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Best of Henry Tamburin

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How to win more at blackjack

23 December 1999

When you play blackjack, you win about 47 percent of your hands and the dealer will correspondingly win 53 percent of them. Have then can you expect to show a profit when you normally lose more hands than you win? The reason is that winning hands are often those in which you double down or hands in which you get blackjack and are paid at 3 to 2. Losing hands, on the other hand, are usually made with single-unit bets.

You are on the defensive most of the time when you play blackjack. You make a play not because it will win you a lot of money but because, in the long run, it will save you money. But doubling down is different. You get to go on the offensive and bet more when your expectation of winning is high.

So when it is a good time to double down? You should consider it when you have a high probability of out-drawing the dealer's hand or when the dealer is showing a weak up card.

Which player hands give you a higher probability of out-drawing the dealer? Two-card hands that total 9, 10 or 11, because by drawing a 10 or picture card you end up with a 19 through 21 and a probable win. The double down option allows us to double our bets and our profits at the best possible time -- when we have the edge over the dealer on a hand.

The weak dealer up cards are 2 through 6. When the dealer holds these cards, he will bust between 35 to 43 percent of the time. This is the opportune time to double down on soft hands, like ace, 7 -- when the dealer has a high chance of breaking.

The mechanics and rules for doubling down are pretty straightforward. You just place an equivalent amount of chips next to your original bet and the dealer gives you one and only one draw card. You can not draw another card when you double down.

Double down rules can vary from one casino to another. The best rules allow players to double down on any two-card combination and also allow a player to double down after splitting pairs.

There are two schools of thought as to why casinos introduced the double down option in blackjack. Some say it was to spur more interest in the game, since this option has the potential to lower the casino edge. Others say casinos implemented this option to win more money from unskilled players.

The fact of the matter is that both schools of thought are correct. Casinos do make a lot of money from players who misuse the option. However, skillful players who double down according to the basic playing strategy can significantly reduce the casino's edge and win more money.

Not only do casual players benefit from the double down option, but so do card counters. In high count situations (abundance of 10-value cards in the undealt cards), a card counter will be betting more, and when he doubles down he will be investing more money when his chances of beating the dealer's hand is good. Card counters also sometimes vary their playing strategy depending upon their knowledge of the deck composition, including doubling down on some hands when the basic strategy calls for a hit. They do this when doubling down becomes a more profitable play.

Never consider doubling down when one draw card could break your hand. I say this because the last time I played blackjack I watched in awe as a fellow player doubled down on his hard 12. Not only did he draw a picture card and bust, but he also lost double his initial bet in the process.

Another mistake is to double down for less money than your original bet. Some players do this when they are unsure whether to hit or double, so they compromise and double down for less then the original wager. What these players do not know is that when you double down for less you are giving up part of the potential gain that comes from doubling in the first place. Do not double for less!

Doubling down is a profitable blackjack play. You will always end up winning more money in the long run when you follow the basic strategy rules for doubling. For multiple-deck games you should double down on these hands when doubling after pair splitting is allowed.

  • Hard 9 against dealer 3 through 6 up card
  • Hard 10 against dealer 2 through 9 up card
  • Hard 11 against dealer 2 through 10 up card.
  • Soft 13 and 14 against dealer 5 and 6 up card
  • Soft 15 and 16 against dealer 4, 5 and 6 up card
  • Soft 17 and 18 against dealer 3, 4, 5 and 6 up card

You are destined to lose at blackjack if you don't take advantage of the benefit of doubling down. It's that simple.

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin