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WHEN TO DOUBLE DOWN

When To Double Down
by Chris Goudey

I spent most of a recent weekend on the Jersey Shore, and like I usually do when I go to visit my family there, I make a short trek to my favorite Atlantic City casino, the Borgata. I don't get the chance to play live cards very often, and I was on a bit of a losing streak in poker, so I decided to play my other favorite game, Blackjack.

I'm not going to go over the rules for Blackjack (BJ), because if you're reading this article, I assume you know them. When I play BJ, I try to be as friendly and outgoing to everyone else at the table as I can, as we're all there with the same goal, to beat the dealer. There are times where I get frustrated, however, and that's by watching people simply flush money down the toilet by not knowing the basic strategy of how to play.

I've been playing BJ since I turned 21 (more years ago than I care to admit), and in that time, I've perfected the "basic strategy" of how best to play BJ. When you play perfect basic strategy against a six-deck shoe (6 decks of cards in play), the casino's edge is less than 0.05% against you, so for the most part you'll break even in the long run. I'll write an article on basic strategy soon, but the key to making sure the casinos only have that small edge is by knowing when to take advantage of the cards you have.

So many times I'll see people with good double-down (DD) situations, and they simply hit instead of getting their money out there when they have the best of it. Sure, most people will double whenever they have an 11 and the dealer shows an 8 or less, or a 10 against a 7 or less, but there are so many other times when they should be doubling and aren't, that it gets me aggravated. Granted, it's their money and I usually don't say a word because it's not my business, and like I said I like to have fun at the table, but if it's a scenario where the person is open to help, I'll say something.

Now, before I give you my DD strategy, you need to know that I count cards when I play, so by doing that in addition to playing perfect basic strategy, I actually have a small edge over the casino. There are occasions I will break away from this guide I'm giving you when I play, because I know there are either very little or a lot of 10s or aces in the deck. This guide is going to be for people who don't count cards and just want to know when to DD without having to worry about what's left in the deck.

Here are the situations where you want to DD. I'll break this down by the one card the dealer is showing, as that is the trigger to your decision.

Dealer card: 2
You DD with: any 10 (even two fives, which you never split, always double) and 11

Dealer card: 3
You DD with: 9, 10, 11 and also if you have Ace-6 or Ace-7 (doubling with 9 and with the A6/A7 are the situations I'm talking about where people aren't doubling and should be).

Dealer card: 4
You DD with: 9, 10, 11 and A4, A5, A6, A7.

Dealer card: 5 or 6
(these are the cards we really want the dealer to have)
You DD with: 9, 10, 11 and A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7

Dealer card: 7, 8, or 9
You DD with: 10 or 11 (yes, you double a 10 against a 9 ? you still have the advantage!)

Dealer card: 10
You DD with: 11 (yes, even if you have 11 and dealer shows a 10 or a face card, again you have the advantage)

Dealer card: A
You DD with: 11, but only after you know he doesn't have BJ (now you know you have a small advantage because he doesn't have a 10 and you still could get one. Also, don't ever take insurance, it's a horrible bet)


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