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Blackjack split rules & tips: When to split and how to do it

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Simon Young

September 18th, 2020

If we were to boil down a blackjack strategy to one simple rule, it would be: if the dealer looks weak, you should be aggressive and get as much money on the table as you can.

In other words, if the dealer shows an upcard like a 4, 5, or 6, then you’ll want to double down with a broader range of hands than usual, or, if you have the opportunity, split. Always remember, the dealer’s face-down card is most likely to be valued at 10, so he will be forced to draw again and likely go bust.

What does split mean in blackjack?

If you are dealt two cards of the same value, you have the opportunity to split them, then you will be dealt another card on each. You are now playing two hands and must match your initial wager for the new, second hand.

The key advantage of splitting is that you now have twice as much money on the table, perfect if the dealer looks weak. Presuming the dealer goes on to bust, you now win twice as much money than you would otherwise have done.

In most live and online casino games nowadays, you will not be allowed to play further with your split hands; you must stand no matter what your total comes to.

Should you split all pairs in blackjack?

Don’t get too enthusiastic with your splitting. Remember, you have to pay more to split, so you should do so when the odds are in your favor. We’ve already established that is when the dealer looks weak, but even in this situation, you should not split if you are dealt two tens. The reason is you already have 20 and are extremely likely to win the hand, so why risk losing out – twice over – if your split goes wrong?

You can always split aces because you have a high chance of making 21, twice. Also, split eights, no matter what the dealer shows, because starting with an 8 can easily lead to a good finishing total. But your splitting potential for other pairs diminishes as the size of the pair goes down.

  • Split 7s if the dealer shows 7 or less
  • Split 6s if the dealer shows 6 or less
  • Do not split 5s, but double down if the dealer shows 9 or less
  • Do not split 4s
  • Split 3s only if the dealer shows 4-7
  • Split 2s if the dealer shows 3-7

By following this blackjack strategy you will be playing in an optimum fashion. It’s a good idea to look online for a blackjack betting chart and print it out. Refer to it often while you get used to playing a particular way.

A sensible strategy will never guarantee a profit since the casino has a small house edge in blackjack. But it will help you minimize your losses, and certainly increase your chances of making a short-term profit over a single session.

The disadvantage of splitting cards in blackjack

Like all forms of gambling, when you split blackjack cards, you must weigh up risk against reward. While you stand to win twice as much in a hand by splitting, logic dictates that you can also lose twice as much if it goes wrong.

The risk is why we don’t recommend splitting every single pair, all of the time. Choose your moment wisely. If you’re unsure, don’t split, no one is going to judge you for it.

You must also learn to accept that even when you play correctly and pay to split in the right circumstances, the dealer can still get lucky and win. This is part of the game, and you must realize your decision was the right one over the long term. Don’t get frustrated because that might affect your good judgment, which is never good at the tables.

Try out when you can split in blackjack

The best way to become accustomed to splitting in blackjack is by trying it out. You can do this risk-free on TwinSpires Casino, where the blackjack tables can be played with play money (not the live dealer tables). Play a few hands and, when you get dealt pairs, try out the splitting strategy to see how you get on.

Once you see that by playing correctly, you might win more than you lose, it’s time to play for real money. Make your first deposit, and make sure you take advantage of the new player welcome bonus.