Posts Tagged ‘splitting pairs’

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting 8s

Monday, July 18th, 2011

When you are learning basic blackjack strategy, some of the decisions seem like common sense while others might have you scratching your head. The important thing to remember is that the strategy is designed to give you the maximum odds over the long run. By long run, I don’t mean 100 hands. It’s more like thousands.

Take for example a pair of eights. Basic strategy says to split that pair every time. That includes against the best dealer hands, like a face card of 10 or ace. A lot of people, even people who call themselves blackjack experts, advise against that, because you are taking a hand that isn’t good and doubling your wager, in the hopes of drawing two good hands. If the dealer already has a good hand, it might be better to cut your losses, they say.

In the short run, tucking your tail between your legs against a dealer 10 or ace might make you look good. However, in the long run, those times when you made double the money will cancel that out. It is important to note that you’re still expected to lose more often than not. If you split your eights against a dealer 10, you are probably going to lose. The same goes for if you stand or hit. In the long run, though, you will lose less money by splitting in that situation.

Some blackjack players will advise that you stand or hit against the dealer’s power hands. That is thinking short term and while those players swear it is the right move, statistics say that in the long run it is not the best move. If you don’t believe me, do your own math. If you’re not a fan of math, just remember this strategy chart.

Blackjack strategy: Splitting eights against dealer ten

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Have you seen the movie 21? It’s a pretty entertaining movie starring some good actors, including Kevin Spacey, and is based on the famous MIT blackjack team. Though the movie is fun to watch, like most Hollywood films, it’s not incredibly accurate. There are many mistakes made in their card counting techniques and some mistakes that even violate blackjack basic strategy.

One such mistake is when it is said that splitting a pair of eights against a dealer ten or ace is for suckers. That’s kind of an odd thing to say, considering that you can glance at any basic strategy chart and learn that’s not the case. Not only is that not a sucker’s move, but basic strategy says to always split a pair of eights against any dealer hand, including a ten or ace.

In the movie, the thinking is that if the dealer has an ace or a ten, he has a good hand and you don’t want to double your bet. However, if you have a pair of eights and decide to hit, you will most likely bust but if you decide to stand, you will only win if the dealer busts, since you have a stiff hand of 16. Trading in a hand of 16 for a chance of two hands of 18 is a bet that you should take every time.

If the dealer shows a ten, there is a 4/13 chance of him having a ten in the hole to have a hand of 20. In most cases, the dealer would have already checked for an ace. However, there is a 9/13 chance the dealer has a hand that beats your hand of 16. If you split you have better odds, though your odds still aren’t good.

Starting two hands with an eight gives you a 4/13 chance, for each hand, of turning that hand into an 18. Even if you don’t draw a ten, though, 8 is a much better way to start a hand than with a stiff 16. Without going into all of that math and statistics, just let me say that if you split eights against a dealer’s ten or ace, you will still lose money in the long run, but you will lose about half as much as if you don’t split. That is because in many cases you’ll have at least one of your hands beat the dealer.

So despite what Kevin Spacey’s character would have you believe, splitting eights against a dealer ten or ace is not a sucker’s bet.

Double Down Strategy: Pair of Fives

Friday, March 26th, 2010

So far in the series on double down strategy I have covered what to do with a hard 9-11 and soft 13-18. In the final part of this series I will now discuss what to do when you have a pair of fives.

As you learned in the series on splitting pairs, you should never split a pair of fives. That is because blackjack basic strategy takes into account the high number of 10-value cards in a deck. There are four different cards with a value of 10 (10, J, Q, K) while there is only one card for each other value. For that reason, the dealer is more likely to have a 10 in the hole than any other card and he and the players are more likely to draw a 10 than any other card.

Taking that into account, splitting a pair of fives is bad for two reasons. First, if you start two hands with a five, if you draw a 10 that gives you hands of 15, which are stiff hands that are likely to bust but not high enough to beat a dealer hand if he doesn’t bust. Another reason not to split a pair of fives is that if you already have 10, taking a hit gives you a good chance of drawing a hand of 20, which can only be beaten by one hand: 21.

Okay, so we’ve established that you shouldn’t split a pair of fives. What should you do then? If the dealer shows a 10 or ace as an up card, you should take a hit. If the dealer shows anything else, you should double down.

The reasoning for this again goes back to the fact that there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value. Therefore, if you double down and take one extra card, you have a good chance of drawing a 20. If the dealer shows a two through a nine, he has a good chance of having a hand of 12-19. All of those hands would lose to your 20. Since you are likely to have a hand that the dealer can’t beat in that situation, doubling your wager is a good idea.

However, if the dealer has a 10 or an ace, he likely has a hand that even a 20 can’t beat. In either case, he could have a hand of 21. If he shows a 10, he could have a hand of 20, which would be a push against your hand if you also have a 20. For these reasons, it’s best to simply hit rather than doubling your hand.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Tens

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

At long last, we are now at the end of my series on blackjack basic strategy for splitting pairs. I hope you’re as excited to reach the finale as I. In this series, we have dealt with some pairs that you should always split, some that you only split if the dealer is showing certain cards, and a pair that you never split. Today we are discussing a pair of tens, which is another pair that you should never split.

