Blackjack Strategy: When to Split Pairs
One thing a lot of new Blackjack players get drilled into their head (usually by less-successful casino gamers) is that they should split any pair they get. There are times when splitting your Blackjack hand is an incredibly smart move or a way to help minimize the chances of busting. There are also times when splitting a hand in Blackjack can weaken you greatly. We're going to review some of the basics behind Blackjack hand splitting and help you understand why they work.
First thing you should get in your head is: Aces and 8s should always be split. Always, always, always. When you split a pair of Aces, there's a stronger chance that you'll get something with a hand value of 10 (any face card and a 10) as your next card and that greatly increases the odds of you getting at least a 20. Eights should be split because 16 is a very weak hand when you stand on it, but the odds of busting if you opt to hit are over 60%.
What should you never split? Pairs of 4s, 5s or 10s. You'll never bust out if you hit on the first two and having a pair of 10s means you're already very close to winning. How you should react when you've got other pairs? It depends on what dealer has as a face-up card. Let's start with the highest-valued pair from the remainder and work our way down to the lowest.
Splitting a Pair of 9s
If you see that the dealer has a 7, Ace or any card valued a ten, you should hold your cards. Without those cards in play, though, the likelihood is greater that the dealer has 18 or less and you can split confidently.
Splitting a Pair of 7s
When it comes to 14, it’s a tricky number in Blackjack; there's an over-50% chance that you'll bust if you opt to hit on that, but on their own, 7s can be hard to build into something. You should split when you see that the dealer has an 8 or higher as their up-card. The reason for this is that they can win with any card valued at ten or an Ace, no matter what you get when you hit while holding 14.
Splitting a Pair of 6s
In general, you shouldn't choose to split when you're holding a pair of 6s. However, if you've had a good run and you see that the dealer's up-card is a 4, 5 or 6, you might well find it profitable. Otherwise, it's important to remember that if you hit while holding 12, you've only got a 30% chance of busting.
Splitting a Pair of 2s or 3s
In general, you can split 2s and 3s without much worry, especially if the dealer is showing a 4, 5 or 6. However, it's important to note that hitting on a hand valued a 4 or 6 isn't going to have any chance of busting, and you're probably better holding onto the hand and playing it as-is.
That's it! It's actually pretty simple to know when to split when you're playing Blackjack. Just applying some basic logic and understanding what the dealer might be holding is all you need.