One of the key aspects of blackjack is splitting. Knowing when to split, and doing it effectively separates good players from great ones. Of course, every table is slightly different in how many splits you are allowed to do. On average, you will be able to split a maximum of three times.
Two of the Same Cards
You are able to split when you are dealt a pair – two of the same cards. If you choose to split, you have to double your wager for the current round. In turn, you will be dealt two more cards – one for each split card.
This means you are effectively playing two hands at the same time. Despite this, the round proceeds normally. You simply have two chances to either win or lose against the dealer.
Certain card combinations should always be split, no matter which cards the dealer has. These must split pairs are as follows.
- Having two aces in one hand means they have a value of 12. The first ace counts as an eleven, while the other serves as a one. Keeping this pair means that you can only hit blackjack by drawing a nine. If you get a ten or above, your second ace will also be played with a value of one.
- If you split your aces, you have an eleven in each hand. This allows you four ways to win a blackjack: by drawing 10, J, Q, and K.
- Getting a pair of eights is a bit of bad luck. But the good thing about blackjack is that we can use math to determine whether we should keep or split a combination. And in every case, splitting your eights works out better.
- Keeping an eight pair means your total sum is 16. As such, any card you draw above five means you go over 21, causing you to bust. Hitting while you have a 16 is risky. But standing isn’t optimal either, as the dealer can easily beat your weak hand.
- By splitting a pair of eights, you make it impossible to bust on your first hit. As a result, you can hope that the second card you draw in both cases will improve your hand.
Re-split Aces and Eights
- The odds of getting another pair of aces or eights after splitting for the first time is small, but it can happen. If this happens, you will want to re-split aces and eights, for the same reason we mentioned above.
- Do note that different blackjack tables have different rules. A large number of operators will limit how many times you can resplit. Three resplits seems to be the default among blackjack games.
Just like there are pairs you should always split, there are card combinations which should never be split. Splitting these numbers lowers your odds of winning, so avoid doing it at all costs.
- A pair of fours by itself isn’t a bad hand. Your total sum is eight, meaning it’s impossible to bust when you receive a third card. If you get the highest value card (an ace), you can go up to 19. This is a strong hand with which you can comfortably stand and expect a win.
- In contrast, splitting a four pair means you have two weak hands. You can only improve this hand if you get a five, six or seven. If you get an eight or higher, you’re at risk of busting if you hit again.
- Splitting fives runs into the same problems as splitting fours. You’re trading in a strong initial hand for two weak ones. A pair of fives cannot bust, and have a chance at winning a blackjack!
- At the same time, splitting will either give you a weak hand, or a hand that’s at risk of busting if you hit again. Because of that, splitting fives is never a good idea.
- But the biggest mistake you could make is splitting a pair of tens. If you keep your ten pair, you have a sum total of twenty. As a result, you can stand and expect an almost guaranteed win! The only way the dealer can beat you is if they draw a blackjack.
- If you split, you’re almost guaranteed to end up with a worse hand. That’s because only one combination can improve your situation: and that’s if you draw an ace. Drawing any other card will weaken your hand.
Cards the Dealer Has Revealed
Finally, there are some splits which you should take on a case by case basis. Whether or not you split will depend on what cards the dealer has revealed.
Twos, Threes, Sevens
- If the dealer has a relatively low hand (seven or below), you should split your twos, threes and sevens. If the dealer has an eight, you should split twos and threes, but not sevens. And if the dealer has a nine or above, you shouldn’t split at all. Instead, just hit and hope you get a good third card.
- A pair of nines gives you a sum total of eighteen: a very strong hand! As a result, we split nines only in specific circumstances. If the dealer has a two, three, four, five, six, eight or nine revealed, then you can split your nine pair. If the dealer is showing any other card, you should stand.
- With a pair of sixes, you should only split if the dealer’s revealed card is a two, three, four, five or six. But if a dealer’s revealed card is seven or above, you’re better off hitting instead. Hitting with a pair of sixes isn’t completely risk free, but it beats going against a strong hand with two potentially weak hands of your own.