Blackjack is a classic card game that is wildly popular in both traditional brick-and-mortar casinos and online venues. The reasons behind the popularity are not all that difficult to figure out. The rules of blackjack are fairly easy. Perhaps they are easier to understand than scores of other games at a casino. The ability to win big at blackjack is a possibility provided, of course, you understand the rules. Within these rules are “special bets” designed to help you win far more than your initial wagers. Doubling down and splitting are the two most common strategies that help you turn a “standard” bet into one in which you could win huge sums. One hand - just one - that goes really well could put huge sums in your coffers.
Please take note of the following caveat. Doubling down or splitting hands arbitrarily is not a good idea. You have to make your decisions correctly or else you are going to do little more than lose a lot of money. Worst of all, you would be losing the money unnecessarily. To help increase the chances of winning big and decrease the chances of losing equally big, it is necessary to work the odds of doubling down or splitting in your favor.
What Doubling Down and Splitting Actually Entail
Doubling down is a play on the ability to take a hit on your hand. With doubling down, you double your initial bet with the understanding you are only going to receive one card. If you have 11 and you double down on a $10 bet, you are now putting up $20. Quite a few outcomes are possible. Among those outcomes:
You are given a face card and now have 21.
You are dealt a 6 and now have 18.
You draw a 2 and now have 14.
21 is the number you obviously want to acquire. You are not, however, out of the game with a lower card combination. If you have 18 and the dealer ends up with 17, you win. An 18 would lead to a push and 19 and above (barring a break) means the dealer beat you. 14 is a really low number and the only way to win here is if the dealer breaks. This might happen, but the odds could be against you. Regardless, you won’t know how things turn out until the hand is done.
Splitting a hand means you have two matching cards and you double your bet and have two new starting hands. With a pair of sevens, you could double your bet and now you have two different sevens that are dealt a new card. At this point, you are playing two independent hands. Some interesting options are available to you with the new hands.
Upon being dealt another seven on one hand and a four on the other, you have the option to split the sevens again and double down on the 11. Imagine if the dealer ends up breaking on this hand. You would walk away with a big win. Do not be blind to the fact you are taking a big risk here. That $10 initial bet would end up being a lot more by the time the hand is done.
Insights into Doubling Down
Doubling down is done for one very clear purpose: to win a lot of money. In black jack, the dealer does have a slight edge in the odds. The rules sometimes favor the dealer. For example, the player has to draw a card first. Sometimes, the player breaks, loses his or her money, and then the dealer breaks. No refunds are offered. To really succeed with black jack, you have to play for shorter durations and try to win money and quit while you are ahead. Doubling down (and splitting) allows you to win more in a short period of time.
Insights into Splitting Hands
Again, splitting offers a means of winning a lot of money. Doubling a wager has a tendency to do just that. Splitting does come with another major benefit. Splitting presents the ability to escape a really bad situation. When the odds are not in your favor as far as winning goes, you can “escape” the situation and start anew.
A pair of sevens is not the greatest hand in the world. The chances of breaking are pretty high. An eight, nine, ten, or face card is going to lead to an automatic break. A two gives you 16 and you probably have to hit again and the chances of breaking increase since now a six can take the hand up to 22. If you draw a three on a pair of sevens gives you 17. To win, the dealer has to break. Odds are, you are going to lose. Even an ace does not help the hand all that much.
Splitting the hands does not automatically mean you are going to win. You don’t know what the new hands are going to look like until the cards are dealt. You do know what you have in front of you. By taking a chance at improving the hand, you may end up in a much better position than what you started.
A Bad Splitting Plan
It is critically important to point out one common - and terrible - mistake players make when it comes to splitting a hand. While the rules allow for splitting face cards, doing so is almost universally a bad idea.
A pair of jacks, queens, or kings equals 20. The dealer has to draw 21 to beat you. The odds of winning this particular hand are in your favor. By splitting the face cards, you are taking a huge risk. More than likely, the two new hands you are wagering are going to be lower in their amount that the initial 20. Why would you want to put yourself in such a spot? The goal here is to win and not to arbitrarily splitting hands or taking risky wagers. Be smart and strategic when it comes to splitting a hand. To do otherwise means you are increasing the chances of losing.
Double Down Strategically
Equally advisable is the necessity to double down in a strategic manner. If you have 11 and the dealer is showing a two, this is much different than if the dealer is showing an ace. With a two, the dealer has to take a card and, since the dealer can only stand on 17, the chances of breaking increase. With an ace, the specter of 21 looms. Honestly, so does the specter of 20 and 19, two other hands that give the dealer a good chance of winning.
So, you have to double down wisely.
When the odds are in the dealer’s favor, do not double down. Even when you have 11 or ten, it may be best to pass on doubling down when the dealer shows a face card, a ten, or an ace. When the dealer has a mediocre card showing or is in a bad position, then doubling down makes more sense. Certainly, it does bear mentioning that no outcome can be predicted with 100% certainty. The dealer may not break when showing a six. Remember, odds indicate a more likely outcome. They do not reflect a guaranteed outcome. Hence, playing black jack is called gambling and not investing.
Researching the Odds
Millions of hands of blackjack have been played over the years. A lot of statistical data has been recorded regarding the odds of certain outcomes based on what hand the player has vs. the dealer. Reviewing some of this data is advisable since doing so opens the door to discovering certain insights about what to do when particular combinations of hands turn up. To repeat, there are no guarantees but playing to probably outcomes increases the chances of winning.
As Always, Practice
Practicing splitting hands and doubling down is the only way to figure out what works best. With the internet, you do not always have to play for real money. Running a free version of blackjack allows you to play hand after hand without any actual monetary risk. Be patient and see how your decisions go. This way, you end up being better primed to win, possibly, huge sums of money with the right decisions.
And winning money is the main - and only - reason to play blackjack.