Splitting Pairs

blackjack-21As we’ve already explained in the introductory articles, when you are dealt a pair or two 10 cards, regardless of their face, you have the opportunity to split the hand into two separate ones and each of the new hands is played like an ordinary one. There are, of course, rule variations that for example limit the number of resplits or do not permit the resplitting of aces, but in general they are played like an ordinary hand.

As with every other scenario in basic strategy, the decision of whether to split a certain pair or not depends on the pair itself and its relevance to the dealer’s up-card.

Don’t split 10s

Splitting a 10-10 hand defies all logic, unless you are a card counter. Thus, for the employers of basic strategy, you should never ruin a near-perfect hand. Simple math calculations show what a minimal chance the dealer has of getting a blackjack or a multiple-card 21 against your 10 -10.

Card counters tend to split 10s once they have identified a situation in which splitting their hand gives them a further advantage in the game. If you are not counting cards, you have no reason to split 10s.

Blackjack hand of J and 10

Splitting 9s

According to basic strategy, you should split 9s against every numeric card a dealer holds, except for a 7. The reason is that if the dealer holds a seven, he stands a great chance of holding a 10 hole card and will stand on his hard 17, thus your 9-9 will win.

Even if the dealer’s hole card is not 10, he stands a significant chance of getting a stiff hand (with 9, 8, 7, 6, 5), presenting a high probability of going bust.

Splitting your 9s against the dealer’s 9 is a good choice because your 18 can easily be beaten by a 10 hole card.

Blackjack hand of splitted 9s

Splitting 8s

Splitting 8s is kinda tricky, but it is the right choice for this hand. An 8-8 is the toughest stiff hand to play since, all else equal, it faces the largest number of cards that would bust it. However, hitting an 8 is much easier and has a decent chance of even turning into a great hand.

Thus, by splitting 8-8 you significantly boost your chance and will ultimately lose less money. An 8-8 hand itself is very likely a loser in case the dealer doesn’t have a stiff hand and goes bust.

However, if you split and draw a 10-card, or even a 9, you stand a much greater chance of a push or even beating a dealer’s 17. Moreover, if you draw a low card, such as an Ace, 2 or 3, you can hit again and get a 19-20. If only one of your two hands develops like described, you will break out of this bad hand at breakeven, a great outcome from a hard 16.

Blackjack hand of splited 8s

Splitting 7s and 6s

Splitting 7s and 6s is done against a dealer’s up-card of 2 through 7 for a number of reasons. First, 7s and 6s are terrible starting hands (stiff) where you can easily get busted upon hitting. Meanwhile, if the dealer holds a 2 through 7, he stands an increased chance of getting a stiff hand. Thus, it would be wise to try your luck with a better hand, thus split, while also hoping for a dealer’s stiff.

Blackjack hand of splited 6s

Don’t split 5s

Splitting 5s, just as splitting 10s, should be avoided, unless you are a card counter. A 5-5 hand presents a good opportunity to double down as you stand a great chance of getting a high-range hand (18-21).

Meanwhile, if you split the 5s, you will be left with two hands that can easily become stiff (all 10s, all 9s, all 8s and all 7s will make a stiff hand). Also, the opportunity for those two hands to be doubled down will require another 5 or a 6 (for a total value of 10-11), and two 5s have already been drawn out of the deck.

Blackjack pair of 5s hand.

Splitting 4s is trickier

Splitting a 4-4 hand generally depends on whether doubling down after splitting is allowed. In a game with DAS, you should split 4s against the dealer’s up-card of 4, 5 or 6. If after splitting you hit a 5, 6, 7 or an Ace, you are presented with a good opportunity to double down while the dealer is very likely to get a stiff hand. However, if double down after split is not permitted, a 4-4 hand should not be split since a starting hand of 8 is better than two starting hands of 4.

Blackjack hand of splited 4s

Splitting 2s and 3s

If double down after split is allowed, 2-2 and 3-3 hands are split against a dealer’s up-card of 2 through 7. There are a few reasons for that. First, hitting a 2 or a 3 provides a good chance of receiving a hand to double down against the dealer’s weak up-card. Second, a pair of 2s or 3s make for a terrible starting hand since hitting a 10 (or a 9 for 3s) will get you a stiff hand. Third, with an up-card of 2 through 7, the dealer stands a good chance of getting a stiff hand as well.

Blackjack hand of splited 2s

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