The Split Move in Blackjack

Published on: May 12, 2010 

Many new players stay away from the split move in blackjack. Understanding this move requires additional effort and players feel that they are not losing much by ignoring this move. This is where they go wrong. This article first explains the split move, how this gives an advantage to the player and when it should be used.

When players are dealt two cards of equal rank they can exercise their right to split. All 10 value cards are considered to be of equal rank. When the player splits he is effectively playing two hands. Therefore he must first place another wager equal to his original wager. Each of the two cards dealt become the first cards of the new hands. The player is then dealt a second card to each hand. Thereafter he plays each hand in turn in the usual manner.

Just because a player is allowed to split it does not mean that he should split every time the opportunity arises. Also just because he does not have to split it does not mean that he should refrain from doing so every time. The idea behind the split move is to convert one weak hand into two strong ones. The player will not always win after splitting. In fact the cards could fall in such a manner that he was better off without splitting. But these are conclusions reached after all cards have been dealt. Casino gambling is based on giving oneself the best chance to win. Suppose you wager $1 and are dealt a weak hand. The chances are that you will lose $1. However if by splitting you can convert the weak hand to two strong ones, then you stand the chance of winning $2. The split move must be viewed in this perspective.

Now let us understand how one weak hand can be converted to two strong ones. Suppose the player is dealt a pair of sevens. His hand value is 14. Hitting has a very high chance of drawing a card of value 8 or more and thus going bust. Standing on 14 is also a poor situation because the dealer has a high chance of bettering that. Splitting a pair of sevens gives two hands with a value of 7 after the first card. When the second card is dealt each hand can be expected to have a value of around 17. This gives the player a stronger position because a value of 17 is not so easy to beat.

Let us consider an example of when not to split. Suppose the player is dealt a pair of fives. His hand value is 10. If he hits he can expect to be near 20, which would make him almost impregnable. If he splits then he has two hands with a value of 5 after the first card. After the second card he can expect each hand to have a value of around 15, which would put him in no mans land. Hence a pair of fives should not be split.

Other hands can be analyzed in this manner. The simple rules of when to split have been formulated and are as under.

  • Always split eights and aces
  • Never split fours, fives and tens
  • Split other pairs unless the dealer’s up card is eight or higher ranked

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