Player's Edge | Why am I always supposed to split Aces and 8s in Blackjack?

Why am I always supposed to split Aces and 8s in Blackjack?

The aces are easy—you will have two chances to get 21! 

With 8s, mathematical analysis shows that splitting them loses less often over the long run than any other move you could make. Still a tough hand though. 

In most versions of Blackjack, when you are dealt a pair (two of the same card), you have the option to split them into two new hands. When you split, you must match your bet on the new hand, effectively doubling the amount wagered.

You now have two chances to beat the dealer—or two chances to lose.

After the split, you are dealt two more cards, one for each hand. Play then proceeds, with you playing both hands.

Why split two Aces?

Should you receive two aces, the split is an easy move because an Ace is the most powerful card in Blackjack. Any card drawn next that is valued at 10 gives you 21.

The deck has more 10-value cards than any other single value—10s, Jacks, Queens, and Kings all count as 10. So, you combine an Ace with the higher probability of drawing a 10-value card, thus increasing your chances of beating the dealer and winning.

What are your other options?

An ace can count as either a 1 or an 11, so you could play either of those values. Or, you could add the 1 and the 11 to total twelve. If you draw a ten-value card against that 12, you will bust immediately at twenty-two!

Splitting Aces offers two chances for the strongest hand in the game. Draw a 10 after splitting, and you’ve got 21. Draw a 10 on the other Ace, and you’ve got two 21s.

Note: After splitting those Aces, any draw of a 10-card isn’t considered a Blackjack hand, so you’ll be paid at even money.

But splitting Aces every time is mathematically the best move possible, against any possible dealer up-card.

Why split two 8s?

The hard fact is that the dealer is favored to win when you hold a pair of 8s.

Together, your cards total 16–the weakest, most dangerous hand in Blackjack. The most likely single card to draw in any situation is a 10 card, as mentioned, because each deck has more 10-cards than any other value.

Draw a 10 against your two 8s, combining for 16, and you bust. As a matter of fact, any card over 5 will bust you.

What are the possibilities? If the dealer shows 6, 5, 4 or another ‘bust’ card, you are playing against the weakest ‘up’ cards possible. Splitting 8s makes sense here, because you have increased your odds of drawing a better hand.

If the dealer shows a 7 or an 8—your spilt 8 could easily draw a pair of 10s and beat a potential dealer 17 with both hands, or tie a dealer 18.

But what if the dealer is showing a 10 card? Why would you want to split two 8s against a dealer’s 10 and possibly create two losing hands instead of one?

In this situation, the dealer may already have 19 or 20.

Simply put, the math says that over the long-term, you have the best chance of minimizing your losing hands by splitting the 8s.

The dealer has the upper hand when you combine your pair of 8s against her 9 or 10. With a dealer presenting 10, computer analysis shows her hand will hit a total of 17-21 about 77% of the time, busting only about 23% of the time.

Let’s quantify the benefit of splitting 8s. If you bet $1.00 each time you combined two 8s against a dealer 10, you’d win 23 times, or $23.00, and lose 77 times, or $77.00, for a net loss of $54.00 after 100 hands.

But split those 8s, and you change the math.

Computer analysis* shows that each time you play an 8 against a dealer 10, you will win the hand about 38 times out of 100 –better than the 23% you would win by combining the 8s. You will still lose more than you will win, but your expected loss will be lower by splitting, even though you are playing two hands with twice the bet as before.

Money you don’t lose is money saved. Put another way, you’re better off to play an 8 against a 10 two times, with twice the bet, than to play a 16 against a 10 once with one bet.

*Analysis assumes the following game rules: 6-deck game, dealer stands on 17, double after splitting is allowed, and resplitting is allowed up to four hands.

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