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How the Blackjack Split Rule Works


blackjack split rulesThe blackjack split rule differs according to the variant of the casino game you are playing. One of the conditions common across most blackjack variations is that only the cards initially dealt to you can be split.

Splitting your hand can give you extra opportunities to win more cash. However, some players are unsure of when to split their hand. After all, sometimes, an unnecessary split can lead to a loss that could have been avoided.

Below we tell you all you need to know about splitting in blackjack, including when and when not to split.

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How Blackjack Splits Work

You can’t split just any hand in blackjack. You need to have two cards of the same value in your hand. When you split, you separate your single hand into two separate hands. You will then receive an extra card to complete each hand.

In some variations, rules stipulate that you only get one extra card for both hands. However, in other variations, you get a card for each hand.

Playing two hands means you will need to place another bet on the newly created second hand. The bet must be equal to your initial bet. Rules on doubling down differ from variation to variation. Some blackjack games will allow you to double down on your hands, whereas others don’t.

Game-Specific Split Rules

  • Lots of games don’t allow you to split ten-value cards unless they are the same type. For example, two jacks, two queens, etc.
  • Doubling down isn’t a guaranteed option.
  • The number of times you can split depends heavily on the variation of the game you are playing. Some games only allow you to split once, whereas others allow you to split as much as three times.
  • A natural blackjack derived from a split does not pay out the same as a natural.
  • Generally, you can only ask for one additional card on a split.
how blackjack splitting works

When You Should Split in Blackjack

Over the years, it has become apparent that some hands make better splits than others based on probabilities. Thus, there is a list of hands basic strategy always recommends that you split on, including:

Aces

Double aces are the perfect split. So much so that most casinos will not allow you to double down on split aces. You should always split your pair of aces, as else your hand will have a value of 11.

If you split the two, you give yourself the chance of getting two blackjack hands. This is especially true when you consider that there are so many cards with a 10-point value in the deck.

Eights

A hand with a score of 16 is considered the worst blackjack hand. If you hit, you stand a good chance of going over. But the score itself is not high enough to ensure you will beat the dealer.

As such, splitting a pair of eights gives you a chance of making two more competitive hands. After all, a score of 18 is much harder to beat than 16, especially if a dealer hits on a soft 17.

Hands You Should Never Split in Blackjack

Research into hand probabilities has also generated a list of hands you should never split, which includes:

Tens

A pair of tens in the second-best hand in blackjack. It is unlikely you would improve your hand by splitting. More likely, you give yourself a chance of getting the dread 16 or worse with two separate hands.

Fours

Splitting a pair of fours is useless. Statistically, you would need to hope to get too many specific cards to ensure that either of your hands wins. At least, if you keep your pair of fours together, you can hope to hit 18 or 19 with one additional card.

Fives

A hand of 10 is great. One additional card could give you a score between 18 and 21 if you are lucky. With so many 10-value cards, a hand of 20 is not out of the question. If you split your hand, the highest hand you can hope for is 16, which nobody wants.

Sixes

Splitting your sixes is a bit of a hit or miss situation. As mentioned, a hand of 16 is the worst possible hand in blackjack. However, you aren’t guaranteed to get a ten if you split your hand, which puts the player in a precarious situation. Should you split your 6s, or shouldn’t you?

Based on experience, we don’t think you should. But basic strategy says you should wait to see the dealer’s face-up card before you decide.

splitting in blackjack

What About Other Hands?

Most hands require you to base your decision to split on the cards the dealer is showing you, including:

  • Twos
  • Threes
  • Sevens
  • Nines
  • Sixes

Basic strategy details all the rules you need to know about when to split these hands. So, we recommend that you check out our dedicated guide.

Check out our other blackjack rules: