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Blackjack : Basic Strategy for Doubling Down and Splitting

By Arthur Levine

Level: May 16th 2007
You must cut the house edge as much as possible if you want to beat the casino at their own game. If you want to be successful at the blackjack table you must split and double down when the math favors you.

These are the basic strategies for splitting and doubling down in multiple-deck games:

Splitting pairs
- A pair of 2s or a pair of 3s: we split 2s or 3s when the dealer’s up card is a 2 through 7 if we can double after a split. If we can’t double, we split only when the dealer has a 4, 5, 6 or 7.

- A pair of 4s: never split 4s if you can’t double after a split. If you are allowed to double after a split, split only when the dealer has a 5 or a 6.

- A pair of 5s: never split a pair of five, because a 10 is more useful than two 5s.

- A pair of 6s: if you are allowed to double after a split, split against the dealer’s 2. In any game split against the dealer’s 3, 4, 5, or 6.

- A pair of 7s: split this pear whenever the dealer has a 2 through 7. Even if the dealer has a 7 you should split because two pair of 7s can do you better than a 14.

- A pair of 8’s: always split this pair unless the dealer hits on soft 17 and the casino offers the surrender option. In this case surrender the 8s if the dealer has an Ace.

- A pair of 9s: split when the dealer has 2 through 6, and when he has 8 or 9. When the dealer has a 7, a 10, or an Ace don’t split because the 18 gives you an advantage towards his up card.

- A pair of 10s: never split this pair, because 20 is a great hand. Always stand when you have 20.

- A pair of Aces: always split this hand because you have the possibility of hitting two 10s, thus making two 21’s. This situation occurs rarely, but the best thing to do when you have this pair is split.

One more thing about pair splitting: if you have split the first pair, and another card of the same denomination comes, split one more time. For example if you have two 7s, and another 7 comes, make the third bet and play with three hands.


Doubling Down – Hard Totals
If you have an 11 and the dealer has a 10 you should always double down, because the 11 gives you an edge. When you have an edge you should always try to maximize your profits.

Here's what you must do:

- Double down when you have 11 points and the dealer has anything but an Ace. If he has an Ace, hit against it.

- Double down when you have 10 points and the dealer has anything but an Ace or a 10. If he has an Ace or a 10, hit against it.

- Double down when you have 9 points and the dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6. If he doesn’t have any of these cards, hit.

- If you have 8 or less points, hit.


Doubling Down – Soft Totals
Most players hesitate to double on soft hands, but you shouldn’t be afraid of this bet. There are three possible things you can do in this situation. We make the same plays with Ace-2 as with Ace-3, the same plays with Ace-4 as with Ace-5, and the same plays with Ace-6 as Ace-7.

- Double down when you have Ace-6 or Ace-7 and the dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6.

- Double down when you have Ace-4 or Ace-5 and the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6.

- Double down when you have Ace-2 or Ace-3 and the dealer has a 5 or 6.

Not too complicated as you can see. These plays are simple and also essential if you want to become a successful blackjack player.
RELATED GAME STRATEGIES
Lesson 1: Blackjack History
Where was the game born? And who named it BlackJack?
Lesson 2: Blackjack Rules
All you need to know before getting started.
Lesson 3: Blackjack Strategy
The many strategies to get a winning edge over the casino, besides getting "Rain Man" to play for you of course!
Lesson 4: Blackjack Vocabulary
Speak like a pro. Talk the talk, the walk is up to you!
Lesson 5: Blackjack Tips
What you should keep in mind, and even a little more on strategy.

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