Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blackjack - Part Five - Splitting Pairs

If your first two cards are a pair, you have the option to split them, forming two hands. The dealer will deal a second card to each hand, which is then played out separately. Should the second card dealt to either hand also be of the same rank, you can split again. The maximum number of hands that can be formed by splitting is four.

When splitting, you are required to bet the same amount on each hand as you did on your original hand. When playing online, click the SPLIT button. In a casino, indicate to the dealer you wish to split by placing the additional bet on the table near the original bet and announcing "Split".

It's not always good sense to split a pair. Once again, the decision you should make depends on your cards, and possibly the dealer's upcard.

Never split a pair of ten-valued cards. 20 is a strong starting hand. If you split tens, you risk getting dealt, for example, a six on each of them, leaving you with two weak hands of 16 each.

Likewise, never split a pair of 5s. Treat them as 10 and play the hand accordingly.

A pair of 8s should always be split; 16 is the worst starting hand, so you should try to improve it. Always split aces, too. There are more 10-valued cards in the deck than any other rank, so you have a good chance of making 21 on each hand. If you do get dealt a 10 on any split ace, it counts as an ordinary 21, however, not blackjack.

Otherwise, split pairs of:
  • 2s or 3s, if the dealer's upcard is 7 or less.
  • 4s, if the dealer's upcard is 5 or 6.
  • 6s, if the dealer's upcard is 6 or less.
  • 7s, if the dealer's upcard is 7 or less.
  • 9s, if the dealer's upcard is anything except a 7, 10 or ace.
That concludes our overview of basic blackjack strategy. It may seem quite a bit to digest at first, but as you get used to the game, you'll find the decision-making process becomes second nature.

The next few posts will present some ways of making it easier to memorise basic strategy, and also cover some common rule variations that you might encounter online or offline and how to handle them.