Dealers are what makes the game of Blackjack tick
Home | Learn | Blackjack | Blackjack Splits: What, Why, and When?

Blackjack Splits: What, Why, and When?

January 8, 2024

Even beginner blackjack players know that it’s a game of hitting or standing. However, there are different options available to the savvy blackjack player.

Splitting is one such option – and if you don’t know when to split and when to stand, you’re leaving money on the table.

What does splitting mean in blackjack?

The split betting option is a powerful opportunity for blackjack players to narrow the house edge.

When you are dealt a pair of hole cards of the same rank, you may elect to split. This divides your blackjack hand into two extra hands at the cost of doubling your bet.

Once you split and place your additional bet, your cards will be divided into two hands, and each will have an extra card dealt to them. Note that you can split cards of equal rank in terms of blackjack scoring – so you can split a hand comprised of a king and a queen, or a jack and a ten.

Once you have split your hands, you continue as though you are simply playing two hands – just like you are betting on two different boxes.

Blackjack splitting rules

Some blackjack games allow you to split more than once, turning one hand into three or four or more. Other games have rules about whether or not you can double down after a split.

Generally, if you split aces then you are only dealt a single extra card and can take no further part in the hand – a little like when you double down.

When can you split in blackjack?

At any time after receiving your two hole cards and before taking any further action, you can elect to split your hand if it is made up of two identically scoring cards. In online blackjack, you simply need to press the button. In live blackjack, you can place a second bet and say “split” or hold up two fingers.

How many times can you split in blackjack?

It depends entirely on the game. As with many blackjack bets, there are different rules depending on the blackjack variant you’re playing or even the casino hosting the table.

Generally you can split indefinitely, with the exception of aces as noted above – although the odds of being able to split more than twice are very low indeed, simply due to the lack of available cards in the deck.

When should you split in blackjack?

Because blackjack has a set strategy and different rule variants, the situations in which you should split can vary from game to game. However, there are certain rules that all good blackjack players follow regardless of the stakes or table.

Why you should never split 10s in blackjack

Splitting tens is always a bad strategic decision at the blackjack table. When you have 20, you have a very promising hand that is extremely likely to beat the dealer. It is very unlikely that either of your new split hands will outperform your original 20 – so stick with it.

Why you should always split 8s in blackjack

A pair of eights hits the sweet spot for blackjack splits. Generally, with the dealer aiming for 17, a pair of eights (totalling 16) is a poor hand. Drawing anything above a five will lose you the hand, and you’re relying solely on the dealer to go bust to win with your 16. Splitting eights gives you a much better chance of finding a good hand.

On splitting aces in blackjack

An ace is a powerful card in blackjack, because when paired with a card ranked ten it’s an automatic winner. Given that there are more cards worth ten points than any other value in the shoe, it makes sense that you’d want to start all your hands with aces. Splitting aces gives you two shots at blackjack.

Why you should never split 4s or 5s in blackjack

With a pair of fives, you have a hand worth 10 points. It’s far better value to double down, unless the dealer has a nine, ten, or ace showing. In that case, while you don’t want to double down, you also don’t want to put additional money on the line against such a potentially strong hand.

As for fours, an eight is one of the “best worst” hands you can have in blackjack as it is impossible to go bust with your next card. If you split, there are only a handful of cards that will leave you better off than with your pair of fours.

Blackjack split strategy

Apart from the hard and fast rules outlined above, it won’t surprise you to learn that there are several situations in which whether or not you should split depends on the situation at the tables.

Splitting 2s, 3s, or 7s

Unless the dealer has an eight or better showing, you should split these hands. They’re very poor starting hole cards, and there’s a very good chance that you’ll make two better hands – and you’re almost certain to make at least one better hand.

Splitting 9s

Obviously, you won’t hit on 18, but an 18 is the “worst best” hand. If the dealer has a nine or lower, you should take your chances and split. However, if the dealer is showing a 7 then there’s a high chance they’ll have 17 and be forced to stand – so stick with your 18 in that case.

Splitting 6s

If the dealer has a six or lower, then they are in a poor position. So are you if you have 12, but their hand is so likely to bust that you want to play twice against them. Split your sixes and you have a great chance at improving one or both hands to an 8, 9, 10, or 11.