20 Dec

Blackjack Gymnastics – When to Do the Splits

When to split in blackjack (and other obvious suggestions).

When to Split in Blackjack (and other obvious recommendations)How are your gymnastic skills? Can you do a perfect split? I’m not the most flexible person, but I can pull off an 8-8 split like nobody’s business. And 31% of the time, the judges (aka dealer) give me a perfect 10 for it.

If you know enough about the game of blackjack, that was a clever (okay, cheesy) metaphor. A pair of 8’s make for the perfect split, and when dealt a 10 on them, it’s about the best outcome you can hope for. A 3, followed by a 10, would be better, but that’s really stretching the favorable probabilities of Miss Lady Luck.

Before I get too side-tracked here, let’s get back to the main point of this article. Today, we’re going to talk about something I like to call Blackjack Gymnastics; specifically, when to do the split, and when to keep your pairs together.

When to Split in Blackjack

There are some pretty apparent times when you’ll want to split, or maintain, your pairs. A pair of 8s, as described above, should always be split, and for abundantly obvious reasons. Keeping the 8s together means accepting a hand total of 16. That’s an abysmal total, no matter how you swing the ax.

If you hit 16, there are 8 card values that can bust you, but only 5 that will keep you alive. That equates to a 62% chance of busting the hand. A basic strategy chart shows us that, if the dealer has a 7-10 or A showing, we’re better off hitting than standing on 16, which means our odds of losing with 16 are higher than our 62% odds of busting. That doesn’t paint a pretty picture, now does it?

Fortunately, since we have a pair of 8s, we can split them—the most recommended action, regardless of the dealer’s up-card. Pair of 8s, split ’em up, always!

Another obvious splitting scenario is when dealt a pair of Aces. Although Aces are beautiful on their own, they are pathetic when paired. Splitting them offers the potential for two beautiful hands of 21. There’s only a 31% chance of this happening with either hand, since there are just 4 out of 13 cards worth 10. But any outcome would be better than the miserable 12 that is A-A.

A pair of 9s is usually worth splitting, as well. If the dealer is showing 7, 10 or Ace, splitting those 9s is the better option. Otherwise, stand on the favorable 18.

A pair of 7s should be played similarly. Split the 7s when the dealer shows 2-7; otherwise, hit the 14 with fingers crossed. The exact same rule goes for pairs of 2s and 3s.

Obvious Times to Hold Onto Pairs

There are only two sets of pairs that you should never, ever split up, no matter what. They should be incredibly evident.

The first is a pair of 10s. I don’t care how tempting it is, never split 10s. You have a total of 20 with a very high chance of being a winner. Stand down, soldier!

The other is, of course, a pair of 5s. Unless the dealer is showing a 10 or Ace, you’ll want to double down on those 5s very time. If the dealer is showing 10 or Ace, save the extra chips and hit instead.

Blackjack Splitting Strategy Chart

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2s SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
3s S S S S S S S S S S
4s H H H SP SP H H H H H
5s D D D D D D D D H H
6s SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7s SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
8s SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
9s SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
Ts S S S S S S S S S S
As SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
S = Stand H = Hit SP = Split D = Double

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