Playing 9 in Blackjack

If you're dealt a pat 19, you feel pretty confident with your odds against the dealer, don't you? There's no reason to not feel confident, a 19 is a hand that has a positive return regardless of what the dealer is showing.

The question that arises because of this is as follows: what if you have a 9? The odds of drawing a 10 or A are 5/13 or 38.4%, very good odds in the game of Blackjack. So it's a good possibility that you will be drawing to a 19, or even a 20. Given this scenario, should you double down? As always, we will look at this assuming that you are playing in a multiple deck game where the dealer stands on a soft 17.

Standing on a 9 is definitely out of the question since any card that you draw will improve your hand. Our options then are either hitting or doubling down. Let's start with hitting.

  • If the dealer is showing a 2, over a long enough period of time, you will average a $0.07 return for every dollar you invest in the hand.
  • For 3 through 6, you will have a $0.10 to $0.20 return.
  • On the dealer's 7 there is a $0.17 return and on 8, a $0.10 return.
  • 9 through A has a negative return of $0.05 to $0.15 on the dollar.

Now let's compare those numbers to doubling down in order to determine which is more fruitful.

  • Doubling when the dealer has a 2 exposed has a return of $0.06, a penny less than hitting. Hitting is definitely the way to go in this case.
  • For 3 through 6 the return is $0.12 to $0.32. In this instance, doubling down makes a good deal more sense (and cents!) over the long run.
  • 7 has a $0.10 return, again, much less than the return on hitting.
  • There is a return of -$0.02 on the dealer's 8, so you want to avoid doubling.
  • 9 through A has a large negative return of $0.30 to $0.43 on the dollar. To minimize damage, you will want to hit.

So here's the rundown: double a 9 ONLY when the dealer has a 3 through 6 exposed, otherwise hit.

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