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When to Double Down in Blackjack – Everything You Need to Know

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Blackjack is among the most popular games in the gambling industry, which includes land-based and online casinos alike. It is fairly simple to learn its rules, but you, as the player, have the ability to make decisions and react to the game as it develops, which makes it more complex and interactive than simple games like slots.

You can even influence the amount that you will walk away with by using different mechanics that the game offers. For example, you could surrender if the game is not going your way, and in doing so, walk away with half of your initial bet. Alternatively, if things are going your way, you can choose a different option, which is to double down. The latter is the option that we wish to explore today and see what it is all about, how you can use it, when to use it and when to avoid it, and how it may affect your winnings in blackjack.

What is double down in blackjack?

The first thing to note is that double down is a very popular but completely optional decision. Some people consider it to be a side bet, although this is incorrect, as it is a fully valid, regular decision that is offered to blackjack players in most blackjack variants. It can be quite advantageous, depending on how you use it, as it is the process of adding another secondary bet to the game for receiving a single card.

You, as a player, can make this additional bet and get one extra card when you decide that you are in an advantageous position. In other words, if you have strong chances of making it close to 21 or hitting exactly 21, that is the perfect time to double down. Players typically decide to do this when the dealer’s up card is weak, and they feel like they can afford to take the risk of doubling down.

But, when you double down, you do not only get an extra card but also increase your initial bet by up to 100%. However, in doing so, you agree to stand after receiving the extra card. In other words, it is an all-or-nothing option.

The way it works is that your bet is placed in the betting box next to your original bet. Keep in mind that, in some variations, you are not allowed to increase your bet by any amount other than 100%, meaning that you literally have to double it in order to proceed. However, this is not always the case, and the best way to find out what is allowed is to simply ask the dealer.

What are the rules?

When it comes to doubling down, the rules are pretty simple. First, let us note that doubling down is the same across most variations and casinos, with a handful of exceptions. But, in the majority of cases, the player can double down after receiving their first two cards. If they decide that the situation is favorable, all they need to do is place their bet next to their original bet.

In exchange, they will get an additional card. The cost of doubling down is the size of the opening bet, and so if you have wagered 1 chip, you will need to pay another chip to double down.

We should also mention a rule called the discard after double, which implies that there can be situations when you will want to give up the hand after doubling down. If this option is allowed, then you can get back some of your original bet. However, most blackjack players rarely choose this option, but if you find yourself in a situation where you might want to do it, it is worth knowing that the option may exist. Again, to know for sure, ask your dealer.

How to double down?

The next thing to discuss is how doubling down actually works, or, in other words, how you can do it. As mentioned before, it is typically done after you assess that you are in a favorable situation. If this happens, here is what you do:

  • You get your first two cards
  • You decide that there is room to place an extra bet
  • You signal the dealer and place the amount the same as your original bet next to your original bet
  • You receive one extra card and either get blackjack, lose the bet, or, if allowed, discard after double.

When to double down and when not to?

Another thing to know is when to double down, as you need to have a sound strategy for each game of blackjack, and also figure out how to implement doubling down into that strategy. Essentially, it is a good time to double down in the following situations:

  • When you hold two cards with a total of 11, as getting an extra card would either bring you to 21 or very close to it
  • When you hold a soft 16, 17, or 18, as this means that you already have a card and an ace. However, this is a good time to double down only if the dealer’s card is weak.
  • When you hold a hard 9 or 10, meaning that you do not hold an ace. Doubling down in this situation is favorable only when the dealer has a low-up card.

However, just as it is important to know when to double down, it is also important (indeed, even more so) to know when not to do it. It is NOT recommended to double down in the following scenarios:

  • When the dealer’s up card is an ace, as in this situation, the chance of the dealer getting a blackjack is already high.
  • When you have a card total that goes beyond 11, as the chance of going bust is pretty high at this point, and proceeding with doubling down is a risk that likely will not pay off.

Of course, it is also worth remembering that this is, in fact, gambling. That means that luck is still a crucial element, as you may be in a perfect position to double down and things still might not go your way. Alternatively, you may also double down in a situation where it is strongly recommended not to do it, and somehow end up winning.

Doubling down after split

Another thing that players should be aware of is Double Down After Split or DDAS. This is a move that is allowed in most variations of the game, whether in land-based casinos or on online gambling platforms. This is a blackjack strategy that means that when you are dealt a pair, you can split it. When dealt to the split cards, the doubling situation becomes significantly stronger.

In other words, while doubling down after a split, you can place an additional wager — still needs to be equal to the original — and double the stakes on only half of the split. To make this even simpler, let’s say that you are dealt a pair of 7s. Meanwhile, the house has a 4. In this situation, you can split the two 7s that you have and hope that you will receive a 4 to the first 7, which would bring you to a total of 11.

This approach provides you with a fair chance to find yourself in a more desirable and advantageous situation. When used correctly, the strategy can bring you an advantage of as much as 13%, so definitely keep it in mind in case you get a pair.

Doubling down and card counting

Finally, the last situation to discuss is card counting. Contrary to popular opinion, card counting is, in fact, not illegal. As such, it is a fair game for players to use as part of their strategy and try to understand the cards and deduce which ones are left in the deck and therefore — which one might come next.

