Posts Tagged ‘blackjack doubling strategy’

Double Down Strategy: Pair of Fives

Friday, March 26th, 2010

So far in the series on double down strategy I have covered what to do with a hard 9-11 and soft 13-18. In the final part of this series I will now discuss what to do when you have a pair of fives.

As you learned in the series on splitting pairs, you should never split a pair of fives. That is because blackjack basic strategy takes into account the high number of 10-value cards in a deck. There are four different cards with a value of 10 (10, J, Q, K) while there is only one card for each other value. For that reason, the dealer is more likely to have a 10 in the hole than any other card and he and the players are more likely to draw a 10 than any other card.

Taking that into account, splitting a pair of fives is bad for two reasons. First, if you start two hands with a five, if you draw a 10 that gives you hands of 15, which are stiff hands that are likely to bust but not high enough to beat a dealer hand if he doesn’t bust. Another reason not to split a pair of fives is that if you already have 10, taking a hit gives you a good chance of drawing a hand of 20, which can only be beaten by one hand: 21.

Okay, so we’ve established that you shouldn’t split a pair of fives. What should you do then? If the dealer shows a 10 or ace as an up card, you should take a hit. If the dealer shows anything else, you should double down.

The reasoning for this again goes back to the fact that there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value. Therefore, if you double down and take one extra card, you have a good chance of drawing a 20. If the dealer shows a two through a nine, he has a good chance of having a hand of 12-19. All of those hands would lose to your 20. Since you are likely to have a hand that the dealer can’t beat in that situation, doubling your wager is a good idea.

However, if the dealer has a 10 or an ace, he likely has a hand that even a 20 can’t beat. In either case, he could have a hand of 21. If he shows a 10, he could have a hand of 20, which would be a push against your hand if you also have a 20. For these reasons, it’s best to simply hit rather than doubling your hand.

Double Down Strategy: Soft 17

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Blackjack basic strategy can reduce the house edge to a slight 0.5% over time, but only if you follow it perfectly and make the correct decisions. That includes not only when to hit and when to stand, which most new blackjack players learn right away, but also when to double and split, among other decisions. In this series we are analyzing the reasons for the doubling down strategy. In today’s blog, I’m covering what to do when you have a soft 17.

If you are dealt a soft 17 with your first two cards (ace, 6), you should double down if the dealer shows a three through six as an upcard. If the dealer shows anything else, you should hit. You should never stand with a soft 17, because it is only an average hand and there is no risk of busting if you try to improve your hand.

Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards in a deck with a value of 10 than any other value. Therefore, the odds are with the dealer having a 10 in the hole and a 10 being drawn when you or the dealer hit.

Taking that into account, if the dealer shows a three though a six, he is likely to have a 13-16. These are stiff hands that are likely to bust. If the dealer has a hard 13, there are only five cards (4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ) that will help his hand, five cards (9, 10, J, Q, K) that will bust him and three cards (ace, 2, 3) that will leave him with another stiff hand (14-16). If the dealer has a hard 14, there are only five cards (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) that will improve his hand, six cards (8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will bust him and two cards (ace, 2) that will leave him with another stiff hand (15-16). If the dealer has a hard 15, there are only five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that will improve his hand, seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will make him bust and one card (ace) that will leave him with another stiff hand (16). Finally, if the dealer has a hard 16, only five cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) will improve his hand, while eight cards (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will bust him.

Therefore, with each of these hands there are 8/13 odds against the dealer – odds that he will either bust or draw a stiff hand. What about your soft 17, though? What happens when you take another card? When you hit a soft 17, there are four cards (ace, 2, 3, 4) that will improve your hand. The other nine cards will leave you with a lower total than you started, after your ace is turned from an 11 to a one. For that reason, there are 9/13 odds that after you take a card, you will want to take another one.

However, if you double down you can only take one card and cannot hit again. For that reason, you should only double down on hands when you think the dealer is going to bust, which includes any of the stiff hands (13-16). In this case, you’re not doubling because you think you’ll end up with a great hand by taking another card. You’re doubling because if the dealer busts, you win even with a bad hand.

