What is Double Down in Blackjack?

By Alex Smith May 19, 2022

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino table games in the world. You’ll find blackjack, and its many variations, at virtually every online casino in the world. It’s unheard of to have land-based casinos without at least one blackjack table.

While blackjack is a very simple and straightforward casino table game to play, there are some bets or features some players struggle with. The double-down bet is one of these.

On this page, we will look at what a double-down bet means, how it works, and when you should use it yourself. First, let’s look at what the double-down bet in blackjack is.

What is a Blackjack Double Down?

Before you begin a hand of blackjack, you’ll place a wager. This wager needs to be placed before any cards are dealt. It’s the same in online blackjack. However, you can only place a double-down bet when the cards have already been dealt.

The double-down bet allows you to place an additional wager of the same value as your ante bet in return for one additional card. Once you receive this additional card, your hand is over. You will not be able to receive any additional cards.

Before you play blackjack, along with all casino games, it’s essential to read the game rules. For example, some online and land-based casinos will only let you double down on a hand total of 9, 10, or 11. Others will let you double down on any hand value.

It doesn’t matter what the dealer’s hand is; when playing blackjack, when it comes to the double-down, the only thing that matters is your two cards.

How to Double Down? Initial Bet Matched?

Once you’ve placed your initial bet, the dealer’s face-up card has been dealt, and the action is on you, it’s time to decide what to do. Before you choose to double-down, you should know WHEN to do it. For example, if the dealer’s face-up card shows a 4, 5, or 6, then you will almost always want to double down where possible. This is provided that your two cards equal 9, 10, or 11.

To double down, you simply need to match the initial bet you placed to play. The blackjack double-down bet allows you to get one additional card. At most online casinos and land-based casinos, you will not be able to draw more once this third card has been dealt with.

We should point out that when it comes to blackjack strategy, the more decks in play, the better your odds when you double down. This is because there are more 10-value cards in play. Remember, you need to match the original bet to double down. This means it needs to be the same value. Once you’ve received your third card playing blackjack, the action will automatically move to the next player at the table.

When to Double Down (Keeping the Dealer’s Face-up Card in Mind)

As a general rule of thumb, there are three times you should double down in blackjack. Please note that this follows the basic strategy route. There are occasionally other times when a double-down may be recommended.

Below, we will look at the three instances when you should consider a blackjack double-down bet.

When Your Cards Total 11

If your cards total 11, you should almost always choose to double down. This is because you have a great chance of hitting a 21. Draw any picture card, and you will hit a 21. This means your hand is unbeatable and can only be tied by the dealer (provided they don’t show an ace.)

While opinion differs, most blackjack strategists agree that you should double down on 11 when the dealer holds any card but an Ace of a picture. Some experts say you should even double down when the dealer shows a picture. However, this is more personal choice than anything else. Don’t do anything stupid, especially if you’re playing on a budget!

If you place a double-down bet when you hold 11, remember that you will only get one additional card. If you are dealt a two, you will not be given a chance to draw another card. This is one of the reasons why it’s not recommended to double on a hand like a seven. You simply have too much to lose, and if the card you draw isn’t a picture or an ace, you’re taking a poor hand to showdown.

When You Have a Soft 16, 17, or 18 (Including When You Have Cards of the Same Value as the Dealer)

If you are dealt a soft 16, 17, or 18, you generally should only double if the dealer holds a low-value card. It can be tempting to double down when you have a soft 18 or 19, but this ends in disaster 50% of the time.

There’s also only one of two cards (depending on which soft hand you hold) that can benefit you. It’s rarely beneficial to double on a soft hand above 18.

However, in some circumstances, you should disregard this information. For example, if the dealer holds a 4, 5, or 6, and you have a soft 16, 17, or 18, you should double. Even if you are dealt a poor third card, you still stand a reasonably good chance of beating the dealer.

However, as we mentioned earlier, you never have to do anything you don’t want to do. Only double when you feel comfortable doing so. There’s no obligation to double down, especially if you just like playing with the two cards you’re first dealt. Remember, you only get one extra card.

When You Have a 9 or 10 (Depending on the Dealer’s Card.)

If you are dealt a nine or a 10, and the dealer’s upcard shows a low card, you should generally double. With your one more card, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to form a hand that beats the dealers.

However, this isn’t always the case. Playing blackjack means there are going to be swings both ways. This means you’ll win more money on some sessions than others. The double is one of the best-known bets at the blackjack table, and if the dealer’s upcard is low, it’s often a great bet to make.

However, you should always follow a blackjack basic strategy table. This ensures you know what you’re doing before taking one more card.

When Not to Double Down

Depending on the house rules or the blackjack variants you’re playing, there are times when you should not double down, too. For example, you should never double down when the dealer shows an ace. There’s roughly a 50% chance they will hit a blackjack, and even if your hand is super strong, you’ll still lose.

It can be tempting to double down on an 11, even when the dealer shows an ace. However, doing so will be a losing play in the long run. Even if the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, they might still beat you. This means the extra bet will end up costing you more money.

Secondly, you should never double down when you hold anything higher than 11. Disregard this if you’re holding a ‘soft’ hand, however. This is because the number of card values in the deck you need is too small. You are relying on a card less than a 10. That means there’s less than a 50% chance you’ll draw the right card.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to hit or stand on a lower card value than to risk a double bet. Many casinos don’t even allow you to double on any hands other than a nine, ten, or 11.

A good rule to remember is this: if you are ever unsure about whether to double or not, then you should stand. If you’re playing at a land-based casino, you can also ask the dealer for advice. You’d be surprised, but they will tell you the best option for you, according to the math!

One thing to be aware of is that you’ll often see players doubling down whenever they can. This is especially prevalent when you’re playing at a casino that lets you double on any two cards.

Don’t be tempted to follow suit even if you see them winning significant amounts of money. These players are simply gambling. In the long run, they will lose a LOT of money by doing this.

If you want to minimize the amount of money you lose and maximize the chances of you having a winning session, you should only ever double down according to the rules we’ve just covered.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Doubling Down

Look at any blackjack strategy guide, and you’ll see there are many advantages and disadvantages to the double down in blackjack. Arguably the most significant benefit is that you have the chance to place an extra wager when you have a strong hand. Of course, there are never any guarantees. However, when the dealer has a very poor first card, and your first two cards are good, doubling down in blackjack is usually a solid move.

Essentially, it allows you to double the amount of money you’ve wagered on the hand. However, the second half of the wager can be placed while you already know some information about the hand.

One of the main disadvantages is that you can lose when you double down in blackjack. For example, if you double down on 11 and receive an ace, your hand total will be 12. You will not have a chance to draw any more cards, leaving you with an inferior hand.

You should remember that the dealer always acts after the player when playing blackjack. This gives the land-based casinos and online casinos a slight edge over players. This is also known as the house edge.

Another thing to point out is that even if you have separate hands when doubling down in blackjack and it’s a tie — only your stake is returned.

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