Should I Always Double Down on 11 in Blackjack?

By Alex Smith Jan 4, 2023

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino table games in the world. Blackjack is found in virtually every land-based casino and online gambling website in the world, and the game’s simplicity has allowed it to become a player favorite with millions of people worldwide.

Thankfully, the rules of Blackjack are relatively straightforward, and once you know the ins and outs of the game, playing is simple and hassle-free. Most of the time, your decisions in Blackjack are pretty obvious – and if you ever have any hesitations, you need to refer to one of the many basic strategy charts. These charts tell you exactly which move you should make depending on the cards that you hold and the card the dealer reveals.

However, some players struggle with one particular action in Blackjack: doubling down. On this page, we will be looking at what doubling down actually means, when you should do it – and whether you should always double down when you hold 11.

What Is Doubling Down?

Once you have placed the amount of money you want to bet on the table, the Blackjack round will begin. The dealer will then deal you two cards – they will also deal one to themselves. Once your cards are in front of you, you can occasionally place an additional bet. This bet needs to be equal to the initial wager you placed on the table, called the double-down bet.

Doubling down allows you to try to win more money – and it is usually used when you hold a substantial hand and the dealer holds a somewhat weak hand. If you want to double down, as we just mentioned, you need to pay an additional wager equal to your initial bet, and you will receive one additional card. Please note that when you double down, you can only draw one more card.

Once this card has been dealt to you, your turn will finish. Usually, most casinos allow players to double down on a nine, 10, or 11. The goal is to draw a picture card as this will give you a firm hand which will usually have a pretty good chance of beating the dealer.

When You Should Double Down

If you’re curious about the situations where you should be doubling down, it’s worth noting that there are a few things to consider. Firstly, we strongly recommend printing a copy or downloading a PDF of a basic strategy chart. 

This chart features every possible hand combination in Blackjack, and you need to refer to this chart to find out what move you should be making. While some land-based casinos will frown upon players who bring a physical chart to the table, there is no problem in doing so when you are playing at online casinos – and you can load up this chart on a separate screen on your mobile device.

Generally, it would help if you always doubled down when you have 11. There is one sole exception to this: when the dealer shows an ace. While it can be very tempting to double down in all situations when you hold 11, if you do so while the dealer shows an ace, you are at a mathematical disadvantage and will end up losing more than you will win in the long run.

If you hold a hand totaling 10, you should double down in almost all situations – but if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace or a picture card, you should draw a standard card. Again, while it can be tempting to try to have a punt and double down now and then, doing so when the dealer holds an ace or a picture card will result in a negative-EV play.

If you hold a hand totaling nine, you should double down whenever the dealer shows a three, four, five, or six. Some players like to double on a nine if the dealer holds anything up to a nine, but this generally goes against most basic strategy charts.

The above guidance assumes you do not hold an ace in your hand. If you do hold an ace, you have what is known as a soft hand – and these hands have separate sets of rules for when it comes to doubling down. We will be taking a look at these below.

Soft Hands: Doubling Down

If you hold a soft hand – for example, an ace with a seven or an eight – your movements change slightly. For example, if you hold a soft 17 or 18, you should always double down if the dealer shows a three, four, five, or six. Avoid doubling down on a soft 17 if the dealer also shows a seven; while it may appear tempting, in the long run, it will be a poor mathematical play.

If you hold a soft 16 or 15, you should always double down when the dealer shows a four, five, or six. Similarly, if you hold a soft 13 or 14, you should double down when the dealer shows a five or six – notice how if the dealer holds a four in this scenario, you are not supposed to double down.

According to basic strategy, you should avoid doubling down on any other hand – one of the only exceptions to this is if you hold a pair of fives. It’s highly recommended to avoid splitting these fives; instead, treat your hand like a 10, and double down accordingly.

What Are The Payouts Doubling Down?

When you double down, you place an additional wager equal to your initial bet. For example, if you had initially placed a five-dollar bet and chose to double down, you would then have $10 running on the table. If you ended up winning the hand, both your initial five-dollar bet and your five-dollar double-down bet would be paid out at even money; this would result in you receiving $10 in winnings.