Blackjack basic strategy works both in brick and mortar casino and in online casinos.

Double Down Strategy: Soft 15

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Knowing when to double down is an important part of blackjack basic strategy because it allows you to make more money on the good hands and make up for some of your bad hands. Doubling at the wrong time or not doubling when you should, though, will cost you money in the long run. That is why I’m writing a comprehensive guide for doubling down strategy. This part of the series covers what to do when you have a soft 15 (ace, four).

If you have a soft 15, whether or not you double depends on what up cards the dealer is showing. If the dealer shows a four, five or six, you should double down. If the dealer shows anything else, you should hit. You should never stand with a soft 15 because 15 is a bad hand and you have no risk of busting.

Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards with a value of 10 (4/13) than any other value (1/13 each). Therefore, the odds are that the dealer’s hole card is a 10 and any cards drawn will have a value of 10. Obviously, this doesn’t always happen, since there are 9/13 odds against it, but in the long run taking advantage of the high number of tens is good strategy.

For that reason, if the dealer shows a four, five or six, you should assume the high probability of the dealer having a hand of 14, 15 or 16. Those are all stiff hands (12-16), which are very bad because of the high probability of busting. The dealer does not have the option of standing on a stiff hand, though, so he must take a hit. If the dealer busts, you win no matter what cards you have (as long as you don’t also bust). For that reason, doubling your bet when the odds are with the dealer busting makes sense. Let’s look at each of the hands.

If the dealer has a hard 14, there are only five cards (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) that will improve his hand, six cards (8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will cause him to bust, and two cards (ace, 2) that will leave him with another stiff hand. If the dealer has a hand of 15, only five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) will improve his hand, while seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will cause him to bust. If the dealer draws an ace, that gives him a hand of 16, which is another stiff hand. If the dealer has a hand of 16, only five cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) will improve his hand, while eight cards (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will cause him to bust. Looking at it that way, if the dealer has a hand of 14, 15 or 16 he has 8/13 odds against him.

If the dealer has a hard 12 or 13, he still has a stiff hand, but is less likely to bust than with a 14-16. If the dealer doesn’t bust, you need to beat his hand. If you double down, you only get one more card. If you have a soft 15 and double, there are eight cards (ace, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that would leave you with a total below 16. There are five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that would give you a hand of 17 or greater. However, two of those cards (2, 3) would leave you with a soft hand that you would normally hit against a dealer 14-16. If you double, though, you cannot hit again.

Therefore, doubling a soft 15 results in 7/13 odds that, if the dealer doesn’t bust, you would wish you could hit again. For that reason, you only want to double your wager if the dealer has 8/13 odds against him, as is the case with a hand of 14-16.

Double Down Strategy: Soft 14

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Blackjack basic strategy isn’t terribly complicated, but it can be a lot to remember if you are new to the game. Luckily, some parts of it are easier to remember than others. For instance, if you remember the doubling down strategy for a soft 13, which I wrote about earlier today, then the strategy for a soft 14 is easy. Do the same thing.

The strategy is the same for a soft 14 (ace, three) as it is for a soft 13. In both cases, if the dealer shows a five or six as an up card, you should double down. If the dealer shows anything else, you should take a hit. You should never stand on a soft 14 because there is no risk of busting by taking another card.

The reason you want to double when the dealer shows a five or six is that the dealer has a good chance of having a 15 or 16 in that case, taking into account the fact that there are more cards with a value of ten than any other value. Hands of 15 and 16 just so happen to be the two worst hands in blackjack, because they are likely to bust but not high enough for the dealer to stand.

How likely are those two hands to bust? Let’s look at them individually. With a hard 15, there are only five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that will improve the dealer’s hand and seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will cause him to bust. An ace doesn’t help, either, because it leaves dealer with a hard 16 – another stiff hand likely to bust. If the dealer has a hard 16, there are only five cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) that will improve his hand and eight cards (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) that will make him bust. Therefore, in both cases, the dealer has 8/13 odds against him. With odds like that, doubling your bet is a good idea because even if you draw a bad card you will win whenever the dealer busts.

