes no sense to do this.
This does not mean that you should definitely double down if your non-ace card is less than eight though. There is one relatively foolproof rule here to follow. If your non-ace card and the dealer’s card add up to equal to or more than nine, then you should double down – so if you have a five and the dealer has a five, then it is time to double down.
While that rule is foolproof most of the time, there are a few exceptions. If the dealer is showing a two, then do not double down. By the same token, if the dealer is showing a card with a value of 7 or more, then you should decide against doubling down there. In these two situations, there is a bigger chance of you getting a card that will struggle against the dealer’s potential hand than one that will give you a win.
While these are not an in-depth set of rules for doubling down, they do provide an introduction that should help you with making the tough decision.
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Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock & Bitcasino