Common misconception about the Double Down rule in Blackjack

The majority of us know how to play blackjack. It’s a very popular game; perhaps the most common in terms of casino table games, which many of us become associated with long before adulthood. I’ve been playing with family around the kitchen table since I was old enough to recognize and add numbers – just for fun, of course. But during a recent discussion at the local casino, I was surprised to learn of a common misconception surrounding the rules of blackjack.

We all know what it means to ‘Hit’, taking an extra card and hoping not to exceed a total of 21. Everyone understands the purpose of electing to ‘Stand’ on the current total. But just how much do you really know about the option to ‘Double Down’?

Like many of you, I was originally taught that to Double Down meant to double the size of your current wager, take one more card and immediately stand on its total – unless it’s a bust, of course (but my family followed the ‘Double on 9, 10 or 11 only’ blackjack rules, so busting was never an option). It made perfect sense. The name clearly implies a doubling of the wager, after all. Then again, most of my relatives weren’t regulars at the casino.

The real double down rule of blackjack states that a “player is allowed to increase the initial bet by up to 100%”. The key phrase here is “up to”. Thus a blackjack player is not truly required to double their initial bet size. They may add an additional amount to the wager of any size, so long as it does not exceed 100% of the original bet. For example, if I bet $50 on a hand of blackjack, I could double down with $10, $20, or as high as $50.

You won’t find this rule applied at any of today’s internet casinos, either. Clicking the Double option at an online blackjack table will always result in an automatic 100% augmentation of the original bet. At a live casino blackjack table, though, unless the house rules specifically state otherwise – in writing, no less – you are not required to add a full 100% wager when doubling down.

For the majority of you who probably weren’t aware of this blackjack rule, don’t get too excited about the new possibilities. Chances are you’ve heard enough times throughout your life that ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. That popular phrase most definitely applies here.

According to any decent blackjack strategy, the whole purpose of doubling down is to increase your profit potential. It is only recommended to double down when you have a higher chance of winning, such as a 5+6 versus the dealer’s face-up 5. By that standard, there is no reason a blackjack player with enough chips in front of them should double down for any less than the 100% maximum. The only time it would be acceptable to double down for less is when your chip count is too low to match the original wager.