Splitting pairs is an important part of blackjack basic strategy. Many beginners will learn when to hit and when to stand, but don’t memorize the strategy for splitting pairs or doubling. By excluding those beneficial moves, though, you increase the house edge to 10%. Playing with proper basic strategy, including when to split and double, however, can reduce the house edge to as low as 0.5%. Therefore, knowing when to split pairs is essential. The first hand that we will cover is a pair of aces.
An ace is the most powerful card in blackjack because it is the only card that is adaptable. The player can decide to make the ace be worth one point or eleven, whichever is more beneficial. By default, an ace will start out as an eleven unless it would cause you to bust, since you want a higher hand total. However, once you draw a card that would cause you to bust, that simply makes the ace a one and turns your soft hand into a hard hand. The power of an ace is that when you have a soft hand, it is impossible for you to bust, so there is no risk in trying to improve your hand.
That is not the only benefit of having an ace, though. With an ace, it’s possible that you will draw a natural blackjack, which is an ace and a 10-value card (making 21 points with two cards). A natural blackjack is the best hand in the game and it pays out 3:2. Since there are 4 different cards that have a value of ten (Jack, Queen, King, 10), when you start a hand with an ace you have a 4/13 chance of drawing a natural blackjack.
For these reasons, any time you have a pair of aces, you should always split them. It makes no difference what card the dealer is showing. Together that hand is nothing but a soft 12 (with one ace as an eleven and one ace as a one). Twelve is a stiff hand that is likely to bust but is also likely to be outdrawn by the dealer. By splitting the aces, though, you take one weak hand and turn it into two hands that have the potential to be very strong. Even though you have to double your bet to split, turning one bad hand into two probable good hands is always worth the risk.