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When to split & when not to split in blackjack

During a game of blackjack, if a player receives two cards of the same rank (a pair of Kings or Eights for example), they are given the option of splitting that pair into two separate hands. If choosing to split, the player receives another card for both hands, and then plays out each hand separately, in turn. If splitting a pair, players are required to place another wager of equal value to their original bet of the second hand, and can thus win both bets.

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Players are often confused about whether or not to split a pair in 21. New players to the game often receive poor advice to always split pairs no matter what, but this isn’t always the best move. Depending on the hand in question, splitting a pair in blackjack can often be a very smart strategy, but as with any other card game, careless consideration can be detrimental to your hand.

Split a Pair of 7s in Blackjack A lot of players will avoid splitting because of the extra stake required, which can be daunting. But this shouldn’t determine your decision if splitting a pair has the potential for a better outcome. Below we take a look at the correct blackjack splitting strategy to implement when dealt a pair. Check out our ‘How to Play Soft Hands‘ and ‘How to Play Hard Hands‘ guidelines, too.

Pair of Aces

Getting dealt a pair of Aces puts you in a strong position, and according to basic strategy, Aces should always be split. When a pair of Aces are split, you double your chances of picking up blackjack with a face card or 10 for either of your Aces, rather than a hand totalling either 2 or 12.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Split
  • 8 – Split
  • 9 – Split
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Split
  • Ace – Split

Pair of Twos/Deuces

Given the low value, splitting a pair of Twos can be done without too much concern. Obviously, hitting on a hand with a value of four isn’t going to result in a bust. Here are the correct moves when dealt a pair of Deuces:

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Split
  • 8 – Split
  • 9 – Hit
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Hit
  • Ace – Hit

Pair of Threes

In similar sentiment to a pair of Twos, splitting a pair of Threes can be done without too much concern due to the low value of a six hand, and is a good move against low dealer face-up cards.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Split
  • 8 – Hit
  • 9 – Hit
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Hit
  • Ace – Hit

Pair of Fours

According to basic strategy, a pair of Fours should never be split. There are two scenarios which can be considered exceptions to this rule, however.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Hit
  • 3 – Hit
  • 4 – Hit
  • 5 – Split (only if game allows for double after the split)
  • 6 – Split (only if game allows for double after the split)
  • 7 – Hit
  • 8 – Hit
  • 9 – Hit
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Hit
  • Ace – Hit

Pair of Fives

Never split a pair of Fives – simple. Already a very strong hand with the potential to reach 20 with a face/10 card, or 21 with an Ace, you should consider doubling in most scenarios, if the game allows it.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 3 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 4 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 5 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 6 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 7 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 8 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 9 – Double (or hit if double is not allowed)
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Hit
  • Ace – Hit

Pair of Sixes

A pair of Sixes is not a great starting hand. It can be improved by splitting, but only in the following scenarios. You should never stand on a pair of Sixes.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Hit
  • 8 – Hit
  • 9 – Hit
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Hit
  • Ace – Hit

Pair of Sevens

A pair of Sevens is another poor starting hand but can be salvaged with correct strategy. A hand of 14 leaves more than a 50% chance of busting, but playing from a Seven is hard to build on successfully. Consider splitting if the dealer’s face-up card is anything lower than an Eight.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Split
  • 8 – Hit
  • 9 – Hit
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Hit
  • Ace – Hit

Pair of Eights

Like Aces, a pair of eight puts you in a very strong position to split. A hand of 16 stands a poor chance of winning, and the odds of busting on a hit are more than 60%. Split those Eights in to two hands and you significantly increase your odds of beating the dealer by being dealt 18 or more.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Split
  • 8 – Split
  • 9 – Split
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Split
  • Ace – Split

Pair of Nines

Landing a hand consisting of a pair of Nines for a total of 18 is a strong hand, but can still be improved with a split in certain situations. If a dealer up-card other than a Seven, 10 or Ace is showing, there is a good chance the dealer will make 18 or less, in which case a split should be fine.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Split
  • 3 – Split
  • 4 – Split
  • 5 – Split
  • 6 – Split
  • 7 – Stand
  • 8 – Split
  • 9 – Split
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Stand
  • Ace – Stand

Pair of Tens/Jacks/Queens/Kings

Like a pair of Fives, a pair of Tens/Jacks/Queens/Kings should never be split.

What to do when a dealer’s face-up card is a:

  • 2 – Stand
  • 3 – Stand
  • 4 – Stand
  • 5 – Stand
  • 6 – Stand
  • 7 – Stand
  • 8 – Stand
  • 9 – Stand
  • 10/Jack/Queen/King – Stand
  • Ace – Stand

These strategies are important to take into consideration and players should not be deterred by having to place an additional wager, as splitting pairs can significantly increase chances of success. Note some games allow players to split non-alike but same value cards, such as a King and a Ten, however, as per the strategy, a player should never split a pair of 10s.

For more helpful hints and guides to optimise your chances of winning in blackjack, read up on the following:

Test your splitting strategy at any of our top-rated blackjack sites which are listed in the casino table at the top of this page. We recommend Raging Bull Casino as our top-rated casino site for players from United States, which has some excellent welcome bonuses available for new players along with a great range of blackjack variants, online slots and other table games.

*Note: while these moves are based on the correct strategy for hole card games (American format), almost all scenarios – to split or not to split – in a European (no-hole card) version follow the same format – but to see the differences and the entire blackjack strategy cards of European and American games, view our strategy card article. Following this strategy for a European-style game is still adequate.

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