The core goal when playing blackjack is to inch as close to 21 points as possible without surpassing the threshold. If you go over 21, you will automatically lose the game regardless of what the dealer has. This is called busting in blackjack.
Another way to win in blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand and of course not exceed 21. However, one of the most confusing decisions blackjack players have to make is to know when to split and when not split a pair of same-ranked cards.
For instance, should you split a pair of 5s or not? How about a pair of 4s or Aces? Splitting gives you a chance to separate the pair into two split hands. The next step is to either double down on your bet or hit (ask for another card).
As you split two cards, you would be able to play your original bet with one hand and place an equal bet on the second split hand. You can make different moves, be it to split, surrender, hit, or stand, for each hand of the two hands.
So when should you split pairs in blackjack? Let’s get to know when to split and when not to:
When to Always Split Pairs According to Basic Blackjack Strategy
There are many instances when it makes sense, both mathematically and statistically, to split a pair of same-ranked cards. You should always split your pair when:
You have Aces (A’s) – Always Split Aces
Blackjack players hardly get aces – There are only four in a standard deck. The good news is that an Ace can be worth either one or 11, whichever creates the strongest hand. That is why aces are the highest cards in blackjack, all the more so that they help you create a blackjack hand and almost always beat the dealer’s hand.
You must also re-split Aces if you are lucky enough to receive more than a pair. It doesn’t make sense to have two aces in a single hand. They would total 12, which is not a strong blackjack hand. The rule of thumb is to always split Aces, no matter what the dealer has as their up card.
You have 8s – Always Split Eights
Like Aces, a pair of 8s is the holy grail in blackjack. You should always split 8s because there is a good chance that you will land a ten-value card in the next deal. Likewise, you should always re-split 8s if you get a third eight.
Never Split These Pairs
A pair of aces and 8s should always be split. However, you should never split:
A pair of 10s
You should never split tens, and it is easy to see why. A pair of 10s create a 20, which is the second most powerful hand in bingo. It can only be beaten by a blackjack (21).
Having two nine cards is already a strong hand to beat the dealer with eighteen. So when you split them, you would have to hit a ten or Ace to make a stronghold over the dealer.
Similarly, for tens, you would already have twenty with a great start to beat the dealer. But if you split them, it would be hard for you to improve on each hand. However, if you see the dealer’s up card is not looking good, you can decide on splitting your higher number cards.
A pair of 5s
A pair of 5s produces a potentially strong hand worth 10 points. And with ten-value cards making up a significant portion of the deck, you can easily create a 20 or 21 hand. On the flipside, splitting the pair will yield two weak hands of 5 points each.
A pair of 4s
You should also never split a pair of 4s in blackjack. Just like a pair of 5s, 4s create a solid hand of 8 together, but two weak hands when separated. More specifically, getting two-four would give you a good start to hit eighteen easily. But splitting it would make your two hands low. Although you hit ten, it would only give your fourteen, putting you in a bad position.
Other Cases Where You Need to Split Pairs As Per Blackjack Basic Strategy
You should also consider splitting pairs when:
- A pair of 2s against the dealer’s 2 through 7
- A pair of 3s and the dealer’s up card is anything from 2 through 7
- A pair of 6s against the dealer’s 2 through 6
- A pair of 7s when the dealer is showing any number between 2 and 7
- A pair of 9s against the dealer’s 2 through 6, 8, or 9
Note that this splitting strategy does not cover all tips. You should download or print out a blackjack basic strategy chart for reference during play.
Do you split 2s?
In case you have a pair of 2s, you should take a chance to split the pair according to the dealers’ up card. As per the basic blackjack strategy table, If the dealer’s up card is a 4, 5, 6, or 7, you should split your pair of 2s. But if the dealer’s card showing is 8, 9, 10, or an Ace, you must hit your hand.
Other than that, if the rules allow you to double down after a split pair, you should split against the dealer’s up-card numbers 2 and 3. The basic playing strategy is to split against the dealer’s up-card of 2 via 7, if doubling down after pair splitting is allowed, otherwise hit.
Do you split 9s against an ace?
If you have a pair of 9s in Blackjack, you will have two viable options. Either you should stand with a total of 18 in one hand or split the 9s into two hands and start with 9 in each hand. As per the Blackjack’s basic playing strategy, the pair of 9s should be split when the dealer’s showing has 2 through 6,8, or 9. However, when the dealer has an up-card of 7, 10, or an ace.
If the Blackjack dealer shows up-cards from 2 to 6 numbers, 8, or 9, etc., you should split your 9s to win more money than standing with a total of eighteen in one hand.
On the other hand, if the dealer shows a seven up-card, it’s better to stand, as the dealer might have more than one ten-value card. It would give you a good chance to get seventeen, with which you can beat the dealer by standing at 18. However, with the Ace up card, there is less chance for winning whether you split or stand on 18. But withstanding, you would lose less money in the long run.
Should you ever split 10s?
A majority of Blackjack players tend to split pairs of tens to have two hands from the beginning, So they can end up with two high hands and double their prizes if they beat the dealer. But there is a very low chance of drawing higher cards. In such a case, instead of having high hands, you will probably have low prize money with losing hands. However, if in Blackjack, all cards are exposed to both dealers and players, the basic strategy is to split 10s against the dealer’s card numbers 13, 14, 15, or 16. Review our article on splitting 10s here, for more.
When a player has to deal with a pair of 4s, they can make three viable blackjack strategic moves; they can draw, double down, or split. Except that to play a pair of 4s depends on the number of decks the player is playing with.
Various different factors can impact the playing strategy for 4s, such as the dealer’s up-card value, pack number, and the availability of splitting after doubling down.
You should split the pair of 4s in double-deck whenever the dealer’s up-card shows 5 or 6. Otherwise, you should hit your one hard hand eight if the dealer exposes any possible up-cards with numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and Ace. Doubling down is considered the most effective 4s playing strategy, as it can gain the player most profit in the long run.
Should you split 8s against a 10?
According to Blackjack’s basic strategy table, a pair of 8s should be split. The exceptions are if the dealers hit soft 17 or there is an ace for the dealer’s up-card show.
The reason why you should split your eight against the dealers 10 is that by hitting a hard 16, your chance of busting would get high if you hit unless you play against an ace, 2, 3, 4, 5.
But if you stand with 16 in one hand, it would lower your winning chances. With splitting your 8s, you would lose less money than hitting or standing with a hard 16.
Should you split 9s?
Having a pair of 9s means a high probability of having a total of hard 18 that can easily surpass 21 with just a one-card draw, ultimately losing the game. Thus, splitting 9s is the best move for players to put themselves in a favorable position. They would most likely play against the weak up-cards of the dealer with two strong hands.
Is it better to hit or stay on 16 in blackjack?
It is better to stay on 16 in a blackjack game in which the house rules dealer stands on soft 17. You should only hit when the dealer is showing a 7 or 8. Note that you should always split a 16 made up of a pair of 8s.
Should I split fours in blackjack?
No, you should never split fours in blackjack. The basic strategy stipulates that you should hit on a pair of fours unless the dealer’s up card is a 5 or 6. In that case, you should split the 4s and double down before hitting.
Should I split 4s or 6s?
You split a pair of 6s when the dealer’s up card is 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. On the contrary, you should avoid splitting 4s unless the dealer is showing 5 or 6.