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Blackjack Double Down: What Does It Mean And When Should You Go For It?

Ashley Grasse

Who doesn’t love to serve up a daredevil gambling move now and then? Doubling down in blackjack is a thrilling, high-reward strategy that can earn you twice your bet if you play your cards right. However, with great reward comes some inherent risk.

The fact is, this bold gambit is often overused and misunderstood. It’s easy to get swept away in the heat of a game, but seasoned players know to hold out for hands that increase their odds.

Let’s go over the ins and outs of doubling down in blackjack and when to employ this rousing tactic.

What Does Double Down Mean In Blackjack? 

what does double down mean in blackjack

In real money blackjack, doubling down means you choose to wager twice your initial bet once you have your first two cards. However, this decision also means the next card dealt will be your last, and therefore your only opportunity to beat the dealer.

The inability to hit again is what makes this move so risky. For example, if you have a hard nine, choose to double down, and get a 3, you have a 12 for the rest of the round. That’s not an ideal hand. 

If lady luck isn’t on your side and you aren’t utilizing blackjack strategies, that final third card can put you in the hole lightning-fast.

So, what happens when your hand doesn’t beat the dealer? Newton’s third law applies here, too: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That’s right; you lose double your bet. 

Fortunately, there are a few straightforward scenarios where the odds are in your favor to double your profit.

When Should You Double Down In Blackjack?

The best time to double down in a blackjack game is promptly after your first two cards are dealt, but don’t jump the gun quite yet. Waiting for favorable circumstances benefits you in the long run.

The following three situations give you the mathematical green light to double down. They have a statistical advantage, and the best of all, you likely won’t bust on any of them: 

  1. A hard nine: this is a hand that doesn’t contain an Ace and has any combination of numbers that add up to nine. As long as the dealer has a face-up card of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, hard nines are good opportunities to double down.
  2. A soft 16, 17, or 18: this means you have an Ace and a 5, 6, or 7. Again, you want the dealer to show 2-6 on their face-up card. With the Ace capable of being a 1 or 11, there are a lot of chances to make it work for you. 
  3. A hard 10 or 11: when the sum of your cards equals either number, and you show no Aces. That is one of the best times to double down, but with the caveat that the dealer’s card is lower than yours.

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When NOT To Double Down

Sometimes the wisest strategy is knowing when to practice restraint. Unfortunately, as humans, that isn’t our forte. Regardless, try to keep an eye out for these two instances in blackjack when you should not double down.

These are some of the times to hold off:

  • The dealer is holding an ace
  • Your hand is higher than 11

In the first scenario, the odds of the dealer getting a blackjack are relatively high. In the second one, you could easily go bust.

Remember the most basic rule of thumb: play it safe. It’s better to lose an opportunity than your bankroll.

How To Signal Double Down in Online & Offline Blackjack

Like many table games, blackjack has several hand motions to indicate your moves. When you want to signal your double down to the dealer, push a stack of chips forward equal to your initial bet. Just don’t put them on top of your other chips. That is frowned upon as it’s interpreted as tampering with your first wager.

In the rare case a dealer misses your action, verbalize your intention by placing a single finger on the felt. That lets them know you’d only like one more card.

Signaling in online blackjack is even easier. Click on the double-down button that pops up after the initial deal. Just make sure you don’t hit first, or the option will likely get greyed out.

Blackjack Double-Down Strategy Chart

Luckily, blackjack strategy charts exist to help you make the correct decisions without remembering every circumstance. Always keep these strategy cards handy when playing online or in-person at a land-based casino.

Blackjack Double Down Strategy Chart
Click to enlarge

The Bottom Line Is Double Down Is A Profitable Option 

Even if you’re well-equipped with a great deal of knowledge about blackjack, doubling down doesn’t always go according to plan. What’s more, the right situation to employ this tactic doesn’t arise as often as you may think.

Studying blackjack strategy and keeping charts on hand is a great way to build confidence in this move. Although, knowing when to refrain is perhaps the best course of action to prevent getting burned in the long run.

FAQs About Blackjack Double Down

Should you always double down on 11?

Doubling down on 11 is the golden rule unless the dealer has an Ace. It’s one of the smartest moves you can make, but you don’t necessarily have to.

Should you double down on 10?

A hard 10 is statistically a great time to double down. The exception is when the dealer shows an Ace or a 10. 

Can you double down after splitting? 

Most tables allow you to double down after splitting, but the rules can vary from casino to casino. Be sure to understand them all before playing.

Can you double down after hitting? 

Unfortunately, most of the time, you cannot double down after hitting. There are rare occasions where it is possible, but typically your only chance to double down is after the initial two-card deal. 

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