You may think that since 12-14 are also stiff hands that you should also double down in those situations. Many people do. However, basic strategy says to hit in that situation. That is because though those are stiff hands that are likely to bust the dealer, his odds are better than with a 15 or 16. For example, if the dealer has a 12, there are five cards (5, 6, 7, 8, 9) that can help him. There are four cards (10, J, Q, K) that will cause the dealer to bust. The other four cards (ace, 2, 3, 4) will leave the dealer with another stiff hand. Therefore, there are still only 5/13 odds of improving his hand, but the odds of busting have dropped to 4/13. For that reason, you do not want to double your wager.

Also keep in mind that the dealer might not bust. Keeping that in mind, remember that 14 is a bad hand. You have an advantage, though, in that it’s a soft hand, so you can be aggressive and hit without fear of busting. If you double, though, you can only receive one extra card and if that doesn’t help your hand you’re out of luck. In essence, doubling down with a soft hand takes away part of the advantage of having a soft hand. If the dealer has a 15 or 16, though, it’s worth it because the dealer has such good odds of busting.

As always, this strategy applies to both brick and mortar and online casinos.

Double Down Strategy: Soft 13

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

After a good weekend off, I am now continuing the ongoing series on doubling down strategy for blackjack. I have already covered the basic strategy for doubling hands of nine, 10 and 11. In this post I will discuss the strategy for a soft 13. It should be noted that you will never double a hard 12-21, which is why those hands aren’t being covered in this series.

If you have a soft thirteen (ace, two), whether or not you should double depends on the dealer’s up card. If the dealer shows a five or six, you should double. If the dealer shows anything else, you should take a hit. You should never stand on a soft 13.

As always, blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards with a value of 10 (4/13) than any other value (1/13 each). For that reason, basic strategy plays off the probability of a the dealer having a 10 in the hole and you or the dealer drawing a 10. Therefore, if the dealer shows a five or six, he has a good chance of having a 15 or 16, which are not only stiff hands (12-16), but the two worst hands in blackjack. Why are they so bad?

The dealer doesn’t have the option of standing on a stiff hand, so he has to hit. If he does, his chances of busting are very good. If the dealer has a hand of 15, only five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) will improve his hand, while seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will cause him to bust. If the dealer draws an ace, that gives him a hand of 16, which is another stiff hand. If the dealer has a hand of 16, only five cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) will improve his hand, while eight cards (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will cause him to bust. That means with both hands, when the dealer hits he has 8/13 odds against him. Since you have a soft hand, you don’t have to worry about busting. For that reason, it is best to double your bet so you make more money on the high likelihood of winning.

Even though hands of 12, 13 and 14 are also stiff hands, you don’t want to double down if the dealer shows a two, three or four. That is because, though the dealer still has a good chance of busting, the odds of him doing so are not as high. Also, one of the advantages of a soft hand is that you can be more aggressive when hitting in an attempt to improve your hand, since there is no possibility of busting. However, if you double down then you can only receive one more card. If you receive a card that doesn’t help your hand, you can only hope the dealer busts and you basically lose the advantage of your 13 being a soft hand rather than a hard 13.

Or look at it this way: If the dealer busts it doesn’t matter what hand you have. If he doesn’t, however, you need to use that soft hand to your advantage to draw a good hand. If you have a soft 13, that means five cards (4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ) can help you and 8 cards (ace, 2, 3, 9, 10, J, Q, K) give you a stiff hand. What that means is that if you have a soft 13, 8/13 of the cards you could draw would make you want to draw another card if you were to follow basic strategy. If you double down, though, you are unable to do so.

Therefore, you should only double down on the two hands (15, 16) where the dealer has the highest probability of busting. That is why the proper strategy for a soft 13 is to double down if the dealer shows a five or six and hit on any other hand.

