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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

How Do You Play a Pair of 4s in Blackjack?

4 September 1999

Just about every blackjack player knows you should always split a pair of aces or 5s. Also, I'm sure you've gawked in disbelief at players who sometimes foolishly split a pair of 10s. These are basically your "no-brainer" pairs, hands that are easy to play correctly even by relatively inexperienced gamblers. But how to play some pairs is continuously disagreed upon, even by seasoned veterans of the game.

Do you own a basic strategy chart for blackjack? Take a good look at it. What does it say to do with a pair of 4s? Your chart might tell you to always hit two 4s. On the other hand it might tell you to split them against a dealer's 5 or 6 and if it's an older chart, it might even tell you to double down against a 5 or 6. There's a lot of conflicting advice on how to play a pair of 4s. Since the basic strategy is supposed to supply reliable information, this causes confusion for fervent blackjack buffs who want to play their hands correctly.

Actually, there is a logical explanation for the discrepancy. That's because the right way to play a pair of 4s actually depends upon the exact rules and number of decks you're playing with. As we approach the 21st century, blackjack is becoming primarily a multi-deck game, usually six decks.

Now, back in the old days of single-deck blackjack, it was proper to double down with 8 against a 5 or 6 up, including a pair of 4s. It might be that some of you folks have a basic strategy chart for single-deck blackjack, and that would explain the "double down" recommendation. But as soon as you put two or more decks together, doubling down with 8 becomes a no-no unless you're a card counter and can recognize those rare times when it's right to do it.

However, there's one very important rule that determines whether you should ever split a pair of 4s. It's the "double after split" rule. You see, if the rules allow you to double down on pairs that have been split, then it becomes advantageous to go ahead and split a pair of 4s if the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing. If you split and catch a 5, 6, 7 or ace on either 4, you'll have a good double down play, and will get to put more money on the table in an advantageous situation. But if the rules don't allow you to double down on splits, then you would have been better off to just hit your hand as a total of 8 in the first place. By the way, when you do split those 4s, you'll end up doubling down on at least one of your hands over half the time.

The proper advice for a pair of 4s with multi-decks is: If the "Double After Split" option is available, split two 4s against a dealer's 5 or 6 up. If not, just hit your total of 8. (If you happen to be playing single deck blackjack and can double after splits, then go ahead and split those 4s against a dealer's 4, 5 or 6.)

While we're on the subject of pair splitting, there are a few others that remain foggy in the minds of 95 percent of the players. A pair of 2s or 3s should in fact be split unconditionally if the dealer's up-card is a 4, 5, 6 or 7. Many players don't like to split tiny pairs against the 7 up because the dealer might already have a pat hand. But you should split because starting out with a hand that totals 6 is substantially worse than two totals of 3 each -- that's the choice you face when you have a pair of 3s against a 7 up. Now, if you can double after splits, then you should also split those 2s and 3s against a dealer's 2 or 3 up, as well as against the 4, 5, 6, and7. That again is because some favorable doubling down opportunities will result

One final reminder on pair splitting is if you split a pair and make another pair, re-split it no matter how much you may not want to. Think of it this way. The reason you split two 8s in the first place is because playing 8 twice is better than playing 16 once. When you do split, if you're unfortunate enough to catch a third 8, you're again faced with that same choice of playing yet another 16 or two more totals of 8. You've been dealt another lousy hand, but if choosing two separate hands of 8 over one hand of 16 was right the first time, it's right again! Don't renege on what you know is best. Re-spilt and re-split as many times as the rules allow.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey