Posts Tagged ‘double down strategy’

Blackjack Variations: Reno Rules for Doubling

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Blackjack is a game that, though rather simple in its basic form, has enough variations to make it complex and constantly evolving. All the time I am learning about new rules or side bets offered at certain blackjack tables. Each rule change carries different odds, though, and affects the house edge. Before playing any blackjack game, whether at an online casino or the brick and mortar variety, it is important to know what your odds are and how the game is played.

Doubling rules are common variations for blackjack games. While the most beneficial rule is that the player can double down on any hand (as long as he hasn’t already doubled), sometimes only certain hands can be doubled. Any blackjack games that only allow certain hands to be doubled are said to use “Reno rules.”

The most common Reno rules are that you can only double on hands of nine through eleven or ten and eleven. At these blackjack games, you can only double down if your first two cards fall within that range. If you can only double a 9-11, that increases the house edge by anywhere from 0.09% with an 8-deck game to 0.15% fir a single-deck game. This rule is fairly common with online blackjack.

If you can only double down on a hand of 10 or 11, the odds are even worse. Those blackjack games increase the house edge by anywhere from 0.17% with an 8-deck game to 0.26% with a single-deck game.

Whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack at a brick and mortar casino, it is important to know all of the rules ahead of time. It helps you to know which decisions to make and it can also help you decide whether you want to play at all. Believe me, there are some blackjack games where the rules are so bad I would never consider playing. For that reason, always make sure you know the rules ahead of time and if you have a variety of blackjack games to choose from, pick one with rules that are the most beneficial to the player.

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 18

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Knowing when to double down is an important part of blackjack basic strategy and doing it correctly can help you take advantage of your good hands and make up for the losses on your bad hands. The strategy is different depending on what hand you have and what cards the dealer shows, though. Here is what to do if you have a soft 18 with your first two cards (ace, seven).

If you are dealt a soft 18, you should double down if the dealer shows a three through a six as an up card. If the dealer shows a two, seven or eight, you should stand. If the dealer shows anything else (9, 10, ace), you should hit.

When trying to understand why you would make these decisions, keep in mind that blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value. Therefore, it is playing the odds to plan on the drawing a 10 and the dealer having a 10 in the hole.

The reason you should double down if the dealer shows a three through a six is that, assuming a 10 in the hole, the dealer is likely to have a 13-16, which are stiff hands. With those hands, the dealer is likely to bust. How likely? Well, let’s look at it one hand at a time.

If the dealer has a hard 13, only five cards (4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ) will help his hand, five cards (9, 10, J, Q, K) will bust him and three cards (ace, 2, 3) will leave him with another stiff hand (14-16). If the dealer has a hard 14, only five cards (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) will improve his hand, six cards (8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will bust him and two cards (ace, 2) will leave him with another stiff hand (15-16). If the dealer has a hard 15, only five cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) will improve his hand, seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will make him bust and one card (ace) 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, each of those hands has 8/13 odds that the dealer will either bust or draw another stiff hand, where he again has to draw against 8/13 odds.

The reason you hit if the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace is that you have to assume that the dealer has a good chance of having a 19-21. Each of those hands beats your hand of 18. You never hit a hard 18 because of the high likelihood of busting, but hitting a soft 18 is risk-free because you can’t bust.

If the dealer shows a seven or eight, there is a good chance that he has a hand that is lower than your hand of 18. If the dealer shows a seven, no hole card can give the dealer a hand that will beat your 18. Only an ace in the hole can tie you. If the dealer has a 10 (10, J, Q, K) in the hole then you beat his 17. Again, due to the high likelihood of a 10, it is best to stand pat with your 18. If the dealer shows an eight, only an ace in the hole can beat you and a 10 in the hole can tie you. Everything else gives him a lower hand. For that reason, it’s not worth hitting and possibly lowering the value of your hand.

If the dealer shows a two, you have to assume a high probability of him having a 12. If the dealer has a hard 12, he has to hit. Once he hits, only three cards (7, 8, 9) can beat your hand of 18, four cards (10, J, Q, K) will cause him to bust, and five cards cards (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5) that will give him a hand lower than yours. Because the odds are against the dealer beating your 18 but not great that he will bust, you don’t want to draw another card. It is best to stand in this situation.

Double Down Strategy: Soft 16

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Blackjack basic strategy seems like a lot to remember at first, but it really isn’t that bad because there are reasons behind every decision. Not only that, if you look at the chart, there are a lot of parts that can be grouped together – strategy that is the same for different hands. Such is the case with doubling soft hands. The strategy for soft 13 is the same as for a soft 14. Likewise, doubling strategy for a soft 15 is the same as for a soft 16, which is what I am covering now.

If you have a soft 16 (ace, five), you want to double down if the dealer shows a four, five or six. If the dealer shows anything else as an up card, you should take a hit. There is no reason to stand with a soft 16 because it’s not a good hand and there is no risk of busting.

As always, basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards in a deck with a value of ten than any other value. Therefore, if the dealer shows a 4-6, he has a good chance of having a 14-16, which are stiff hands that are likely of busting. If the dealer busts, you win no matter what cards you have, unless you also bust. For that reason, times when the dealer has a high probability of busting are good times to double down because you will win more money.

So how likely is the dealer to bust on these hands? In short: very. If the dealer has a hard 14, only five cards (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) will improve his hand, six cards (8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will bust him and two cards (ace, 2) will leave him with another stiff hand, where he has to draw again and has a good chance of busting. 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. 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 any of those three hands, there are 8/13 odds against the dealer.

If the dealer has anything else, it is best to simply take a hit rather than doubling, even if the dealer has a 12 or 13, which are also stiff hands. The reason for this is that if you double down, you can only take one card. One of the benefits of a soft hand is that you can hit over and over without risk of busting. Doubling down takes away that benefit. Therefore, you should only double with a soft hand if there is a high probability of the dealer busting. Any hand that you might have to actually beat you want to play by hitting.

Blackjack basic strategy, including doubling down strategy, works for both brick and mortar casinos and 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: 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.