Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting

Like any game of skill, blackjack requires strategy. Any good game of skill worth the trip to an online gambling site requires good strategy. The most commonly used strategy tool in both online blackjack and blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino is basic strategy.

Basic strategy comes in the form of a chart with player hands running down the left hand side and all of the dealer up cards running across the top. When using basic strategy you find your hand and run it across the line until it intersects with the line of the card the dealer is showing. The play at the intersection is the best statistical play for you to make.

But if you look at a basic strategy chart you notice that it is somewhat divided into three sections based on the player’s hand. These sections would be the hard hands, the soft hands and the pairs. This is because each of these types of hands are played differently. Soft hands are played differently because of the Aces in them, and pairs are, well, pairs.

We are going to look specifically at one pair today: the pair of 5s.

One of the most common pair playing mistakes made is splitting a pair simply because it is a pair. It is the thing to do with a pair, right?

Not exactly. In some cases splitting is the right thing to do. But not always. In the case of a pair of 5s in a game of blackjack you do not split them. With all but two dealer up cards you double down. The only time you do not double down is when you are facing a dealer’s 10 or Ace.

So why the double down? Adding 5 and 5 together gives you 10. And if you compare the hard 10 line of a basic strategy chart to the pair of 5s line you will see that they are identical.

Do you know what happens when you double down? You are taking 1.6% off of the dealer’s edge. Simply because you have the upper hand and stand to make quite a tidy sum off of him if you win with a double down. And starting with a 10, be it a hard 10 or a pair of 5s, is a good place to start when doubling down in blackjack. Ten is halfway to 21.

It is important to not only follow your strategy when playing blackjack, it is important to understand why you are making the plays you are making. Such is the case with the strategy behind not splitting a pair of 5s.