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Split ‘em: how to play every pair in Live Dealer Blackjack

Posted on October 13, 2020 | 2:52 pm
split-them-how-to-lay-every-pair-in-live-dealer-blackjack-image1

Perhaps no blackjack decision causes players more consternation than how to play pairs properly.

There’s a good reason why! A pair presents the only opportunity to split. Along with doubling down, splitting pairs is the only bet in blackjack that requires twice the risk. As we’ll see…

…it’s also an area where small differences in rules have large enough impact on the mathematics that decisive changes are needed player behavior.

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That’s right!

Playing with optimal strategy is very important, but it’s hardly the end of the conversation!

Here’s why:

Even more than other games, finding the right table is essential for Live Table Blackjack success.

This is because seemingly tiny rules variations, such as whether a dealer will hit or stand with soft 17 (by which we mean 17 with a hand containing an ace) have small but important effects on the house edge.

Ignoring small changes like that is a major blackjack no-no, since helping the house even a little big is tantamount to leaving money on the table…

…and over time, this has significant bankroll implications.

Blackjack famously offers the lowest house edge of all casino table games, but that’s only the case if the table offers the most player-friendly rules.

This means finding a table with 3:2 blackjack payout. Ideally, also one where surrender is allowed…

… and also, one where Doubling After Splitting (DAS) is allowed as well.

When it comes to playing pairs the right way, this latter rule change becomes very important indeed. When doubling down is not allowed after splitting a pair,

OK! Without further ado, here is how to play any pair in the game of blackjack:

(note: the below guide assumes dealers will stand on soft 17. If dealer hits on soft 17, the only change players should make has to do with splitting 8s.)

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DAS: if the dealer shows 2-7, split! If not, hit.

NDAS: if the dealer shows 4-7, split! If not, hit.

3-3

DAS: if the dealer shows 2-7, split! If not, hit.

NDAS: if the dealer shows 4-7, split! If not, hit.

4-4

DAS: if the dealer shows 5 or 6, split! If not, hit.

NDAS: Never split, always hit.

5-5

DAS: Never split! Always hit.

NDAS: Never split, always hit.

6-6

DAS: if the dealer shows 2-6, split! If not, hit.

NDAS: if the dealer shows 3-6, split! If not, hit.

7-7

DAS: if the dealer shows 2-7, split! If not, hit.

NDAS: if the dealer shows 2-7, split! If not, hit.

8-8

DAS and NDAS: Always split, with one exception: if playing H17 (at a table where the dealer hits on soft 17), split against an ace only if surrender is not allowed.

9-9

DAS and NDAS: if the dealer shows 2-6, 8, or 9, split! If not, hold.

10-10

(note: for the purposes of this article, any card with a value of 10 will be counted as a 10… so this includes jacks, queens, and kings.)

DAS and NDAS: Never split, always hold.

Ace-Ace

DAS: Always split! This is an ideal situation.

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FAQs

While there are some situations where highly skilled players rightly do split 10s – specifically, in a tournament where they need to bet more chips; and when card counters know the deck is especially rich in 10s – for most situations, splitting 10s is a bad idea.

Especially if the dealer shows a 5 or 6, it’s easy to think something like “I have a great chance to double my winnings here.” But let’s look a little closer.

As always in the game of blackjack, it comes down to the rules of the table and the house. Generally speaking, any two cards with a value of 10 can be split.

No. The math behind these recommendations does not change, regardless of whether the per hand limit is $1 or $1000.

With that said, it is especially important for players to choose tables with betting limits within their limits.

Not only because it’s important not to wager money one can’t afford to lose!

Also, because players can hardly be expected to keep their cool and make smart decisions when the limits are too high for their comfort (or too low to hold their interest).

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especially-rich-in-10s-for-morst-situations-splitting-10s-is-a-bad-idea-image4The math tells a different story:

Standing on 10s against a dealer showing 5, you will win 83% of the time and lose 17%. Splitting, you will win 63% of the time, and lose 37%.

Both are favorable odds for gamblers, so it’s not a question of losing vs. winning play. But our goal isn’t just to win at blackjack… it’s to win as much as possible.

So let’s explore what happens if the hand is played both ways, 100 times. Assuming an initial wager of $1:

You will win $1 x 100 hands x .83 = $83

You will lose $1 x 100 hands x .17 = $17

Your net profit is $830 – $170 = $66

And splitting will yield:

You will win $1 x 100 hands x .63 = $63 ( x 2 because you’re splitting) = $126

You will lose $1 x 100 hands x .37 = $37 ( x 2 because you’re splitting) = 74

Your net profit is $63 – $37 = $26 ( x 2 because you’re splitting) = $52

And there’s no doubt about it, $66 is more than $52.

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