First of all, when I say a pair of tens, I’m referring to any card with a value of 10, which can be a 10, Jack, Queen or King. If you have a pair of any of those cards, you should never split the pair, no matter what the dealer shows. Instead, you should stand on this hand.

Why should you never split a pair of tens? Well, first of all, do the math. 10 + 10 = 20. If you have a pair of tens, you have a hard 20. The only thing that can beat a 20 is a hand of 21, so your chances of winning with that hand are very good. If you split that pair then you are both reducing your chance of winning and doubling your bet, which is not wise strategy.

Some people think that splitting tens is a good idea because it gives you a chance of getting two hands of 20, and after all, two are better than one, right? This is a flawed philosophy, though. Yes, it’s true that since there are more 10-value cards in the deck than any other value, you have a better chance of drawing a ten than anything else. Basic strategy takes into account the probability of drawing a ten. However, splitting a pair of tens is not playing the odds and here is why.

If you split the pair and start out each hand with a ten, there are four cards (10, J, Q, K) that can bring you back to a total of 20 (where you started) and only one card (ace) that will improve your hand. Therefore, 5/13 cards will help you when you split a pair of tens and 8/13 cards will hurt you. Any decision that results in a 62% chance that your hand will get worse is not a good decision. For that reason, the odds say to stand when you have a pair of tens and hope the dealer doesn’t have a 21.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Nines

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Knowing whether or not to split a pair is an essential part of blackjack basic strategy. Sometimes the decision is simple, such as that you always split aces and never split fives. Other times, however, the strategy is more complex and depends on what cards the dealer shows. The most complex of all the pair splitting strategies is for a pair of nines.

If you have a pair of nines, what you do depends on the dealer’s up card. If the dealer is showing a two through a six, you should split your pair. If the dealer shows an eight or nine, you should also split your pair. If the dealer shows an ace, seven or 10, however, you should stand. This is the first pair where standing is an option in basic strategy. If you have a pair of nines, you should never hit. Now let’s look at this step by step.

Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value (4/13). For that reason, when taking a hit you are more likely to draw a 10 than anything else and the dealer is more likely to have a 10 in the hole than anything else.

For that reason, if the dealer shows a two through a six, he has a good chance of having a stiff hand (12-16). The dealer cannot stand on a stiff hand and since he has to hit, has a high likelihood of busting. If the dealer busts, you win no matter what cards you have, as long as you don’t bust as well. Therefore, by splitting the pair you are doubling your bet and stand to make twice as much money if the dealer busts, as the odds say is likely.

If the dealer shows an eight or nine, the odds say he is likely to have an 18 or 19. If he does and you stand on your 18, then you would either push or lose, respectively. Normally when you think the dealer has your cards beat you would take a hit, but doing so here is risky because you have an 18. With a hand that high, only 3 cards (ace, 2, 3) will help you and 10 cards (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will cause you to bust. Taking 3/13 odds is not a good idea. However, since your 18 is made of a pair of nines, you have the chance to improve your hand by splitting the pair. Once you split, you are starting each hand with a nine. Since you are more likely to receive a 10 card when taking a hit, you have a 4/13 chance of drawing a 19 and zero chance of busting (at least on the first hit).

If the dealer shows an ace or a 10, you are going to lose more often than not. An ace can stand for 11 or one point at the dealer’s discretion and can be used to make a blackjack. A 10 has a good chance of giving the dealer a 20, which can only be beaten by you drawing a 21. Therefore, since you are likely to lose if the dealer has either of those cards, you don’t want to put more money on the hand by splitting. You don’t want to hit to improve your hand because, as mentioned earlier, when hitting an 18 you have 10/13 odds of busting.

If the dealer shows a seven, he has a high probability of having a hand of 17. Since you already have 18, you have that hand beaten. For that reason, standing is the wise strategy. Next we will complete the pair-splitting guide by covering a pair of tens.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Eights

Monday, March 15th, 2010

When it comes to blackjack basic strategy, knowing when to split is important but is not necessarily as easy to remember or understand as when to hit or stand. When deciding whether to split a pair, you take into consideration not only your own cards and the hands you are likely to be dealt, but in many cases you also have to consider what hand the dealer likely has and how that would affect your decision. Luckily, however, with some pairs the decision is easy.

If you have a pair of eights, you will always split that pair. It doesn’t matter what card the dealer is showing. The reason for that is that a hard 16 is a bad hand. It is a stiff hand (12-16), which is the worst kind of hand in blackjack. Stiff hands are bad because you have a high probability of losing no matter what you do. If you stand, your hand total isn’t very high so you have a good chance of being outdrawn by the dealer. In fact, since the dealer will always hit until a 17, you will always be outdrawn with a stiff hand unless the dealer busts.

