Doubling Down and Blackjack Optimization

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Jeffrey | Poker Strategy

Let me let you in on a big secret: there’s no special DaVinci Code to crack blackjack. You can read every book ever written about advanced blackjack strategy, but you won’t find any new Earth-shattering information. You can find many philosophical nuggets to help you master the mental side of the game, but for the most part, sticking to the basic fundamentals of blackjack strategy is optimal strategy.

Discipline, patience, and a good memory are the three most essential traits to a skilled blackjack player. But knowing when to double down is vital. If you fail to do so when the situation dictates a double down, then you are essentially leaving free money on the table.

Typically a casino holds a 5% edge over an unskilled blackjack player. That edge can be significantly reduced to 0.5% if players employ optimal strategy, which includes making the proper decisions on when to double down, split pairs, and stand/hit on soft hands. The good news is that the analytical research has all been done over fifty years ago, so memorizing basic strategy charts can help you reduce the casino’s edge to less than 1%.

BANKROLLS ARE BUILDING BLOCKS

Blackjack is one of the easiest card and casino games to learn and to master. If you play correct strategy, the hardest obstacles to overcome are the swings. How well can you handle the fluctuations? Blackjack is often a game of streaks – both hot and cold. Very similar to poker, a blackjack player can go on tilt after a bad beat. That’s why you have to have a short memory and stay in the moment by focusing on the present hand.

Blackjack is a fast-paced game, which means you need to be sharp and alert at all times. A properly-sized and well-funded bankroll will help you absorb any cold streaks, so as long as you keep your emotions in check, then you can profit over the long run by utilizing optimal blackjack strategy. Bankroll management, in both blackjack and poker, is one of the most overlooked aspects of a winning gambler.

ELIMINATE EMOTION, STICK TO THE MATH

The reason more players do not win over the long run is because they deviate from basic strategy and play a hunch or are swayed by the gambler’s fallacy (the idea that most recent results will affect future results). It’s impossible to argue against the finite value of mathematics, but players get in trouble when they adhere to their emotions instead of logic and math. Be like Data from Star Trek; eliminate emotion and stick to the math.

RISE OF THE MACHINES

Before computers were introduced into the family home, gamblers had to crunch numbers the old-fashioned way. Legendary poker pro Doyle Brunson dealt out cards for hours on end to see different possible combinations. In the 1960s, many computer programmers and scientists were also gambling aficionados who created programs to simulate millions of potential blackjack hands. MIT professor Edward O. Thorp created a card combination algorithm. Thorp shared it with Julian Braun, a programmer at IBM who had access to the fastest, state-of-the-art computers. Braun improved upon Thorp’s program and based upon the math percentages, Braun created an optimal strategy for hitting, standing, splitting pairs, and doubling down.

The earliest computer simulations were able to calculate precisely what would happen with every possible card combination. Using Braun’s program, scientists and blackjack pros were able to further develop the strategies that we essentially use today. Even some of Braun’s findings are taught at American universities, like UNLV’s Center for Gambling Research in Las Vegas.

SINGLE DECK OR MULTI-DECKS

Blackjack strategy varies based upon how many decks you are using and which blackjack variant you are playing. Strategy branches out into two categories: single deck and multi-deck shoes (four, six, and eight decks). Pay close attention to the differences in strategies between single deck and multiple decks. You’d be surprised how many players make errors by misusing the strategy.

MAXIMIZE PROFITS BY DOUBLING DOWN

Doubling down is the most powerful weapon in your betting arsenal as a blackjack player. Simply memorizing the charts will help give you an edge over the long run. Remember, in order to get the best possible edge reduction, you must never deviate from the strategy chart.

SINGLE DECK: DOUBLE DOWN STRATEGY

You should double down if your two cards total 8, 9, 10, or 11. Yes, there are instances in which doubling down with an 8 is optimal. Whether or not to double down is determined by the dealer’s up card.
• Your Hand: 8… Double Down on 5 and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Hand: 9… Double Down on 2 through 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Hand: 10… Double Down on 2 through 9. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Hand: 11… ALWAYS Double Down!

SINGLE DECK: SOFT HANDS – DOUBLE DOWN STRATEGY

You also need to pay close attention to soft hands. You should exploit the situation if the dealer has a weak up card. Some of the most common errors occur when inexperienced players fail to double down when the strategy warrants it. Plus, knowing the correct way to double down on soft hands will reduce the casino’s edge by another 0.13%.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-2… Double Down on 4, 5, and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-3… Double Down on 4, 5, and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-4… Double Down on 4, 5, and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-5… Double Down on 4, 5, and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-6… Double Down on 2 through 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-7… Double Down on 3, 4, 5, and 6. Stand on 2, 7, 8 or Ace. Hit only on 9 or 10.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-8…. Double Down on 6. Otherwise, stand.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-9… ALWAYS Stand!

MULTI- DECK: DOUBLE DOWN STRATEGY AND SOFT HANDS

This strategy includes multi-deck shoes with four decks, six decks, and eight decks. You should only double down on 9, 10, and 11.
• Your Hand: 9… Double Down on 3 through 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Hand: 10… Double Down on 2 through 9. Hit on 10 and Ace.
• Your Hand: 11… Double Down on 2 through 10. Hit on Ace.
And don’t forget to pay attention to soft hands. Knowing when to double down with soft hands is crucial in multi-deck blackjack.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-2… Double Down on 5 and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-3… Double Down on 5 and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-4… Double Down on 4, 5 and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-5… Double Down on 4, 5 and 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-6… Double Down on 3 through 6. Otherwise, hit.
• Your Soft Hand: Ace-7… Double Down on 3 through 6. Stand on 2, 7, or 8. Hit on 9, 10, or Ace.

CONCLUSION

Knowing when to double down is the best way to maximize your winnings whether you are playing in a live casino or online at your favorite virtual casino. In the end, basic strategy is optimal strategy… so memorize the basic charts! Of course, knowing and doing are two separate things. You also have to consistently employ these methods and practice a lot so your decisions become automatic. Remember to stay off tilt, stick to the basics, and have fun.

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