Following the basic strategy sequence, the option to surrender comes first followed by splitting, blackjack double down, and lastly, hitting or standing. But as much as we have this rule, knowing when to deviate matters too. By knowing when the optimal time to split or double down is, you can maximize your possible winnings through extra hands and added wagers.
Many players, especially beginners, are intimidated by the idea of doubling their bet due to the possibility of losing. However, with the right strategy and educated decisions, you can split or double down properly.
Take note that not all pairs are worth splitting. Not all 11s and 10s are ideal for doubling down either. Your decision should base on the dealer’s up-card, the composition of the shoe, and the basic strategy moves.
But what is double down in the first place? Doubling down is intended to maximize your winnings if you’re sure that the dealer will bust or lose. On the other hand, splitting gives you additional hands that you can play for potential profit. Both have its own risks and benefits.
When and when not to follow the basic strategy
A player that’s abiding by the basic strategy is likely to win almost half of the hands without the added technique. This mathematically correct way of playing is optimal, but profits can spiral down during extended play.
All players want to strike the right balance between risky play and safe play. With this, they settle on their basic strategy chart and play by it come hell or high waters.
Before we dive into the deviations, let’s dissect first what the basic strategy dictates about when to double down and split:
The aforementioned points are the recommended moves if you’re using the basic strategy chart. It’s ideal but not always perfect for unique cases.
When to double down
Again, if you’re a beginner, sticking to the basic strategy would be best. But remember that although it’s ideal to double down on an 11 hand, the determiner is the shoe’s composition. When you double down, you’ll be dealt with one last card and your hand is closed for playing. You’ll just wait what the dealer’s hole card will show.
You double down at a hand of 11 expecting that you’ll be dealt with a 10-value card or any card that’s high enough to beat the dealer. But what if most of the 10 cards are already dealt? Is doubling down still a good idea? If you’re playing in multiple-deck games, it might be since there will be more high-value cards, say 8 or 9, to save your hand.
So when do you deviate from the basic strategy of doubling down? You’ll do so once you mastered card counting.
Let’s take a hand of 11 (e.i.6-5) against a dealer’s Ace for example.The basic strategy says that you should always double down with this hand. But this changes when we factor in the true count of the shoe and when to split blackjack.
True count is the card counting value derived from the running count in the event of a multiple-deck game. If the true count is high, say +5, there are more 10 or high-value cards remaining on the shoe. When it goes lower, say 0 or -1, low-value cards are teeming on the remaining stack.
If we’re going to follow the Illustrious 18 deviation by Don Schlesinger, a hand of 11 against an Ace shouldn’t be a default case for doubling down. When you’re playing a single-deck S17 game, you only double down an 11 hand if the true count is at least -1 or higher. When it comes to H17, it should -2. Otherwise, it’s better to hit.
Should you always follow blackjack split rules?
Unlike doubling down, splitting offers more possibilities. It’s almost a default to split any pairs, but don’t go wrong with a pair of 10s. Most of the time, the splitting rules of basic strategy is good to follow. But for advantage players, the true count will prevail.
The more hands you get to play, the more chances of making money. This is the principle of splitting pairs during a standard blackjack game.
But before you indulge in splitting, inquire about the table’s rules first.Are you allowed to do a blackjack double down after splitting? As you see in the basic strategy points, this part will be a deciding factor when it comes to splitting some hands or not.
Also, casinos have varying limits to the number of hands you can split. Take note that some blackjack variations like Pontoon won’t allow you to split some pairs like 4s and 5s.
Again, let’s have an example. This time, a pair of 10s against a dealer’s 5. As you know based on the basic strategy, this shouldn’t be split but rather, a player should stand as the dealer has a very low chance of hitting a blackjack or a 21. But in the Illustrious 18 deviation, there’s a different condition.
A pair of 10 should be split if the true count is +5 or higher. Why is that so? Since there are many 10 or high-value cards remaining in the shoe, there’s a chance that the split hands will win. Still, this is a gamble not all players are willing to take. But for card counters who want to make the most money they can, this deviation proves to be profitable.
How doubling down or splitting make more money
Of course, you can play the game without knowing when to split blackjack or double down. But if you do so, your bankroll won’t grow and earning a decent profit is bleak. These methods of play are avenues to exploit your advantage against the house. Avoiding it would only dampen your potential winnings. You’re making the casino a big favor by saying no to more money.
If you want to win more, you should have the guts to take the plunge.Doubling down and splitting are calculated risks based on mathematical formulas of blackjack experts. They’ve done the hard part for you; all you need to do is employ the ready-to-use tactic for your advantage.
Doubling down after a split seems to be double-trouble, but if you’re card counting, this shouldn’t be a big problem. You may not win specific hands all the time, but wise doubling down and splitting will reflect its benefit on your bankroll after hundreds of hands. Still, it’s worth the try for extra income.
In this video, Claremonts Casino demonstrates how to split or double down on their sample hands:
Doubling down probabilities
As much as variations in the rules affect the house edge, it will also challenge your existing strategy. Some casinos and blackjack sub-types will only allow players to do a blackjack double down on initial cards. This reduces your chance to win more if the split hands proved to be lucrative.
Ignoring the push rules, doubling down has a winning probability of over 50%.The exact percentage will depend on the rules played on the table.Each hand combination against a specific dealer card will have varying percentages of losing, pushing or winning when doubling down.
Here are some examples according to the Blackjack Info calculated in an 11 hand in a six-deck game where the dealer stands on all 17 hands:
As you see, the winning probability peaks against the dealer’s 4, 5, and 6 but it starts spiraling down as the dealer card becomes high in value. This is the reason why the 11 hand isn’t an absolute candidate for doubling down.
It’s pressing to employ the true count here. The above examples are for the hard hand of 2-9 only. There are different probabilities for hands with varying compositions. The number of decks and dealer rules will affect the numbers as well.
To peruse the whole chart for the doubling down probabilities in a six-deck game, you can check the complete Blackjack Info list HERE.
Probabilities of winning a blackjack split
It’s quite difficult to come up with an exact percentage of winning a blackjack split. There are many factors that may affect the result. It’s best to refer to the true count when deciding to split any pairs.
When can you split in blackjack to win? One thing is for sure, splitting a pair of 10s is suicidal, unless you’re strictly card counting.
I can roughly estimate the winning possibilities of standing at a pair of 10s at around 70% if the dealer has the ugliest card s/he can have: 4, 5, or 6.
However, this will be a whole different story if the true count is in play. If you’re dealt a pair of 10s and the dealer has five or six, you should only split if the true count is +5 and up. For H17 and the dealer has six, splitting is best at a true count of +4.
According to the blackjack split rules, whatever the true count is, it’s always wise to split your 8s. A 16 hand is a sucker hand and the best way to save it is to split and hope that a 10 or even an Ace will be on your side.
I just don’t think that you should base your splitting on intuition. I’ve tried this before and it only resulted in substantial losses and a hurting ego.
Doubling down and splitting are two essential playing strategies that you should utilize to win more. Although some players eschew these two risks, there’s no denying that splitting or doubling down at the right time can do your bankroll a big favor.
After all, blackjack is a card game mired with risks. If you know how to control it, you can make big money after hundreds of hands and hours of play. You can’t get rich overnight, but it can surely earn you a living if you will commit to studying and practicing different strategies.
A blackjack double down and a split are just two of the basic moves in the game. As much as it’s common and you have the option to not follow the rules, avoiding it is like saying no to more money. Who would do that in the first place, anyway?