Card counting can help you figure out whether the deck has high-value cards or low cards, which can help you set up a strategy, and indeed, it can be crucial for winning the game. Obviously, that means that card counting can also be extremely useful for deciding when and if you should double down.

For example, let’s say that your original two cards brought you a total of 11. In this situation, most players will double down, hoping to receive a 10 card or at least come as close to 21 as possible.

However, this will not happen if the deck is weak and all the high-value cards are already out. The most reliable way to know whether high-value cards are in there is none other but card counting, so feel free to use it as part of your strategy.

Hit - After the player is dealt the two initial cards, the player has the option to hit (request an additional card). The player should keep asking to hit until they feel that they have a sufficiently strong hand to win (as close to 21 as possible, without going over 21).

Stand - When the player has cards that they feel are sufficiently strong to beat the dealer then they should  “stand.” For example, a player may wish to stand on a hard 20 (two 10 cards such as a 10, jack, queen, or king). The dealer must keep playing until they either beat the player or go bust (going over 21).

Split - After the player is dealt the first two cards, and if those cards are of equal face value (for example, two queens), then the player has the option to split their hand into two separate hands with equal bets on each hand. The player must then continue to play both hands with regular blackjack rules.

Double - After the initial two cards are dealt, if a player feels that they have a strong hand (such as a king and an ace), then the player may choose to double their initial bet. To learn when to double read our guide on When to Double Down in Blackjack.

Blackjack - This is an ace and any 10 value card (10, jack, queen, or king). This is an automatic win for the player.

Hard 20 - This is any two 10 value cards (10, jack, queen, or king). It is unlikely that the player will receive an ace next, and the player should always stand. Splitting is also not recommended.

Soft 18 - This is a combination of an ace and a 7 card. This combination of cards offers the player different strategy options depending on what cards the dealer is dealt.

As the name implies this is blackjack that is played with only one deck of 52 cards.  Many blackjack aficionados refuse to play any other type of blackjack as this blackjack variant offers slightly better odds, and it enables savvy players the option to count cards.

House edge:

0.15% compared to multi-deck blackjack games that have a house edge between 0.46% to 0.65%.

This offers more excitement as players can play up to 5 simultaneous hands of blackjack, the number of hands offered varies based on the casino.

The key difference between American and European blackjack is the hole card.

In American blackjack the dealer receives one card face up and one card face down (the hole card). If the dealer happens to have an Ace as his or her visible card, they then immediately peek at their face down card (the hole card). If the dealer has blackjack with a hole card that is a 10 card (10, jack, queen, or king), then the dealer automatically wins.

In European blackjack the dealer receives only one card, the second card is dealt after all of the players have had the chance to play. In other words, European blackjack has no hole card.

The game is always played with 8 regular decks, this means anticipating the next card is more difficult. The other major difference is players have the option to play a "late surrender".

A late surrender enables a player to toss their hand after the dealer checks his hand for blackjack. This could be wanted if the player has a really bad hand. With a surrender the player loses half their bet. 

In Atlantic City blackjack players can split twice, up to three hands. Aces however, can only be split once.

The dealer must stand on all 17 hands, including soft 17.

Blackjack pays 3 to 2, and and insurance pays 2 to 1.

House edge:


As the name implies this is the most popular version of blackjack in Las Vegas.

4 to 8 standard decks of cards are used, and the dealer must stand on soft 17.

Similar to other types of American blackjack, the dealer receives two cards, one face-up. If the face-up card is an ace, then the dealer peaks at his down card (the hole card).

Players have the option to play a "late surrender".

A late surrender enables a player to toss their hand after the dealer checks his hand for blackjack. This could be wanted if the player has a really bad hand. With a surrender the player loses half their bet. 

House edge:


This is a rare variation of blackjack that increases the odds in the players favor by enabling the player to see both of the dealers cards face up, versus just one card. In other words there is no hole card.

Another key difference is that the dealer has the option to hit or stand on soft 17.

House Edge:


This is a version of blackjack that is played with 6 to 8 Spanish decks.

The Spanish deck of cards has four suits and contains 40 or 48 cards, depending on the game.

The cards are numbered from 1 to 9. The four suits are copas (Cups), oros (Coins), bastos (Clubs), and espadas (Swords).

Due to the lack of 10 card it is more difficult for a player to hit blackjack.

House Edge:


This is an optional side bet that is offered to a player if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. If the player fears that there is a 10 card (10, jack, queen, or king) that would give the dealer a blackjack, than the player may opt for the insurance bet.

The insurance bet is half of the regular bet (meaning if the player bet $10, then the insurance bet would be $5).

If the dealer has a blackjack then the player is paid 2 to 1 on the insurance bet.

If both the player and the dealer hit blackjack, then the payout is 3 to 2.

An insurance bet is often called a "suckers bet" as the odds are in the houses favor.

House edge:

5.8% to 7.5% - The house edge varies based on the previous card history.

In American blackjack players are given the option to surrender at any time. This should only be done if the player believes they have an extremely bad hand. If the player chooses this than the bank return half of the initial bet. (For example, a $10 bet has $5 returned).

In some version of blackjack such as Atlantic City blackjack only a late surrender is enabled. In this case, a player can only surrender after the dealer has checked his hand for blackjack.

To learn more visit our in-depth guide on When to Surrender in Blackjack.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.