Double Down Strategy: Hard 11

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Not all hands in blackjack are created equally. Some are better than others. When you are dealt those first two cards, sometimes it makes you smile and sometimes it makes you cringe. If you are dealt an 11 with your first two cards, though, you may feel like doing a celebratory dance, because you have a sweet hand. For the record, I am not advocating doing a celebratory dance. First of all, it’s rude to the other players. Second of all, you never want o celebrate too soon.

Anyway, having a hand of 11 is so good that you are usually going to want to double down when you have that hand. In fact, if the dealer shows any card other than an ace (two-10), you should double down. That is because your chances of beating the dealer are very good when you start with an 11.

So why is a hand of 11 so good? Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards with a value of 10 (4/13) than any other value. That means you have a higher probability of drawing a 10 than a card with any other value. Likewise, the dealer is more likely to have a 10 in the hole than any other value card.

Taking that into account, if you already have 11, that means by taking a hit you are likely to receive a hand of 21, which is the only hand in blackjack that the dealer can’t beat (he can only tie, which is a push). Now if you take into account that the dealer is likely to have a 10 in the hole, that means if the dealer has any cards between two and 10, he is likely to have a 12-20. A hand of 20 is good, but not compared to a 21, which the dealer would only have if he has an ace in the hole with a 10 as an up card. For that reason, you should double your bet and hope that in the one extra card that you can be dealt you receive a 10.

If the dealer shows an ace, though, you should not double. An ace is the most powerful card in blackjack because it can be used as an 11 or a one, depending on whether or not it would cause you to bust. Also, it can be used to make a natural blackjack (ace, 10). If the dealer shows an ace, the odds are no longer on your side, because the dealer can beat you with a 21. Even if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, though, you are at a disadvantage because of the dealer’s soft hand, meaning he can’t bust.

Therefore, if you have a hand of 11, you should hit if the dealer shows an ace. If the dealer has anything else, double down and hope you draw a 10. You should never stand with a hand of 11 because there is no risk of busting.

Double Down Strategy: Hard 10

Friday, March 19th, 2010

When playing the game of blackjack, if you want to reduce the house edge to a minuscule 0.5%, you have to follow basic strategy perfectly, which includes hitting, standing, doubling and splitting at the right times. In this series, we are covering the situations where you would double.

If you have a hand of ten, you should double down if the dealer has an up card of two through nine. That includes if you have a pair of fives, since you never split a pair of fives. If the dealer shows a ten or ace, you should hit.

One of the principles on which blackjack basic strategy is based is that there are more cards with a value of 10 (4/13) than any other value (1/13 each). For that reason, the dealer is more likely to have a ten in the hole than any other number and if you take a hit, you are more likely to receive a ten than any other number.

Taking that into account, if you have a ten, drawing another card gives you good odds of getting a 20. That hand can only be beaten by one hand, a 21. If the dealer shows a two through a nine, he has a good chance of having a hand of 12-19. All of those hands would be beaten if you had a 20. Not only that, but if the dealer has a 12-16, he has a good chance of busting. Therefore, if the dealer has any of those cards as up cards, the odds say that you will beat the dealer if you draw one more card. For that reason, it is good strategy to double your bet in that situation.

If the dealer has a ten or an ace as an up card, though, you are in trouble. Again, assuming the likelihood of the dealer having a ten in the hole, that means he likely has a hand of 20 or 21. If the dealer has a 21, you can’t win and can only tie if you also draw a 21. If the dealer has a 20, you can only beat him with a 21 of your own or tie with a 20. Since the odds are against you when the dealer has either of those hands, you do not want to put more money on the bet. For that reason, in this situation you would take a hit instead. You never stand with a hand of ten because there is no risk of busting.

Doubling Down Strategy: Hard 9

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Welcome to the first in what will be a long continuing series on blackjack strategy for doubling down. Knowing when to double is a big part of blackjack basic strategy and it helps reduce the house edge to as small as 0.5%. First of all, let me say that in this series I will only cover the hands with which you might double. If I don’t mention a hand, such as a hard eight, you would never double with it. The first hand that I will cover is a hand of nine.

