Double Exposure Blackjack Strategy Guide
Double Exposure is a style of blackjack in which the player gets to see both of the dealer’s cards. While this does give the player perfect information, it complicates the strategies involved since there are rules in place to cut back on the player’s advantage in knowing the entirety of the dealer’s starting hand.
Introduction to Double Exposure
A lot of styles of blackjack are based on changing a single rule or incorporating some way that players could use to cheat as a standardized rule change. In Double Exposure blackjack, you see this in that players get to view both of the dealer’s starting cards, which sets off a set of rule changes that gives this title a unique flavor.
The key to Double Exposure strategy is learning how to adjust to these rule changes and the extra information given by seeing both of the dealer’s cards.
Instead of learning to play against a single dealer card, you have to learn to play against dealer totals instead, and that includes whether the dealer has a hard or soft hand. As a result, you incorporate a lot more information into your decision, which has the effect of drastically complicating the level of strategy involved in this game.
Along these lines, if you’re the type of player who loves these types of strategic complications, then you’ll love this title.
House Advantage and Payout Rates
The exact maximum payout rate depends on the particular set of rules used. The most common set of rules found online with software packages like Microgaming gives the house edge at around 0.32 percent if you play perfectly, and that comes out to a payout rate of 99.68 percent, which is pretty high.
With that having been said, we have to be realistic about the chances of making mistakes. Since the strategies are a bit more complicated, the opportunities to make mistakes are more plentiful. As a result, we think that a good player who studies a bit but who doesn’t take it to some excessive level can expect a payout rate in the range of 99.3 to 99.4 percent on average.
This is still a high enough rate to make it one of the best games in the casino for strategically minded players, and it gives you something to work towards if you’re interested in that sort of thing by trying to perfect your technique to get the house advantage down even lower.
Important Rules for Double Exposure
There are three main rules that you’ll find in all Double Exposure blackjack games out there:
- You get to start the hand by seeing both of the dealer’s starting cards.
- To compensate for this advantage, the dealer wins ties unless the player has blackjack.
- To continue this compensation, blackjacks only pay at 1:1 instead of offering a bonus payout like what you find in most other games.
In some games, you may only be allowed to double with hard totals of 9, 10 or 11, and in others, there may be restrictions on when you can split. Those rules don’t change the relevant strategies all that much, and as we describe them below, you’ll see that we cover both scenarios where you’re allowed to double with all totals or not.
Strategies for Double Exposure Blackjack
There’s a lot of ground to cover strategically with this game because of all of the potential situations you can run into with different dealer totals. As such, we’re going to break things up a bit into sections to make it easy for you to study one part at a time.
We’re going to order these sections based on which types of spots you’re going to run into the most often. This means it will be most efficient for you to start by learning the strategies in the order that we present them and working your way down.
Playing Hard Totals Against Hard Dealer Totals
This section will cover a little more than half of the total spots that you run into, and it’s basically split into two decisions:
- If you hold an 11 or lower, then your decision is between hitting and doubling.
- If you hold a 12 or higher, then your decision is between hitting and standing.
In light of this, we’re going to describe when to double with an 11 or lower and when to hit with 12 or higher. You will take the opposite option accordingly.
For hard totals of 11 and lower (options: double or hit):
- With totals of 5 to 7 – Double against 14-16.
- With totals of 8 to 11 – Double against 12-16.
- With a total of 9 – Also double against 5-6.
- With a total of 10 – Also double against 4-8.
- With a total of 11 – Also double against 4-9.
Now we’ll look at hard totals of 12 and higher. Remember that your options are to hit or stand:
- With totals of 12-13 – Hit against 7-11, 17-20.
- With 14 – Hit against 7-10, 17-20.
- With 15 – Hit against 7-9, 17-20.
- With 16 – Hit against 7, 17-20.
- With 17-20 – Hit against totals equal to or greater than the amount you hold.
Remember that while these strategies are a bit complicated to learn, they represent more than half of all of the situations that you’ll face, so they’re worth the effort.
Playing Hard Totals Against Soft Dealer Totals
We’re going to offer a strategy that’s not 100 percent perfect 100 percent of the time here because this is a small minority of the hands that you’ll face. Instead, we’ll offer a way to play that’s easier to remember in proportion to the small amount of time that you’ll actually run into these scenarios.
- With totals of 5-9 – Always stand.
- With totals of 10-11 – Stand against 12-13, double against 14-16.
- With totals of 12 – Always hit.
- With totals of 13-21 – Always stand.
You will make very small mistakes with some uncommon fringe cases if you follow these recommendations, but they will not amount to very much of your payout rate.
Playing Soft Hands
Along similar lines as the above, we’re going to offer up recommendations based on certain practical shortcuts instead of following a mathematically perfect strategy. This is because we understand the real-world implications of trying to learn strategies for games this complicated and how most players aren’t willing to put in tons of extra hours of practice just to get a 0.05 percent increase in their payout rate in an online blackjack game.
We completely understand this position, and we’ll show you how to play well even with that restriction.
You’ll follow two basic recommendations to begin with:
- Always hit when holding a soft 18 or lower.
- Always stand when holding a soft 19 or higher.
The exceptions to the above two rules are the times that you double, and doubling takes precedence if you have the ability to do so in any of the following situations:
- If you have a soft 13-20 and are facing a hard 12-16, then always double.
- With a soft 16-18, also double when facing a hard five or six.
That’s really all it takes to play almost perfectly 100 percent of the time. It’s also worth noting that you should never double a soft hand when facing a soft total yourself.
Knowing When to Split Pairs
Double Exposure strategies for splitting are extremely complicated compared to how often you’ll actually need to do them, so we’re going to offer a set of points to remember that will have you playing the right way the overwhelming majority of the time without worrying about being completely perfect in all situations.
It’s worth noting that you will double sometimes with tens (a total of 20) in this game, which is something that you hardly ever see otherwise.
Against soft totals, you should only split aces. Play all other hands as if they’re usual hard totals. However, when you’re against hard totals, things are a bit more complicated:
- Against a hard 4-6, split with sixes through nines as well as aces. Do not split tens here.
- Against a hard 7-8, also split eights, nines and aces.
- When facing any hard total from 12-16, always split any pair except for fives, which should be doubled.
If you follow these three guidelines, then you’ll play close to perfectly on the splitting decision. If you do not split in a given scenario, then you will play it like a typical hard hand.
The level of complication found in Double Exposure blackjack strategy is substantial to say the least. However, you can learn to play perfectly in the most common situations while using heuristics in the less common situations to play with strategies that are “close enough” considering the amount of time and effort put in.
You will make some small errors in your play occasionally along these lines compared to what would otherwise be mathematically perfect play, but it comes with the benefit that you only have to learn a fraction of the rules and guidelines for how to play those spots.