Discover the allure of Double Deck Blackjack with expert Peter Nairn, former dealer and seasoned strategist.
In this guide we’ll explore the intricacies of double deck, including:
Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Double deck blackjack is the best version to play because it usually offers the lowest House Advantage of all.
It used to be that blackjack was played using a single deck, and the dealers would shuffle the deck by hand every few minutes.
The players and the casinos were looking for a way to increase the time between shuffles, and so the double deck game was born.
Instead of one deck, the dealer would shuffle two decks, which allowed for more playing and less shuffling.
The players liked it because they didn’t have to wait around so much, and the casinos liked it because the more decks in use, the higher the House Advantage. Not only that, but the more hands being dealt, the more opportunity the casino has to win, so their revenue went up.
The casino’s House Advantage goes up merely by increasing the number of decks in use on the table.
If that’s the case, why doesn’t the casino just use an 8-deck shoe, and call it a day?
Because knowledgeable players know all the details of what affects the HA, and it becomes a marketing edge for the casino to keep the deck count low, to offer the best gaming experience for the players.
So why not just a single deck?
The main reason is that a single deck is highly susceptible to card counting, and to stop the card counters, the casinos have changed the blackjack payout from 3 to 2, to 6 to 5.
Doesn’t seem like much of a change, does it?
But that little change alters the HA in the casinos favor by 1.39%. A massive change on a game that may have an HA of as little as 0.50%.
So now, the best game to find and play is a double deck game with liberal rules.
And you can still find them, both online and in a land-based casino.
The object of the game is to get a higher total than the dealer, without going over 21.
Casinos can choose their own rules for blackjack, and some are more liberal than others.
All cards are counted at their point value, so 2 through 10 have that as their value.
All Jacks, Queens and Kings count as 10 each.
Casinos can choose their own rules for blackjack, and some are more liberal than others.
Explanation of liberal playing rules and their importance
The casino puts their rules in place to make the game profitable, but also to make their game still attractive to their players.
As you can see, for a game that typically has a House Advantage of about 0.75%, these rules can have a significant impact on the players’ opportunity to win (OTW).
|Not Liberal Rules||Liberal Rules||Better for the players by|
|No Double Deck, only 6-deck shoe||Double Deck game||0.21%|
|6 to 5 blackjack payout||3 to 2 blackjack payout||1.39%|
|Dealer hits on Soft 17||Dealer stands on Soft 17||0.22%|
|Double Down on 9, 10, 11 only||Double Down on any two cards||0.09%|
|Not allowed to double after a Split||Allowed to double after a Split||0.14%|
|No Late Surrender||Late Surrender||0.07%|
As a player, try to find the game with the most liberal rules.
Number of decks used and its impact on the game.
Here’s a chart listing the HA as the deck count increases. You can see that a 2-deck blackjack game has one of the lowest HAs you can get. This is good for the players.
The dealer's role and actions (stand or hit on soft 17)
The rules are very strict and the dealer has no decision-making authority.
So for example, hitting or standing on a Soft 17 are part of the casino’s procedures, and the dealer must follow those procedures.
Here is a simplified list of the most important rules about when to double down. It’s not a complete list, but it is a solid general set of rules and is easy to remember.
For a very detailed look at when to double down, go here for an in-depth look.
Double down when the dealer’s up card is a 4 through 6, and
Double down when the dealer’s up card is a 5 or 6, and your hand is a Soft 13, or 14
Don’t Double Down with these hands
This is the simplified version of the splitting strategy for you. It makes it much easier to remember the rules and isn’t too far away from the more advanced rules that drill down into the real nitty gritty of when and how to split pairs.
Using this simplified version won’t have a significant effect on the House Advantage against you.
You should always split Aces and eights.
You should never split tens, fives, and fours.
Here’s a more in-depth look at when to split your pair
If the dealer has a 2 through 6 as their up card, and you have an opportunity to split a hand that may turn into two (or more) strong hands, splitting a good idea.
When the dealer’s up card determines if you should split your pair or not.
An Ace as your first card gives you a 52% chance of winning the hand.
