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# What's the Logic of Soft Doubling Down in Blackjack?

23 July 2005

The first thing any new blackjack player learns is when to stand and when to hit. Soon after, they start learning when to double down and split pairs. Then, way down at the bottom of the barrel comes doubling down with their "soft" hands, like Ace/2 or Ace/7.

Sad as it is, this confusing cluster of hands is never learned correctly by 98% of the blackjack players. The reason is they don't understand the doubling potential of the various soft hands – like the three below:

 Dealer's Up-Card4 Ace/2Hand A Ace/5Hand B Ace/7Hand C

Two of these hands should be doubled and one shouldn't. Which are which? First, let me point out some important facts about taking hits with soft hands.

When you double down with the Ace/deuce, how many different hit cards will give you a made hand (17 thru 21)? Count them. There are only five – the 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. The other eight cards will all leave you with a "stiff" (12 thru 16). So in gambling lingo, you're an 8-to-5 favorite to make a bad hand when you double down with Ace/deuce.

How about the Ace/5? It's the same story. Only an Ace, 2, 3, 4 or 5 will make you a hand while the remaining eight cards will leave you stiff.

Now how about the Ace/7? This time, eight cards (the Ace, deuce, 3, 9, 10, Jack, Queen and King) will all make you a hand while only five cards leave you stiff. Here, you're an 8-to-5 favorite to make a complete hand.

This is a key factor in profitable doubling down with soft hands. When you have A2 thru A/5, you're an 8-to-5 underdog to make a hand with your next hit – and with A/6 or A/7, you're an 8-to-5 favorite!

Most players think the only important consideration in doubling with soft hands is the dealer's chance to bust with her particular up-card. But that's only half of it. That other half is how "live" your own hand is.

The combined bottom line is, if you've only got five hit cards to make a hand with, then the dealer must have a very weak up-card for doubling to be correct. The dealer's weakest up-cards are the 5 and the 6, which is why you pull the trigger against them with any A/2 thru A/7. After that come the 4 and the 3. The dealer's deuce is not a very weak up-card.

Now let's answer the question as to which two hands in the previous picture should be doubled. They're the A/5 and the A/7. The A/2 should just be hit. Does it all make sense?

Some of the more seasoned blackjack players may sense a flaw in this logic. Why should you double with the A/5 but not the A/2 against the same up-card -- if you're an 8-to-5 underdog to make a hand in both cases?

That has to do with how many of your hit cards will leave you wanting a second hit. With the A/2, four hit cards (the Ace, deuce, 3 and 4) will leave you wishing you could hit again – but you can't if you doubled down. With the A/5, only the Ace will make you want a second hit. Everything else, you'd stand with anyway.

So with the A/2, you're giving up more percentage in the play of your own hand than with the A/5 when you double. The smaller your soft hand is, the more ground you lose by limiting yourself to one hit.

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009