Doubling down is a good technique when used correctly, but you need to be aware that the payout is only even money, and it can be very frustrating when you double and receive a low-value card. Remember, as we mentioned earlier, when you double down, you are not allowed to draw any more cards – so if you get dealt a low card, you are stuck with your hand and need to hope the dealer goes bust.

When To Avoid Doubling Down

We’ve already covered the situations where you should be doubling down – but did you know that there are also times when you should venomously avoid doing so? We should preface this section by letting you know that the rules about doubling down can vary greatly depending on the variation of the Blackjack game you are playing. For example, depending on whether the dealer stands or hits soft 17 can have a significant impact on whether you should double down.

As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid doubling down when the dealer shows an ace across almost all variations of the game. If the dealer shows an ace, they have a roughly 50% chance of hitting Blackjack – and this means that even if you double down and get the best possible result, you still stand roughly a 50% chance of losing the hand.

Some players do like to double down when they hold an 11 and the dealer shows an ace; while it’s true that you will hit 21 around 50% of the time, you need to remember that the dealer will also hit Blackjack 50% of the time – and if they do so, you will lose the hand.

Don’t even think about doubling anything higher than an 11; this puts you at unnecessary risk, and your hand will bust approximately 50% of the time. Again, we strongly recommend reading a basic strategy chart as it tells you what to do in each situation.

FAQs

Can I Play Blackjack For Free?

Yes! Almost every casino in the world allows you to try their casino games for free, although if you live in the UK, you will now be required to create an account and verify your identity. Playing Blackjack for free is great as it allows you to get a feel for the game – and see how everything works – without risking any of your own money. Most of the accredited casinos here at Casinomeister allow you to play all of the casino games for free – and this is great, as it means you don’t have to spend any of your cash and risk gambling yourself to get a feel for how the game works.

If you are new to Blackjack – or doubling down – playing for free is helpful and recommended. Spending 20, maybe 30 minutes playing Blackjack for free will give you an idea of how the double-down feature works. It will let you try it all out without jeopardizing any of your own cash, and doing so will ensure that you will have a much better idea about how everything works when it comes to playing for real money.

What Is a Basic Blackjack Strategy?

Basic strategy is a set of mathematical rules developed in the 50s and 60s. Mathematicians realized that if players were to follow a specific set of rules, the house edge of the casino game could be reduced – sometimes to lower than 1% – and while this does not guarantee you a winning session at all, it does minimize the chances of you losing.

Following a basic strategy also ensures that you can maximize your potential profit in the long run. Of course, Blackjack is a casino game, meaning the house edge is there – and can never be removed – so you should never expect to make a profit in the long run.

Should I Always Double Down On 11?

As a general thumb, you should double down in most situations when your first two cards total 11. However, as we have already noted, if the dealer shows an ace, you should not double down – even when you hold 11. While it can be very tempting, doing so will result in a loss around 50% of the time – and that’s only taking into account the chances of the dealer getting Blackjack.

Again, this is covered in a Blackjack basic strategy chart, which is one of the reasons we strongly recommend you download one and follow it relatively intently while playing the game.

How Much Does the Double Down Bet Cost?

If you choose to double down, you must place an additional wager equal to your initial bet. Some players like to think they can increase the amount of money they add to the table – and while this would be great, unfortunately, you are only allowed to wager the same amount of money you placed on your initial bet.

Some Blackjack variations allow you to increase the size of your bet after your cards are dealt – but these are generally seen as novelty games, and you are unlikely to find them in many land-based casinos. They generally only appear as gimmicky games on a few online gambling websites.

Can I Increase my Initial Bet When I do a Blackjack Double Down?

No; online casinos do not allow you to change your initial bet size when you double down in Blackjack. The same goes for online Blackjack, and the number of your double needs to be equal to your original bet.

Can I Always Double Down in Blackjack?

Whether you’re following a Blackjack strategy or not, the double-down option isn’t always available – and this can be a pain, especially if you’re trying to follow a double-down strategy. Not all online and land-based casinos allow you to take one more card when you’re doubling – and this can screw up basic strategies considerably.

To find out when you can double down in Blackjack, always read the game rules before placing your initial bet. Some online casinos will let you double down in Blackjack on ALL hands, while others will only let you double when holding a 9, 10, or 11.

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