If you have a hand of nine, you should double down if the dealer shows a 3 through 6 as an up card. If the dealer shows anything else, you should hit. You should never stand with a nine because there is no risk of busting.

In blackjack, basic strategy isn’t always about maximizing the potential of your good hand. Sometimes it’s about taking advantage of a bad dealer hand. In this case, you are doubling because the dealer has a good chance of busting. If the dealer busts, you win even if you don’t have a good hand, as long as you don’t bust as well.

If the dealer shows a three through a six, he has a good chance of having a 13-16, which are stiff hands. This is because there are more cards with a value of 10 (4/13) than any other value. That means there is a high probability that the dealer has a 10 in the hole. Stiff hands are bad for the dealer because they have a high probability of busting.

Take a 13, for example. If the dealer has a hand of 13, only five cards (4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ) can help him. Three cards (ace, 2, 3) still leave the dealer with a stiff hand, meaning the dealer would have to draw again with a good chance of busting. That leaves five cards (9, 10, J, Q, K) that will cause the dealer to bust. If you’re scoring at home, that means if the dealer has a 13, he as 5/13 odds of not busting, 5/13 odds of busting, and 3/13 odds of ending up with another stiff hand and having to draw again.

The odds only get worse for the dealer as the stiff hand gets larger. If the dealer has a hand of 16, only 5 cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) can help him. That leaves eight cards (6, 7, 8, 9, J, Q, K) that would cause the dealer to bust.

Those are very good odds for the player. Therefore, it is best to play the percentages, double your bet, and hope the dealer busts. Even if the dealer doesn’t bust, which goes against the odds, you are probably to draw a 10 when you double down, which would leave you with a hand of 19. There are only two hands (20, 21) that the dealer can draw that would beat that hand. Therefore, doubling your bet is a wise decision if the dealer has a two, three, four, five or six as an upcard. If the dealer shows anything else, take a hit.

Blackjack Strategy: Doubling Down

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Well, yesterday I completed a long series on splitting pairs and because I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to start another long series. Being a good blackjack player requires knowing and understanding blackjack basic strategy. For some, simply memorizing the basic strategy chart is enough. Other players, however, need to know why you should make certain decisions. I know for me it is a lot easier to know what to do in a pressure-packed situation like playing at a blackjack table if I know the reasoning behind each decision. For that reason, I am starting a new series that will go deep inside the strategy for doubling down.

Many blackjack novices won’t double down in any situation, either because they can’t remember when to do it, or because they are timid about putting extra money on a bet. However, doubling is one of the things that brings the house edge down to as low as 0.5% when playing perfect basic strategy. Putting twice as much money on the right hands helps you make up for money you lose on other hands. Doubling and splitting are a part of basic strategy for a reason. If you don’t do either, the house edge is increased to 5.48%, which is higher than roulette.

To signal that you want to double down, place a second bet equal to your first bet beside that first bet inside the betting circle. If you’re playing online blackjack, there should be a “double down” button to press.

But when do you double down? That is what I will cover in this series, but in short, you do it when you think that the dealer has a bad hand and by only drawing one more card you will beat the dealer. Remember that if you double down, you only get one more card.

Traditionally, you can only double after being dealt your first two cards, but some blackjack variations allow doubling later in the hand. Rules allowing you to double later are beneficial to the player. Often you are not allowed to double after splitting, though some casinos allow this. Again, if that is allowed the rule is beneficial to the player. Keep in mind, though, that you must double your original wager in order to split, so if you then double after that you are doubling twice (or three times, if you double both hands).

Some casinos will only allow you to double on hard hands, though others will allow doubling on soft hands as well. Sometimes blackjack tables will have “Reno” rules, which means that you can only double down when you have a two-card total of 10 or 11. Since different tables, including at online casinos, have different rules for doubling, you should learn the rules for that table before you begin playing.

Whatever the rules, doubling at the appropriate times is an important part of basic strategy and it helps you make as much money as possible. It is for that reason that I am taking on the long and laborious task of delving deep into every doubling situation. Stay tuned for the first part in this series.