When to Double Down in Blackjack (And When Not To)

Doubling down is an exciting move to make in blackjack – and profitable if you get it right. This is when you double your bet in the middle of a hand, after which you only receive one more card. It’s risky because if you get dealt a low card, you can’t hit again, and could risk losing twice as many chips.

Knowing when to double down during a game of blackjack is essential. It’s all about getting the balance right between playing it safe and taking the risk – being sure you have an advantage. In this post we’ll give some examples of when you should double down, how to do it in a casino, as well as answer some common questions.

When to Double Down

There are three times we’d recommend placing the blackjack double down bet:

1. When your cards total 11.
This is because you have a fantastic chance to hit 21, and even if you don’t, you’re likely to get a score close to that magic number.

2. When you have a soft 16, 17 or 18 (this means that you have a card plus an ace).
Here you should generally only double down if the dealer is showing a lower card. You might be tempted to stay as you are, especially with a soft 18, however there’s actually a great chance of improving your hand with a single card.

3. When you have a hard 9 or 10 (“hard” describes a hand with no ace).
Once again, only when the dealer is showing a low card. Providing you get a reasonably high card, you’ll be in very good shape against the dealer.

Please remember that you won’t always find things going your way when you double down. The tactic, when used properly, will increase your winnings over a long period of time though.

When Not to Double Down

Here’s a pretty obvious one: never double down when the dealer is showing an ace.

Quite simply, the chances of them getting blackjack are just too high. Even if they check and don’t have blackjack, there’s a very good chance that they’ll end up with a total close to 21.

Never double down when you’re showing anything higher than an 11, as the chances of going bust are too high to risk. It’s better to simply hit or stick on a lower total, and then hope that the dealer goes bust.

Basically, if you’re ever unsure whether to double down, stick to the safe option and keep your bet as it is.

You’ll see some players at a table doubling down all the time, and they’re usually the players losing money at a significant rate. You shouldn’t be doubling down on the vast majority of hands – only take the risk when you’re a clear frontrunner.

How to Signal Double Down in Blackjack

When looking to double down in blackjack, there’s only one thing you need to do: push a stack of chips next to your initial bet. This stack must be of equal value to your starting bet.

Blackjack - When to Double Down
How to double down in blackjack: double your bet and receive only one more card.

If pushing the extra chips onto the table doesn’t work (it will 99% of the time), simply tell the dealer your intention to double down and point with one finger to signal that you want one more card. It really is that simple.

Top Tip: Don’t put the chips on top of the initial bet. This is frowned on by croupiers and other casino staff as it could mean you’ve tampered with the initial bet.

Things to Look for When Doubling Down in Blackjack

There’s one important thing to look for when doubling down: the casino’s rules. The most basic of these will tell you when doubling down is allowed. Many casinos only allow players to double down when they’re showing cards totalling 10 or 11 – if you have any other value hand, you’ll only be able to continue as normal (unless you have the chance to split, of course).

Also, pay particular attention to the value the dealer must hit up to. Why? Well, this impacts on how likely they are to go over 21.

Most games make the dealer hit up to 17, however in some games, the dealer only hits up to 16 – something that makes it less likely they’ll exceed 21. The more likely they are to go over 21, the more you should think about making a double down blackjack bet.

Finally, learn whether the dealer checks for blackjack when they’re dealt an ace or a 10-value card – if they do check and the game continues, they don’t have blackjack. This makes your chances of winning when placing a double down bet much higher.

You’ll know if they have blackjack, as the hand will stop there, and everyone will lose (except those who have also got blackjack).

You Asked, We Answered

We get quite a few questions about doubling down in blackjack, so we’ve listed answers to the most common ones below…

Can you double down after splitting?

Typically, you won’t be able to double down after splitting, however, you will find some online casinos that allow this to happen. If you can double down after splitting, use the same decision-making process you would when evaluating any normal hands dealt to you.

Can you double down after hitting?

99% of the time you will not be able to double down after hitting. The reason this isn’t allowed is it would simply give the player too much of an edge over the casino. Once you have hit, you won’t actually be able to do anything else other than hit again – it’s also not possible to split or get insurance.

Should you always double down on 11?

Generally speaking, yes. This is a really good way of making money in blackjack, especially if you are a casual player.

Should I double down on 10?

Once again, this really depends on the card the dealer is showing. If they have an ace or a 10-value card, you might not want to double down, as there’s a real chance that they could get a nice hand and easily beat you. If they’re showing a 6 or lower, doubling down is a feasible option.

How many cards do you get when you double down in blackjack?

When you double down, you will only receive one extra card. Thinking that you will receive as many cards as you want is one of the major mistakes made by those new to the game of blackjack. This is where the risk of a double down blackjack bet comes in, as you could end up with a low total if a low card is dealt.

Can you double down on 21 in blackjack?

No, you can’t double down on 21. If you could, everyone would do it every time the croupier dealt them blackjack! If you are lucky enough to get blackjack, you’ll find that the dealer pays you straightaway and you won’t be able to do anything else with your hand.

If you found this post useful, you might want to check out our post on when to surrender or read up on everything you ever wanted to know about blackjack. Once you’ve read these why not practice playing blackjack for free?