Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Fives

Today I am continuing my series of the proper strategy for splitting pairs in blackjack. Many of the pair-splitting strategies are complex and your decision depends on what cards the dealer shows and what, therefore, the dealer is most likely to have. That is then combined with the odds of you drawing a certain card and determining what hand you would have if you don’t split and what hands you would have if you do. For the novice blackjack player, it can be a lot to take in. Luckily, the strategy for splitting fives is considerably easy to remember.

When do you split a pair of fives? Never.

Well, that was easy, right? No matter what card the dealer shows, you should never split a pair of fives. This is simply playing the odds. Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that 4/13 of the cards have a value of 10, so you are more likely to draw a 10-value card than a card of any other value. If you split a pair of fives, then you have two hands that start with a five. If you receive a 10 when you hit, then you would have 15, which is a stiff hand.

Stiff hands are hands anywhere from 12-16 and they are called that because chances are you will lose no matter what you do. The hand values are not high enough to beat the dealer unless he busts, yet if you hit you are likely to bust yourself.

If you have a five, then there are eight cards in the deck (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A) that would result in you being dealt a stiff hand. Or think of it this way: If you start a hand with a five, more than half (8/13) of the cards that you can be dealt will hurt you.

For that reason, it is better to keep the fives together for a hard hand of 10. A hard 10 is a good hand because you have a high probability of drawing a 10-value card, which would give you a total of 20, which can only be beat by a dealer’s 21. Or look at it this way: If you start with a 10, seven cards (8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A) can give you an 18 or better, which are excellent hands to have.

So it really is a simple decision. If you split the pair of fives, then 8/13 of the cards in the deck can hurt you, but if you do not split then 7/13 of the cards can give you a good hand. For that reason, regardless of the dealer’s up card, you should never split a pair of fives.