The Basics of Splitting in Blackjack

We’ve talked about the basics of doubling down in blackjack and now we’ll continue by talking about the other major tactical option available to players. A player can split their hand when dealt a pair of the same value. For example, a player is dealt two 8’s (8-8) and the correct strategy is usually to split them. When a hand is split, the dealer will deal to each hand individually. The player must place an amount equal to his original bet on the table for the split hand.

The dealer will initially deal a card for each card we’ve split. From that point, each split hand is played the same way as any other blackjack hand. The specific rules vary from one casino to another but generally speaking a player has the option to hit, stand and in some cases double down or split again.

There are a few other rules in use at some casinos that are worth mentioning here. Some casinos will deal only one card to a split Ace. Under this rule, the player has only the option to stand or fold following the card deal. In addition, most blackjack games pay a split ace and a 10 as a garden variety 21 (paying 1 to 1) and not a blackjack (paying 3 to 2). Even so, we’ve discussed in the past how the correct strategy is to always split your aces even though the rules may discourage it. If you don’t split your aces, you’re holding a 12 which is a pretty weak hand.

Another rule that varies widely from one casino to another involves splitting 10’s. Some casinos will allow players to split any two ten value cards. The ten value cards in the deck are the four 10’s and the 12 face cards. At a casino that allows players to split any 10 value card you could split any of these hands:

10-10
Q-K
10-J
K-K

and so forth. Other casinos will only allow the player to split ‘matching cards’. In the above list of hands, only the 10-10 and K-K could be split under these rules.

Finally, every casino has their own roles about how many times you can re-split a hand. For example, let’s say you’re dealt:

8-8

You correctly split the hand and receive the following cards:

8-K 8-8

You should obviously stand with the first hand. The second hand could be re-split under the rules of most casinos. So we re-split the two 8’s:

8-K 8-A 8-8

This time, we’re dealt an Ace and another 8. In theory, we should once again split the pair of 8’s. Most casinos will allow three or four re-splits. In some casinos, re-splitting Aces is not allowed.

In subsequent articles, we’ll talk more about the strategy of when to split.