Blackjack Strategy: Splitting and Doubling Down Explained
Regardless of whether you’re playing blackjack online or in a land-based casino, the game will inevitably be stacked in the casino’s favour. Indeed, if we take all standard variations away from the format, the house edge rests at 8%.
This, of course, is not ideal – but then Blackjack isn’t your normal casino game. An understanding of basic blackjack strategy can dramatically reduce the house edge, so that online blackjack casinos may become just that little bit more likely to pay out.
Card counting can decrease the house edge to 0.28%, but in land-based casino Blackjack this behaviour will get you thrown out while computer software in the online world makes counting really hard to do. So, it is best to learn some of the simpler, more transparent tactical moves that can seriously benefit you and your chip stack.
First off, ‘splitting’. You are offered the chance to split your two hole cards if they are a pair. This occurs immediately after you are dealt them, and is not a decision that can be taken later. If you choose to split your pair, your cards will be split into two standard hands as you match the original bet with a second wager. As a result, you now have the chance to double your winnings – or your losses if it does not work out.
While splitting raises the stakes and always provides a little more excitement, you must learn when it is advisable and when it is not. It is always best to split in live blackjack and online blackjack if you have a pair of aces or a pair of eights.
Because there are more 10-value cards than any other card in the deck (16 in total), there is a good statistical chance of hitting at least one 21 when splitting aces. Also, two separate hands of eight are much easier to play with than one hand of 16, which will very rarely win.
If dealt a pair of 10s, be sure to stick – you are not likely to improve on your hand with anything else. From here on down (in terms of hand value), it’s important to take careful note of what the dealer has in front of you. This is because, statistically, for any given pair, there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ option to split when faced with certain cards.
If dealt a pair of nines, the statistically best option is to split if the dealer has a two, three, four, five, six, eight or nine. However, if the dealer has a seven, 10 or ace it makes more sense to stand.
Similarly, if you have a pair of sixes and the dealer has a card between two and six, you should split. Otherwise, take another card. If you have sevens and the dealer has a card between two and seven, you should split – otherwise, you should twist on the original pair.
Similarly, if you have a pair of sixes and the dealer has a card between two and six, you should split – otherwise, take another card. If you have fours and the dealer has a five or six, then split – in any other situation, take another card. If you have either a pair of twos or threes, split if the dealer has any card between two and seven – if not, hit.
Another online Blackjack and land-based Blackjack feature is the concept of the ‘double down’. This is when the house permits you to double the size of your wager after you have been dealt your initial cards. In return for allowing this, the house demands that you are dealt one – and only one – additional card.
Strategically speaking, it usually only makes sense to double down when your hand value is equal to 10 or 11. This is because, for both circumstances, you have a 30.7% chance of hitting another 10-value card and therefore making a high hand.
If your original cards make more than 11 you should never double down, while if you have a hard nine or eight in your hand, it’s best to simply twist – unless you think the dealer may go bust.
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