Should You Always Split Your Aces and Eights?

We spend a lot of time trying to disabuse novice gamblers of superstitions, urban legends and ‘old wives tales’. Sometimes the hardest thing to do when trying to teach someone the right way to gamble in a casino is to ‘unlearn’ all of the incorrect lessons they’ve learned.

So are there any ‘superstitions’ or the like that are true? There are some and we’re going to talk about one of them today. The first thing my dad ever told me the first time I went into a casino was ‘always split your aces and eights’. He was referring, of course, to the game of blackjack. And he was correct–there might be very rare exceptions to this axiom (I can’t think of any at the moment) but these notwithstanding you should always split your aces and eights. Let’s examine why:

AS A DEFENSIVE MOVE

There are plenty of situations where a player splits his aces and eights as a defensive move. More specifically, it gives a player more of a ‘fighting chance’ against a dealer’s strong up card. Let’s begin by looking at the situation if the player *doesn’t* split. If a player is dealt A-A he has 2 or 12. Neither are going to do him any good and particularly against a strong dealer upcard. The player can hit this hand but there’s no guarantee he’ll improve his hand. If the player gets a ten value card he’s back in the same boat–he doesn’t want to ‘bust’ so he’s back with a ten and two aces so he’s got 12.

A deal of 8-8 is an even more difficult situation. The player has 16 which is one of the weakest hands possible in blackjack. He can hit the hand but only the A-5 cards will prevent him from busting. If a dealer is showing a 10 value card, for example, the range of cards that will help him is very small.

If the player splits his A-A he’s got a much stronger hand. Most casinos deal only a single card on top of split aces but any 8-9-10 value card gives him a very strong hand. At many casinos, he can double off of the split aces or re-split if he’s dealt another ace. There’s no guarantee it will work out perfectly but the player is better off. Instead of one week hand he’s got two hands that could produce either a strong draw or some more tactical options.

Splitting 8-8 is a classic defensive move. Instead of a very weak 16 the player now has options. Once again, this doesn’t always work the way the player draws it up but nothing in casino gambling ever does.

AS AN OFFENSIVE MOVE

When a dealer is showing a very weak upcard (eg: a 5 or 6) it’s time to go on offense. In theory, as long as the player doesn’t ‘bust’ he’s a favorite to win the hand. So why not just ‘stand’ and wait for the dealer to play out his hand? Simple–because you can’t ‘bust’ if you take one card on a split A-A or 8-8. And when the dealer is showing a very weak upcard you’re better off with two hands than one. If all goes like we’ve drawn it up, the dealer will bust and both hands will win.