Blackjack Pair Splitting Strategy
In most versions of Blackjack, when you are dealt a pair (two of the same card), you have the option to split them into two new hands. You are dealt two more cards (one for each new hand) and your bet is doubled. You play each hand normally — you get two chances to beat the dealer (or lose). Knowing when to split pairs in blackjack is vital for high-level play. Best of all, since there are only ten card values, it’s not hard to memorize what to do in every single situation.
- Always split aces.
There are a few situations in Blackjack when it always makes sense to split, no matter what card the dealer is showing. For example, you should always split when you get a pair of aces. Splitting gives you a much better chance to get a strong hand.
If you play your two aces as one hand, you’ll start with a value of 12 (one is played as an 11 and the other as a one). Only a nine will give you 21. A 10 or face card will force you to play the second ace with a value of one, bringing you back to 12. On the other hand, if you split, you have four ways to get a 21 in either hand (being dealt a 10, J, Q, or K).
- Always split eights.
Besides aces, the other pair that almost every Blackjack expert will tell you to split on is eights. It’s difficult to get a good hand when you play your eights as one hand. Your chances aren’t fantastic when you play them separately, but you do stand a better chance mathematically.
Playing your two eights as one hand starts you at 16 (a very weak hand). Hitting at this point is a risky proposition. Anything above a 5 will cause you to bust, so you have about a 60% chance of losing the hand from the get-go.
On the other hand, if you split, it’s impossible to bust out on your first hit, so you at least have a chance of getting a more favorable hand.
- Always re-split aces or eights if you are dealt a second pair.
When you split, the dealer gives you two cards — one for each of the new hands. If this gives you a second pair of aces or eights, treat it as its own hand and split again.
Note that this requires you to triple your original bet (splitting the first time requires you to double it). House rules may vary here. Most Blackjack games will allow you to split a maximum of three times (to play a total of four hands).
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