When to Split in Blackjack

In the game of blackjack, you may have come across the term ‘splitting’. But what is it? And when should you split? To split or not to split - that is the question. Here we will look at exactly what it is, when to split in blackjack - and when to avoid it.

What Does Split Mean in Blackjack?

In blackjack, splitting is an option that is available to you if you are dealt a pair of cards of the same value - i.e. two 7s or two 10s etc. If you do split, then you are essentially splitting your cards into two separate hands, so one half of the pair is in one hand, and the other half of the pair is in the other.

How it works

Firstly, to split, you need to be dealt a pair. If you do split, then you will need to place another bet - equal to your original wager, so it’s one bet per hand, which effectively doubles your bet.

When you have made the extra bet, the dealer will separate the two cards into two hands, so you'll have two hands to play against the dealer. You then play each hand independently - just like any blackjack hand. So, you can stand, hit, double down, or even split again if you get another pair.

Once you have played both hands, the dealer will play his hand, and you then get to see if either (or both) of your hands beat the dealer. The payouts will be normal - a winning hand is usually paid at 1:1, while blackjack is usually paid at 3:2 (depending on the game rules).

This can be used as part of a basic strategy as it lets you improve your hand if you’re dealt a pair of lower-value cards. However - it also doubles your bet, and it isn’t always the best option.

How to Split in Blackjack

Once you have decided that you want to split your hand, signalling to let the dealer know you want to is a straightforward process. There are a number of different ways in which you can signal your intention, which depends on the blackjack rules for that casino or game. Some of the most common ways include:

Tell them: In some games, you can simply tell the dealer you want to split your hand.

Hand gesture: Some players also use a hand gesture to signal that they wish to split. This involves placing your index finger or your open palm between the cards you want to split.

Place Chips: Some casinos require you to place the additional bet chips next to your original bet on the blackjack table to show that you want to split.

Online blackjack split: You will have a button available to allow you to make this decision and split your hand in online blackjack games.

As soon as you have indicated that you want to split, the dealer will then separate the paired cards into two separate hands, one card per hand. From this point onwards, you’ll play each of the two hands separately, deciding how you’d like to play them. The dealer then plays his hand as normal.

It’s important to remember that just because you have a pair, it doesn’t mean you have to split it - or even that you should split. There are pairs that should be split and pairs that should not be.

Best Scenarios To Split - Splitting Strategy

Whether or not you decide to split your hand in blackjack should be based on a few different factors- primarily the pair that you are dealt and the dealer’s face-up card. Whilst we won’t specifically go into every exact scenario where you should split, we’ll take a look at where splitting your hand can make the most sense:

Pair of Aces: Splitting aces is a popular blackjack split. When you split aces, you have the potential to make two very strong hands - both soft hands. This also gives you double the chance of getting a blackjack, which usually pays out at 3:2.

Pair of 8s: Another hand that many players split is a pair of 8s. A hard 16 is one of the weaker hands. If players split eights, they have the potential to turn each hand into a better one.

Pair of 2s or 3s: Players often split this hand if the dealer has an upcard between 4 and 7. This is because they will want to take advantage of the dealer’s potentially weak hand and try for a stronger hand on at least one of their split hands.

Pair of 6: Many prefer to split 6s when the dealer has between 3 and 6. This is simply to try and take advantage of a potentially weak dealer's hand.

Pair of 7s: Statistically, players are advised to split 7s when the dealer's upcard is 7 or lower. By splitting this hand, a player will avoid the weak total of 14 and hopefully get two more favourable hands.

Pair of 9s: Players often consider a split pair of 9s when the dealer's upcard is between 2 and 6 or 8 and 9. Again, the idea of this is to take advantage of the dealer's potential to bust with a weak upcard.

Remember, though, these are just guidelines - based on basic blackjack strategy and statistical probabilities. In any situation, your decision to split should be made by considering your pair and the dealer's upcard in each different game situation. Always bear in mind that splitting can be used as a strategy when you use it correctly, but it should not be applied blindly in every scenario where you are dealt a pair.

When Should You Avoid the Decision to Split?

Here are some situations where avoiding splitting might make more sense:

Pair of 4: It's generally not a good idea to split pairs of 4s. This is because splitting would normally leave you with two weak starting hands of 4, both of which can be challenging to improve. Instead, you are better off hitting and potentially improving the total of your original hand.

Pair of 5s: One pair that most players wouldn’t split is a pair of 5s. A total of 10 is considered a strong starting hand in blackjack, and splitting 5s would turn one strong hand into two weak hands. It's better to keep the 10 and potentially double down if the dealer has a weak upcard.

Pairs of 10s: Splitting pairs of 10s is almost always a bad idea. You already have a strong total of 20 - the strongest hand behind a blackjack, and splitting would simply risk turning that into two weaker hands.

Pair of 5s and 10s: Some blackjack variations even have house rules against splitting particular pairs - including pairs of 5s or 10s. So, make sure you know the split rules of the game you are playing and be guided by them.

Any strong pair when the dealer's upcard is strong: If the dealer’s upcard is a 7 or higher, a blackjack split, in this instance, isn’t advisable, no matter what pair you have. The reason is that the dealer has a better chance of having a strong hand, and splitting may result in you having two weaker hands that are both likely to lose.

When playing blackjack splits, there’s no one size fits all, no matter what hand you are dealt with. The decision over whether you split or not should always be based on the scenario you are in at that time. However, these guidelines can be used to help you to make the best possible for certain situations.

Take Time to Think | BeGambleAware.org | 18+

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