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Splitting Pairs in Blackjack – Advice From the Pros

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iGaming is a global industry that generates billions of dollars every year and that is growing at a CAGR of more than 11 percent. As such, it attracts plenty of market research, and a finding that comes up time and again is that blackjack is the most popular game of them all. 

It’s one of those games that everyone knows how to play and there are hundreds of blackjack apps available for US players. To play for real money, look beyond Google and Apple’s app stores and choose one of the top blackjack apps to play in US. With a bit of luck, even those who are new to blackjack can start winning hands on a blackjack app in five minutes flat. Yet unlike other casino classics like roulette, blackjack also rewards the skillful application of strategy.  

Using strategy to reduce the house edge

If you sit down at a blackjack table, real or virtual, and hit or stand according to gut feel, the house edge will be around the three to four percent mark. By learning basic strategy and memorizing the optimum decision based on your hand and the dealer’s upcard, you can knock around one percent off that, immediately improving your win rate. 

The same applies with splitting pairs. A dealer can immediately spot a blackjack amateur, as he or she will split pairs at random. Just like the decision on hitting or standing, however, there are mathematical probabilities associated with splitting pairs. Make the right decision every time, combine it with your strategy on hitting or standing and suddenly, that house edge is down to about one percent. 

To split or not to split?

The possible combinations thrown up by a deck of cards are many, but they are finite. This means it is possible to work out probabilities for every scenario if you are a mathematical wizard. The good news is that regardless of your skills with a calculator, it is not necessary to dive into the numbers, as others have been there and done the leg work already. 

The following basic strategy guidelines have a solid mathematical foundation and will tell you whether or not to split a pair. It is easy to commit them to memory and like other areas of basic blackjack strategy, their use will improve your win rate over time

Splitting strategy

The splitting rules depend on what pair you are holding and what upcard the dealer is showing. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Always split aces and eights.
  • Never split fours, fives or tens.
  • Split twos, threes, sixes, sevens and nines if the dealer has a seven or lower.

This is called basic strategy for a reason. It is not the absolute optimum, and there are refinements you can add over time. For example, you should not split a pair of twos if the dealer’s upcard is also a two. There are a few other special cases, but these go beyond basic strategy and can be set aside until you are ready to advance further. 

The above gives a simple formula that can be remembered as aces and eights always, fours, fives and tens never and for everything else, only split them when the dealer has seven or lower. Give it a try and the rewards will come.