Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on Aces

Yesterday I talked about blackjack strategy in regards to pair that you do not split when you are dealt them. And it does not matter whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, you still do not split those two pairs.

So today I thought we would talk about pairs that you always, always, always split. First up is a pair of Aces.

Logically you have to split a pair of Aces. Do the math and it just seems smart to do so. An Ace is worth 11 or 1, with 11 being the first value given; if that 11 does not work in the hand it is then reduced to 1. So a pair of Aces first adds up to 22, which is a bust. So naturally one of the Aces is reduced to 1, giving the player a hand total of 12. Nasty hard 12.

You can see why any smart blackjack player would split that pair of Aces.

Once split you have two hands that are starting at 11. Not only that you have half of what you need to make 21. If you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino and also happen to be a card counter, and the deck is running with high cards, that would be a good time to split those Aces since your chances of being dealt the cards for a hard 19, 20 or 21 are increased.

Even if you are not a card counter or are even playing blackjack online, it is good blackjack strategy to split a pair of Aces. Doing so takes your hand from a weak position to a stronger one.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on 10s

This morning I talked about a pair that, according to good blackjack strategy is never ever split: a pair of 5s. But there is one more pair that is never eve split either: a pair of 10s.

A pair of 10s could be literally two 10 cards. Or it could be two face cards, not necessarily the same two face cards, meaning a pair could be a Queen and a Jack. Or a pair of 10s could be a 10 card and a face card. The whole point to the pair is that the two cards have the same value.

There are two mistakes that happen when a blackjack player uses some misguided blackjack strategy and splits a pair of 10s. Either he is ill-informed or he is just all caught up in being dealt a pair and cannot resist splitting it.

Mistake number one is that the split is made with the idea that the player can then double down on each of those 10s. First off, not all blackjack games allow for doubling after splitting. This rule is typically found at blackjack tables in casinos and not found at all in online blackjack.

The problem with this strategy, aside from the instances in which doubling after splitting is not allowed, is that the player is giving up a strong hand for something weaker. True, starting a hand with 10 is not too bad of a building block. But it is weaker when compared to an unsplit pair of 10s.

The other mistake that the player forgets about doubling after splitting, and is intent on trying to build two strong hands. But, again, the player is giving up strong blackjack ground for weaker ground.

The reason why you do not split a pair of 10s is right in front of the player’s face: 10 plus 10 equals 20. And in blackjack the only hands that the dealer could beat you with is if he winds up with a natural blackjack or hits to 21.

A hard 20 is one of the strongest hands in blackjack. It is good blackjack strategy to hang on to that hard 20 and stand. It is simply wasteful to throw away that strength just for the sake of splitting a pair.

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.

Splitting 8’s for Defensive Blackjack

When it comes to blackjack strategy it is important to understand that not all of your strategy should be focused on offensive playing. Meaning, it should not all focus on making money for you. Not every part of blackjack is in good order for you to win. If blackjack was a game that let you win all the time then online casinos and brick and mortar casinos would not offer it.

Anyway. Defensive blackjack strategy.

Regardless of whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino you must understand that there will be times when you are dealt a losing hand. It sucks. But it happens. And it is not the time to try to make money. So you play some defensive blackjack and try to minimalize your losses.

Being dealt a pair of 8’s is one of these hands that need defensive playing.

Looking at basic strategy and it shows you to split your pair of 8’s no matter what the dealer’s up card is. For the majority of up cards this makes sense. But some players wonder why they should split against a high card like a 10—to them it seems like they are only setting themselves up to lose more money.

But this is not the case. Because this is a losing hand—hey, face it, sometimes they happen—you need to look at what your percentage of losing is and how much you stand to lose.

If you do not split your pair of 8’s you can wither hit or stand. If you hit you have a 62% chance of losing; and if you stand you have a 77% chance of losing. So you split because starting a hand with 8 is somewhat better than starting with a 16 against a 10.

Now let’s look at this in terms of money. You know now that you will lose 62% of the time if you hit and 77% of the time when you stand on a pair of 8’s against a dealer’s 10. Because standing has a greater chance of losing we are not going to look at money, just know that it will be worse than the money lost on hitting.

Hitting would result in an expected loss of $54 per $100 wagered, whereas splitting results in an expected loss of $49 per $100. I know, it is not much of a difference, but every little bit helps in blackjack.

Remember that there are reasons behind the plays in basic strategy. They are the best statistical plays both in terms of offense and defense for blackjack. Even while losing hands do not give you the best chances of winning, you need to play for the best odds. If splitting 8’s is the best odds and has the smallest expected loss that is the way to play.

Types of Pair Splitting Part II

Yesterday I wrote a post about the types of pair splitting there is in blackjack. Pair splitting happens no matter if you are playing blackjack online or in a casino. In order to make the most of pair splitting in terms of strategy and improving your blackjack odds, you need to know when to split pairs.

