Pair Splitting

While there are many versions of Blackjack games out there, most offer the option to split a hand when your first 2 cards you were dealt are a pair. This concept offers a unique way to up your chances of beating the dealer and, when used correctly, can really help optimise your winning potential.

The idea behind pair splitting is pretty simple, so it’s worth getting the strategy down because it can make or break your blackjack game.


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How the Pair Splitting Strategy Works

When you’re dealt a pair (cards of the same number value) you’ll be given the option to split the cards. This means the pairs are separated into 2 new hands and you’re dealt 2 more cards… and your bet is doubled.

The great thing about the pair splitting strategy is it’s easy to memorise, so it doesn’t take long to become a pair splitting pro.

Know When to Split – Without Hesitation

There are a few circumstances when you should always split your hand, so those are the first cases to look out for:

  • Always split a pair of aces as splitting gives you a double the chances of getting a stronger hand than the dealer. Keeping your aces as one hand gives you a value of 12 to start, meaning you need a 9 to hit 21. Land a 10 and you’re back to 12, land a low card and you’re risking building a hand with low numbers.
    If you split the aces, you’ll have more chances of getting a 10 valued card and landing a blackjack.
  • Always split a pair of 8s. A 16 is a risky hand to hit on as about 60% of the deck will put you over 21… but if you stay at 16, it’s a pretty weak hand. Take the split and you won’t bust on the first deal and can re-strategize from there.
  • If the option is there, re-split aces and 8s. Some variations of the game allow for you to split if dealt another pair the previous split (up to three times even). If you’re playing one of these varieties and you land another pair of aces or 8s, split again – you’re only upping your chances of getting a stronger hand.

Know When You Shouldn’t Split – Without Hesitation

Just as there are hands where splitting is a given, there are hands where you should definitely not split as well. The logic behind these is simple, so they’re easy to memorise:

  • Never split a pair of 10s. A pair of 10s has a high value of 20 giving you a strong hand from the get-go, so don’t separate them. Skilled card counters may defy this rule when they know what cards are left in a deck, but for the average Joe playing the felt, always keep a pair of 10s together.
  • Never split a pair of 4s or 5s. These low cards together make a decent starting hand: you can’t bust out on your first hit and you have a fair shot at getting a higher hand. Separating these cards will give you 2 weaker hands to start with and means more is left to chance than strategy, so keep your 4s and 5s together.

How to Decipher a Tricky Splitting Situation

So you’ve got the must-split and never-split hands down pat… it’s the numbers in between that get a bit more complicated. However, we’ve divided the strategy into easy-to-learn categories so learn these rules and you’ll be on your way to card shark royalty:

  • Split 2s, 3s, 6s and 7s when a dealer’s face up card is between 2 and 7. When you’re dealt a hand as low as double 2s and 3s, you’re playing a pretty weak hand so a split ups your chances of getting a higher card to build a stronger hand. The split is worthwhile especially when the dealer has a good chance of getting a stiff given their face card.Likewise, with a pair of 6s or 7s; these are stiff hands (risky to hit) and a split would give you more chances of beating the dealer’s most-likely stiff hand as well.
  • Split a pair 6s if the dealer has a 2 through 7 showing. A split increases your statistics of beating the dealer if they have a weaker hand, but if they have an eight or higher showing, just take the hit (and hope it’s not a 10).
  • Split a pair of 8s when the dealer has a 2-6, 8 or 9 face up, otherwise, stand – an 18 is a decent hand against the odds.

Bottom Line

Learning the tricks and strategies of pair splitting is vital to boosting your odds of getting a higher hand than the dealer. Be sure to know the rules of the blackjack variation you are playing, as they can affect the benefits of splitting a pair: doubling down, multiple splits and side wagers should all be taken into account prior to splitting. However, if you can get this strategy memorised, you can increase the overall success of your time at the table.