Splitting a pair of Aces is an offensive move. You’re changing a mediocre hand of soft 12 and giving yourself an opportunity to make two very strong hands.
Splitting a pair can also be a defensive move, such as splitting a pair of 8s. 16 is a very weak hand, and by splitting the 8s, you’re trying to break even on your very weak hand. You may end up with one or both hands of 18 and turn your weak 16 into a push or better.
Surrender is a strategy that allows the player to give up half of their bet by folding their hand.
It’s used when the player has a weak hand, and the dealer has a strong hand.
There are two options for surrendering your hand: Late Surrender and Early Surrender.
Please go here for an in-depth article on the merits of surrender.
Explanation of basic strategy and its importance
Basic Strategy is the correct way to play every hand, based upon your cards and the dealer’s up card.
It was created by experts, mathematicians, and astrophysicists, who have run billions of computerized hands to arrive at their conclusions.
Basic Strategy is not an opinion. It’s a fact.
The two charts below are for Double Deck blackjack.
One chart is for a dealer hitting a Soft 17:
The other chart is for the dealer standing on a Soft 17:
As you can see, they are almost identical to each other, with only six different courses of action to be taken depending on the Hit/Stand strategy.
There is only one correct play depending on your cards and the dealer’s up card for each set of blackjack rules, so make sure you are using the correct chart for the rules of the game you are playing.
These are the only differences:
|Your Hand||Dealer's Card||Dealer Hits Soft 17||Dealer Stands Soft 17|
|15||Ace||Surrender, otherwise Hit||Hit|
|17||Ace||Surrender, otherwise Stand||Stand|
|Ace, 3||4||Double if allowed, or Hit||Hit|
|Ace, 7||2||Double if allowed, or Stand||Stand|
|Ace, 8||6||Double if allowed, or Stand||Stand|
|8,8||Ace||Surrender if allowed, with double after Split not allowed, otherwise Split||Split|
In "Peter Griffin’s excellent book ‘The Theory of Blackjack", he has calculated that the House Advantage against the average player is 1.42% when playing against common liberal house rules. Which is a lot, and difficult for the average player to overcome.
He also says that a knowledgeable player playing against the same rules, who is not counting cards, is likely to be looking at a HA in the 0.5% - 0.65%.
That’s the difference when playing perfect Basic Strategy vs. a ‘seat-of-the-pants’ player.
Card counting in Double Deck Blackjack
There is an excellent article in the Academy about how to count cards. Check it out!
Card counting isn’t illegal. It does require some discipline and quite a bit of practice, but it’s actually quite easy to do.
Here are my top tips and recommendations for playing double deck blackjack:
It is important to know and understand the rules in place on the game you’re playing.
If the dealer Stands on a Soft 17, it will decrease the HA against you by 0.22%.
Being allowed to split three times into four hands and being able to double down on any two cards vs. only on a 9, 10, or 11 is good for the players.
Obviously, the more liberal the rules the better, particularly when you factor in that a Double Deck typically has a HA of approximately 0.70%.
Bankroll management is often overlooked by players, and it is an important part of a winning strategy.
We all know that you must have an amount you’re willing to lose and stick to it.
But you must also have an amount you’re willing to win. And it must be a realistic number.
You’re not going to win $2,000 off a $100 buy-in. It just doesn’t work that way.
Aim to double your money. Trying to triple your money is extremely difficult to do.
Once you get to your ‘I’m willing to win $X’, then you must quit.
It’s difficult to quit when things are going well, but that is what you must do.
We’ve all been in the position of saying to friends ‘I was winning, and should have quit, but I gave it all back’. Don’t do it!
Bankroll management also includes ‘how much should I bet’ based on the ‘willing to win and/or lose’ number.
There you have it - the complete guide to blackjack double deck.
Now you have a full overview of how this variant works and why it is, in my opinion, one of the best types of blackjack you can play.
But before you do that, I highly recommend getting familiar with the game’s more advance mechanics.
We have many articles teaching you how to play blackjack in the Academy. There are many blackjack guides, including how to count cards, specific advice from experts about doubling down, splitting pairs, Insurance and so on.