Basic strategy is the first place to start. A basic strategy chart can be used in blackjack as the most basic way to gain an advantage through splitting pairs. But eventually, once you have mastered basic strategy, you can begin to work in other little bits of strategy. These other little bits offer you the chance to tweak your strategy to increase your blackjack odds a little more.

In yesterday’s post I talked about offensive, aggressive and defensive pair splitting. Okay, I mentioned reckless pair splitting, but that is not to be done.

Offensive pair splitting is when you take a not so great hand and turn it around to make it advantageous. Aggressive is when you take a good hand and push the envelope of your odds to increase them even more. And defensive pair splitting in blackjack is when you try to minimize your losses as best you can.

The choice to play with just basic strategy or to tweak your strategy to try to increase your blackjack odds a little more is up to you. If you really feel that you cannot make the tweaked pair splitting, then resort to whatever play your basic strategy chart says.

That being said here is each pair with when to make offensive, aggressive or defensive pair splits. Notice that not every single pair against every single up card is here. That is because not every single pair splitting decision should come from this. If it is not listed here, play according to basic strategy.

4/4 vs. 5 or 6: aggressive
6/6 vs. 2-4: defensive
6/6 vs. 5 or 6: offensive
7/7 vs. 2, 3 or 7: defensive
7/7 vs. 4- 6: offensive
8/8 vs. 2-7: offensive
8/8 vs. 8-Ace: defensive
9/9 vs. 2-6 and 8: aggressive
9/9 vs. 9: defensive
Ace/Ace vs. 2-8: aggressive
Ace/Ace vs. 9-Ace: offensive

Give yourself some time to practice these. Try playing blacking online in an online casino’s free-play mode. The more you practice your blackjack pair splitting in a free-play mode the more comfortable you will be when playing a real game of blackjack online or in a casino.

Types of Pair Splitting

Knowing when to split pairs is according to basic strategy is one thing. Knowing the difference between types of pair splits in blackjack is another. Sometimes you have to deviate from what basic strategy tells you to do. It all has to do with the type of pair splitting that is necessary.

Pair splitting happens no matter if you are playing regular blackjack or online blackjack. So you will have to eventually decide how to split a pair whether you are at a blackjack table or playing blackjack online.

There are four types of pair splitting in blackjack: Offensive, Aggressive, Defensive and Reckless.

I am going to show you how these types play into improving your blackjack odds. All of the money figures are based on a $10 wager

In the case of Offensive pair splitting you are starting with an average or potentially losing hand and improving your odds. An example of this would be if you were dealt a pair of 7s and the dealer is showing a 5. If you were to stand you could expect an average of a $3.30 loss. But if you split you have a net average of about $1.20. This taking a loss and turning it around, making it an offensive pair splitting.

With an aggressive split you are taking a good hand and pushing the limits on it. For this example we are going to say that you have been dealt a pair that you would probably normally stand on: a pair of 9s and the dealer has a 6 showing. You could expect a $2.80 profit on standing, but by splitting you could expect $4.40 in profit. That is taking a strong hand and pushing it for something more.

Defensive pair splitting is when you have a pair that you know you are probably going to lose with no matter what, and your play is to try to minimize the loss. Let’s say you have a pair of 3s against a 7, and you decide to hit; your expected loss would be $1.50. But if you were to split your expected loss would only be $0.70.

As for Reckless pair splits, those are pair splits done without any real reasoning behind them. They are made just for the sake of splitting. Do not do them.

Tomorrow I will cover which type of pair splitting strategy to use for each pair in blackjack. I do recommend practicing with pair splitting strategies. This does take some time, but the best place to practice is with some online blackjack in a free-play mode.

A Pair of 4s Can be Tricky

Basic strategy makes the actual playing of blackjack pretty easy. And for the most part it’s all you need to increase your odds in blackjack.

But every now and then you will hear tell of things that aren’t on that chart but that can be good for you—such as insuring a 20 against a dealer’s Ace. That certainly isn’t on the chart! But it can be advantageous. And that’s what blackjack strategy is all about.

Another instance is a pair of 4s. This one actually depends on the house rules of the blackjack game you’re playing though.

If you check a basic strategy chart you will see that it’s best for you to hit a pair of 4s rather than split them. This applies when faced with all dealer up cards except when one of the house rules says that players can double down after splitting a pair.

If that rule is in effect then that changes how you play a pair of 4s against a dealer’s 5 or 6.

If you are faced with a dealer’s 5 or 6 and the house allows you to double down after splitting, then this is the time you want to split that pair of 4s.

The reason is that if you are dealt a 5, 6 or 7 you are in a very good position to double down. Those three cards would give you a hand total of 9, 10 or 11—all of which are good to double down on. They are offensive hands now.