However, if you hit a stiff hand you have a good chance of busting. For example, if you have a hard 16, there are only five cards that can improve your hand (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5). Conversely, there are eight cards that can cause you to bust (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K). For that reason, any time you can avoid having a stiff hand you do so.

By splitting a pair of eights you trade in a stiff hand of a hard 16 for two hands starting with an eight. Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that you are more likely to draw a card with a value of 10 than any other value, since 4/13 of the cards have a value of 10. By splitting a stiff hand and giving yourself the potential for two hands of 18, you have greatly increased your chances of winning. However, even if you don’t get a hand as good as 18, if you end up with anything other than a stiff hand (or busting), then splitting that pair was beneficial.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Sevens

Friday, March 12th, 2010

To be honest, I’m running out of things to say in the introductions in my pair-splitting series. This is the eighth one so far, after all. The important thing to remember when deciding whether to split a pair is that there are two things you need to take into consideration: how splitting would affect your hand, and the likelihood of the dealer having a better hand. Splitting isn’t always about giving yourself two awesome hands. Sometimes it’s about doubling your bet because you think the dealer is going to bust.

If you have a pair of sevens, whether or not you split the pair depends on the dealer’s cards. If the dealer shows a two through a seven, you should split. If the dealer shows anything else, then you should take a hit.

Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that 4/13 of the cards have a value of 10. Therefore, any card that is drawn has a higher probability of having a value of 10 than having any other value. That includes the dealer’s hole card, which you can’t see. Therefore, if the dealer shows a two through a seven, you need to remember that the dealer has good odds of having a stiff hand (12-16).  If the dealer has a stiff hand he cannot stand, so he would have to hit. Hitting a stiff hand results in busting more often than not. Therefore, splitting your hand is wise strategy because it doubles your bet and would result in your making twice as much money in the event that the dealer busts.

If the dealer has an eight or better, however, he has a good chance of having a hand of 18 or better, which is tough to beat. For that reason, you do not want to split your pair in that situation simply because you don’t want to double your bet on a hand where you don’t have good odds of winning.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Sixes

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The strategy for splitting pairs in blackjack is often misunderstood. It’s not always about giving yourself the best hand. At times, it’s about taking advantage of the likelihood of the dealer having a bad hand. If the dealer is likely to bust, you may want to double your bet so that if he does, you win more money. One such case comes into play when you have a pair of sixes.

According to blackjack basic strategy, when you have a pair of sixes, whether or not you split the pair depends on the dealer’s cards. If the dealer shows a two through a six, then you should split. If the dealer shows anything else, you take a hit.

Basic strategy takes into account the fact that you are statistically more likely to draw a card with a value of 10 than a card of any other value, since 4/13 of the cards have a value of 10. For that reason, basic strategy considers that the dealer is likely to have a ten in the hole. Taking that into account, if the dealer has a two through a six as an up card, he is likely to have a hand of 12 through 16, which is a stiff hand.

Stiff hands are bad for both the player and the dealer, because it is a hand that isn’t very high but is high enough to bust. With a dealer, though, there is no option of standing on a stiff hand. They have to draw. When they do, they are likely to go over the limit of 21, in which case you would win. For that reason, it is a good idea to split your pair of sixes, because that doubles the amount of money you have riding on the bet. After all, if you are likely to win, why wouldn’t you want to double the bet?

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Fives

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

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.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Fours

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

To split or not to split, that is the question. Whether ‘tis wiser in the mind to suffer through a low hand in quest of outrageous fortune, or to take a second bet against the dealer and by doubling beat them… Okay, let me stop now because Shakespeare must be rolling over in his grave. I’m really sorry, Will.

It is a tough question in blackjack. When you have a pair, should you split or not. A lot of people are timid about splitting pairs because you have to double your bet and some people don’t like to put extra money on a hand. However, in certain situations it is the right call that gives you the best odds of making money at the blackjack table.

This time I am discussing what to do if you have a pair of fours. If you are dealt a couple fours, you should only split if the dealer shows a five or six. If the dealer has anything else as an upcard, you should take a hit.

Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that there are better odds of drawing a 10-value card than a card with any other value, since 4/13 of the cards are worth 10 points. If you have a pair of fours, that gives you a total of eight. If you were to draw a 10, that would give you a total of 18, which is difficult for a dealer to beat. Since 18 is a good hand and taking a hit gives you good odds of having an 18, keeping the fours together and drawing another card is the wise strategy.

If the dealer shows a five or six, however, the percentages say to split your fours. That is because if the dealer shows a five or six, he has a good chance of having a stiff hand (12-16). A dealer cannot stand on a stiff hand, so they have to draw, which will usually result in the dealer busting. Therefore, since the dealer has a good chance of losing, doubling your bet is a good idea. If the dealer busts, then it doesn’t matter what hand you have as long as you don’t bust.

Sometimes in blackjack you try to maximize your hand, while at other times you play off the hope that the dealer has a bad hand. You don’t need a good hand to win at blackjack; you only need a hand better than the dealer’s. That goes for splitting pairs, too.