Strategy for Pairs in Blackjack

Pairs are another type of hand in blackjack that are played differently than the more basic hard hands. Or at least they should be played differently. However, a good many blackjack players will play them like hard hands. And while some pairs should be played like hard hands, some need to take advantage of a pair’s option for splitting.

A pair is any hand in blackjack in which the two starting cards are worth the same amount. Because each card has the same value, the player has the option in blackjack to put forth another wager that is equal to their original wager and split the pair. The two cards are separated and each one receives a new second card.

Some casinos and some blackjack variations will allow for continued pair splitting on top of other pair splitting.

I mentioned that for some pairs it is okay to play them like a hard hand in blackjack. A pair of 10s is one such pair. However, some players will get caught up in the notion that they can split pairs, and will split a pair of 10s just because they can.

A pair of 10s should not be split, and here is why. You have to look at their value as number, rather than the fact that they are a pair: 10 + 10 = 20. A pair of 10s is another way of saying hard 20. And the only thing that can beat a hard 20 is a dealer with a natural blackjack or a dealer who hits to 21. There is no reason to throw away a perfectly good hard 20 just because it is a pair.

On the other side a pair of 8s should always be split. Again, look at the value of each card added together: 8 + 8 = 16. So a pair of 8s that are not split are in fact a hard 16, one of the hardest hands to play in blackjack. It is too high to really hit because you stand a pretty good chances of busting. But it is also low enough that it is not likely to beat the dealer unless the dealer busts.

So why hang on to a hard 16 when you can double your wager and start over with two mostly new hands? At least with splitting you stand the shot of building up one if not both of the new hands.

The easiest way to tell what the best statistical play for a pair in blackjack is to play according to a basic strategy card. Basic strategy will tell you whether you should split a pair in blackjack or leave the pair together, unsplit.