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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

These Tough Blackjack Pairs Need to Be Split

12 December 2008

I was playing blackjack with three other people at the table and was dealt a pair of 9s against the dealer's 8. I split them just like I was supposed to, made a 17 on one 8 and ended up busting the other. The dealer had a pat 18 and so I lost both bets, where I would've pushed had I not split to begin with.

First base commented, "Well that was just plain greed right there." I softly replied that it was a good split, didn't elaborate and the game went on. But I can elaborate here for the sake of all of you reading this account.

The fact is, when you have any kind of 18 against a dealer's 8, you're a 55% shot to win the hand. That's because you've already got yours, but the dealer still has to get or have hers. And what if you decide to split the 9s? Before I answer, let me ask this question.

Suppose you were dealt say, a 7/2 against that dealer's 8. Who do you suppose would have the better start? Remember, you each still have to make your hands. The answer is, you'll also win this one 55% of the time, same as with your 18. But if your 18 is in the form of two 9s, you can now become a 55% shot twice by splitting them. And winning two hands 55% of the time makes more money than winning one hand 55% of the time.

That's why you've got to split 9/9 against a dealer's 8. In fact, you should split a pair of 9s against everything except a dealer's 7, 10 or Ace. If you don't, you're giving away long term money. Remember that.

Pair of 8s Another "must split" situation is when you have 8/8 against a dealer's picture card. Most players know this and many will split these while muttering some comment like, "I dunno why I'm doin' this". Well, here's why.

A player's 16 will beat a dealer's 10-up only 23% of the time. That's the worst hand in the entire game of blackjack. But if your 16 is in the form of 8/8, you have the option to play 8 against the dealer's 10 twice. And 8 against a 10 will win 38% of the time. Your chances have improved so dramatically that it works out cheaper overall to play 8 against a 10 twice than 16 against a 10 once. That's the key. And so, you must grit your teeth and split those two 8s.

It's true, every so-often you'll lose both hands and feel like an idiot. But much more often, you'll win one and lose the other, or even get lucky and maybe win them both. In fact, splitting a pair of 8s makes your hand so much more competitive that you must split them every single time, no matter what card the dealer's showing.

Pair of 4's This is a real trouble hand for most players when the dealer shows a small up-card. Starting with 4/4, you've got a mediocre total of 8. Nevertheless, 8 is a good hand against a dealer's weak up-card, such as a 4, 5 or 6. This is what leads many players to double down with say, 4/4 against a 5.

The irony is that those same players would not normally double down with say, 6/2 against a 5. Yet, they're both the same hand. So what's the right play?

As long as the rules allow you to double down on split pairs, you should split 4/4 against a dealer's 5 or 6 only. And if you catch a 5, 6, 7 or Ace on either 4 – then it's time to double down, baby!

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

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