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Columnist
Many blackjack players miss these double downs
By Fred Renzey | Columnist
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Published: 10/30/2008 12:01 AM

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Did you know that in blackjack, you'll win only 44 percent of all your hands counting hits, stands, splits, doubles and blackjacks? However, you make up for most of that deficit by being paid 3-to-2 on your blackjacks - and by doubling down on your strong drawing hands.

Getting the 3-to-2 bonus on blackjack is a no-brainer - any moron could do it. Doubling down is the part you, as a player, need to focus on because you'll win 58 percent of those hands if you double correctly. And you need that extra percentage to bring the game close to 50-50!

The sad part is most players don't double down with many hands that they should, and their game suffers as a result. Day in, day out, I see the following doubles passed up by your typical blackjack player. The percentage next to the hand is how often you'll win it when you double.

11 against a 10 54 percent

10 against a 9 54 percent

10 against an 8 57 percent

9 against a 4 55 percent

9 against a 3 53 percent

A/7 against a 3 54 percent

A/7 against a 4 56 percent

A/7 against a 5 58 percent

A/7 against a 6 60 percent

So which of these missed doubles do you think would cost you the most? It's not the one with the highest win percentage. No, it's the one that comes up the most often! Notice that 11 against a 10 can come against four different dealer up-cards (10, Jack, Queen or King). Not only that, but there are four ways to be dealt an 11 (6/5, 7/4, 8/3 and 9/2). Add them all together, and 11 against a 10 comes up sixteen times as often as a hand like A/7 against a 6. That's the one you absolutely, positively cannot afford to wimp out on.

Now, if you're going to win 58 percent of all your double downs, how come most of the hands in the above list are under 58 percent? That's because nobody passes up the really obvious doubles, like 11 against a 6. You'll win that one 67 percent of the time. It's the testy ones that players get too cautious with, particularly when they already have a completed hand, like A/7.

But let me tell you this. When you finally do get that A/7 against a 6, if you don't pull the trigger and double with it, you'll be giving up way too much percentage. Forget about the fact that you already have 18. You've gotta' make up for the fact that you're going to lose more hands than you can win overall. When you've got the dealer backpedaling, double down!

Bad doubles: Players sometimes go the other way too, by doubling down when they shouldn't. The most common occurrence of this is with soft hands.

Players don't realize that very low soft hands, like A/2 or A/3, will often need multiple hits to make a completed hand. Doubling with these hurts their win percentage too much - unless they're against a dealer's 5 or 6 up. Then they've got a big enough back door to sneak through when they make a bad hand with their double. The rule of thumb to remember is - very low soft hands against very low dealer up-cards make for bad doubles. Don't fall into that trap.

Borderline doubles: Some hands are good doubles or bad doubles depending upon the rules. Eleven against an Ace and A/8 against a 6 are two such hands. If the dealer hits on soft 17, you should double with both of these, but not if she stands.