Looking at a basic strategy chart will show you that against a dealer’s 5, 6 of 7 are good to double down against with a hard 9, 10 or 11. This is why, if the house allows you to double down after splitting, you want to split those 4s.

Sometimes in blackjack, while basic strategy is a good base for your blackjack strategy, sometimes so research will reveal a trick that will increase your odds a little more.

Shrewd Blackjack Rules

There are two types of blackjack players. There are those that are there to have a good time, and are more about just having fun than winning any money. And then there are those who are about winning money. We’re going to focus on that last group of players.

Blackjack players who are more interested in money tend to be very shrewd and won’t play at just any blackjack table unlike their for-fun counterparts. When a win-focused blackjack player steps onto the casino floor he won’t just walk up to any blackjack table and sit down. He will cruise the blackjack tables first, looking at how the cards are flowing and what the rules are. See, the house rules play a big part in the odds of the game.

One rule that these shrewd blackjack players look for while cruising the blackjack tables is a rule that allows for the re-splitting of Aces.

We already know to split a pair of Aces if we open a round with them. But when we are dealt another Ace after splitting we like to split that pair too. Some casinos will let you and some won’t. The benefit to the blackjack player odds when playing in a game where you can resplit Aces is 0.06% in the player’s favor.

Re-splitting Aces doesn’t sound like a big deal but let’s take a look at that for a moment. Let’s say that you open the round with a pair of Aces and split them. Then you’re dealt another Ace on one of your split Aces. If you aren’t allowed to resplit you’re stuck with a hand total of twelve. Hard 12. And depending on what the dealer’s up card is you might have a chance of hitting and not busting. But we all know how stiff hands usually turn out—cross your fingers and hope the dealer busts.

Being able to resplit your Aces help increase your chances of building a strong hand, but it gives the split Ace that receives the third Ace a second chance to go up against the dealer with something better than a hard 12.

What Should Always Be Split?

Yesterday I looked at a pair in blackjack that should never, ever be split. So today we’re going to take a peek at a pair that should always be split. And what I say about this applies to both online blackjack and blackjack played in a casino.

The pair that you should always split is Ace/Ace.

Aces are the most flexible cards in blackjack. They can be counted as a 1 or an 11. It depends on what the player needs and is based on the other cards he is holding or has hit for.

First let’s look at your hand total with just those two Aces. You would either have 22 which is a bust. Or you have a soft 12. Or you can reduce it to a hard 2 but that seems kind of pointless.

If you look at your basic strategy chart you will see that there is no line for a soft 12. That’s because a smart blackjack player would never play a pair of Aces as such. But if for some odd reason you feel so inclined to play your hand as a soft 12 you would be hitting.

But why throw two good Aces away like that? It would be too difficult to build a strong hand on a soft 12. Its difficulty is similar to trying to play a hard 12—and we all know how much fun that hand is.

So why frustrate yourself with a soft 12 and waste those Aces?

Go ahead and put the extra wager forward and split those Aces. While you can’t have blackjack, even if you are dealt a 10 on one of those Aces, you can have 21—the next strongest hand to blackjack. Even if you aren’t dealt a 10, you still stand a decent chance of building strong hands because each of your hands is starting with an 11. And if worse comes to worse you can reduce that Ace to a 1.

Being dealt a pair of Aces is one of the best pairs to be dealt. It’s right up there with a pair of 10’s in terms of goodness. Always make sure to split your Aces.

What Should Never Ever Split?

Splitting all pairs is not the correct answer here.

The correct answer would be that you never, ever split a pair of 10’s.

If you are dealt a 10/10 you should start jumping up and down for joy—in your head—because this is one of the strongest blackjack hands that you can be dealt. The only two ways the dealer can beat your hand is to have a natural blackjack or hit to 21.

Sure, the dealer can also be dealt a hard 20 or hit to 20, but it doesn’t count as a loss since you would push in that instance. It’s kind of a bummer to have to push on such a strong hand but it’s better than losing.

I know that with a pair it’s tempting to split them. It’s almost like a reaction in blackjack: ‘Oh, a pair! I have to split it!’

But the truth is that splitting a pair of 10’s will do your odds more harm than good.

If you split your 10/10 you will have to try to build up two hands from a 10 on each to be as strong as or stronger than the hard 20 you had.

The point behind splitting pairs is that you have an opportunity to build up two hands into one that’s stronger than what you started with. Hitting a 10 to build up something that is stronger than 20 is pretty damn hard since the only hand that stronger at this point is 21.

What blackjack players need to do is not just glance at their cards, but really look at them and process what they have been dealt before choosing how to play. This is how inexperienced blackjack players wind up splitting pairs that they shouldn’t—they just see that they have a pair and immediately go into pair splitting mode.

But if a blackjack player looks, really looks, at what they are holding in their hands they can increase their ability to choose which play to make. By really looking at a pair of 10’s a blackjack player can see that they’re holding a hard 20 and one of the strongest hands in blackjack.