The term ‘double down’ is used in all sorts of situations these days; it can be used to describe someone who works extra hard on a project, a politician who is refusing to budge on their position, etc.
However, the term originally comes from the game of blackjack, and it refers to the opportunity to double your initial stake and potentially win twice as much money from the game – provided you actually win of course.
It can be a risky move because if it goes wrong you stand to lose twice as much, and this is why it pays to know exactly when you should double down and when you should pass the opportunity up.
How Does Doubling Work in Blackjack?
Doubling is only possible at one point in the game, and that is directly after your cards have been dealt.
If you think that you have a suitable hand then you can choose to double your stake in return for one more card, before the dealer reveals their full hand and the game is concluded.
There are some blackjack variations which allow doubling to occur more than once, but these are few and far between; as a general rule, think of it as a one time only offer.
If you are playing in a live casino you can signal to the dealer that you want to double by simply placing more chips next to your original stake. Remember, this needs to be the same amount as your initial stake, and you should only do it on your turn if you are playing at a table with others.
If you are playing online it is much more informal as you are playing at your own pace, and you can simply hit the ‘double’ button.
The Best Time to Double Down in Blackjack
Now you know what doubling down is and you know how to do it, so we come to the main point of the article – when is the best time to double down?
There are some mathematically proven ‘best’ times to double, statistically speaking, that should be adhered to if you want to play with the optimal strategy and reduce the house edge as much as possible. You won’t always win by doing this but over the long term you should come out better off.
They are as follows:
- When your hand totals 11 – You have a strong chance of getting a 10 or at least a high value card, and you can’t go bust.
- On a soft 16, 17, 18 – With an Ace in your hand, you have options. Although ideally the dealer will be showing a lower card too,
- On a hard 9 or 10 – Again, there is a strong chance of a 10 or even maybe an Ace coming up here, giving you a very strong hand.
Of course you can double down whenever you like and you might get lucky, but if you want to deal only in carefully calculated risk then the above rules should be followed.
The Worst Time to Double in Blackjack
Following on from that, there are a few instances where doubling is just plain silly.
For example, if the dealer is holding an Ace this is an obviously dangerous position for the player as they may have blackjack. If you were to double now your risk of losing twice as much money would be huge, so it is advisable to never double if the dealer has an Ace.
If your hand is over 11 then doubling down is risky because the next card could be high and see you bust. Remember, with all face cards carrying a value of 10 there are a lot of 10’s in the shoe, even if you are playing single deck, and the higher your hand the more dangerous it is.
Look at this table:
|Your Hand||Losing Cards|
|14||10s, 9s, 8s|
|15||10s, 9s, 8s, 7s|
|16||10s, 9s, 8s, 7s, 6s|
|17||10s, 9s, 8s, 7s, 6s, 5s|
We probably don’t need to go any higher but you can see that more and more cards become game losers for you the higher your hand.
Doubling is not a method to get rich quick, it should only be used when you are in the right position.
Other Rules About Doubling
With blackjack being a game that contains so many options it is natural that questions arise. Some of the most common quesrtions concerning doubling can be found below.
Can You Double After Splitting?
This isn’t actually a yes or no question. Although it is much more likely that you will not be allowed to double down after splitting, there are some variations of the game where this is allowed. It is much less likely in a real life casino but again, there will be exceptions.
Simply apply the same rules to each hand after a split as you would normally.
Can You Double Down if you Have Blackjack?
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But no, you can’t. If the player is dealt blackjack the game ends in a win there and then.
Can You Hit After Doubling Down?
The advantage the player gets by doubling is knowing what their hand is in advance rather than betting blind, as you do at the start of each game. This advantage is balanced by the fact that you are only allowed a single further card. So it is not possible to hit after doubling down, even if you receive a poor value card.
Doubling is also sometimes called ‘buying a card’ and if you think of it this way it makes sense. You are buying one more card, and one more card only.
Can You Double After Hitting?
This is another scenario that would give the player too much of an advantage over the casino, so it is not allowed. You can either hit and have more control over a smaller stake, or double and have less control over a larger stake, but you cannot have the best of both worlds.