Splitting Pairs

In most versions of Blackjack, the player is allowed to “split” two cards that match each other, such as a pair of 8s, to form two new hands. This applies regardless of suits. Some tables will also allow any face cards to be split, such as a King and a Queen, which are both valued at ten.

Splitting cards requires that an additional wager be made, equal to the amount of the initial bet. The original stake remains with the hand on the player’s right and the new stake is wagered on the hand to the left. After the cards are split and bets are made, one more card is dealt to each of the new hands, and they are played in turn from right to left.

The Basics

When playing a game in which the cards can ne touched, the player indicates splitting a pair by separating the two cards face up on the left side of the betting area. A stack of chips equal to the original wager should then be pushed up into the betting area behind the second card, i.e. the one on the left.

When playing a game where no touching of the cards is allowed, the player should point to one of the two cards in the pair and, by moving his/her finger to the left, indicate that the card should be moved to create a separate hand and say “split” out loud. Hand signals can be confusing, so players should avoid using two fingers, which might be misconstrued as “double down.” After the dealer separates the pair, the bet should be made, as above.

At many Blackjack tables, a second card will be dealt immediately to each hand. However, House Rules may require that the first hand be played out entirely before another card is dealt to the second hand formed from the pair. It is the player’s responsibility to become familiar with the rules, which can be most easily accomplished by simply asking the dealer what procedures are in place.

More often than one might imagine, one or even both of the hands receives another matching card and “pairs up” again. At tables which allow “resplitting,” the splitting procedure can be followed again to form three hands in total, or even four if the hands continue to pair up. Most House Rules set a limit on resplitting at four hands in total, and some do not permit it at all.

When Aces are split, the House Rules usually prohibit resplitting. Many disallow drawing any additional cards to a split Ace after the second card has been received. More liberal rules allow resplitting of Aces and drawing as many cards as the player chooses. And the most liberal also permit doubling down after a split, which can result n quite heavy wagering.

Splitting Strategy

Splitting a pair is by no means mandatory. In fact, there are many situations where splitting is almost always the wrong action, such a pair of 5s, which should always be played as a value of ten for hitting or doubling down.

Basic Blackjack Strategy declares that pairs of Aces and 8s should always be split, and 9s should be, too, except when facing the dealer’s 7, 10, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace. The reason for standing against an up card of 7 should be obvious—a hand valued at eighteen will usual win. But against an 8 or a 9, the odds favor the dealer, so splitting with the hopes of drawing and Ace or cards valued at ten is a calculated risk that should be successful about 30% of the time.

For other pairs, splitting strategy has to be modified slightly according to how many decks are in play, but in general, all pairs except 4s, 10s and face cards should be split when the dealer’s up card is a 4~6. For those exceptions, 4s should be doubled and the pairs valued at twenty should stand. No pairs other than 8s, 9s, and Aces should ever be split against the dealer’s 8~Ace.

When the up card is a 2 or a 3, pairs of 6s through 9s should be split, while deuces should be split only facing the 3 and 3s should not be split at all. Against a 7, any pair other than 4s and 6s should be split. When resplitting is allowed, the same general strategy should be applied.