You don’t have to be a Las Vegas card counter or have decades of casino experience to know a few basic casino gambling facts. Even the greenest casino guests know that the house always wins.
However, not all casino one-liners are as unproductive as that. For example, I regularly hear players tell their friends that you should always split aces in blackjack.
That’s solid advice that serves a purpose and can generate better results for a player. I believe a majority of casino blackjack players have heard that saying many times. Yet, I rarely see players split aces consistently.
Have they forgotten this simple truth of basic strategy, or are they suspicious of splitting aces for another reason?
I think it’s difficult for players to double their stake in a hand without understanding why it’s essential. We’re going to look at why you always split aces in blackjack.
The Strategy Behind Splitting in Blackjack
Splitting aces goes well beyond the first impression many players get. The mention of splitting aces immediately conjures ideas of the elusive double blackjack.
While the double blackjack may not be as impressive to observe as a double rainbow, it can benefit your bankroll playing blackjack.
If you’re playing a good blackjack game, a natural pays out 3 to 2. You know a blackjack won’t push because you’re already done if the dealer has a blackjack.
As a novice blackjack player, I remember becoming increasingly discouraged each time I would split aces and not get to twenty-one. I didn’t pay much attention to the results beyond the immediate impact.
That caused me to begin splitting aces less often because I only considered the additional money I was burning. The fact is that I never bothered with looking at how often I still won a bet.
One day, I had a friend pull me aside while we were in the casino and ask me why I hadn’t split aces all day; my answer almost seemed to anger him. He then reminded me that the object of blackjack is not to get as close to 21 without going over but to beat the dealer.
He also pointed out rather rudely how I hadn’t won a hand all day with a soft (insert expletive) twelve. He had a point, and I’ve split aces in every situation since that moment.
You Shouldn’t Be Excited for a 12 Except in This Instance
Why did I heed my buddy’s advice with such enthusiasm?
Because he was right, and I knew it before the words left his mouth. There’s nothing there for you with a soft twelve.
When you sit on a soft twelve, you’re merely hoping the dealer busts. There’s a reason basic strategy consistently has you hitting on twelve unless the dealer has a four, five, or six.
It’s because twelve is horrible on its own, but there’s room for improvement. Assuming you miss a ten, you’re automatically in better shape.
I’ve watched players refuse to split aces, hit, and get a ten. It’s painful to see but a good reminder for the rest of us.
By not splitting aces, the house edge jumps dramatically. These players are sliding further into a hole because they don’t know enough about blackjack, are worried about the additional money in play, or are as delusional as I was.
It would be best if you looked at aces as an opportunity to get one over on the house. That will make the double wins that much sweeter.
Some Players Insist That You Never Split Under These Conditions
There’s a group of veteran blackjack players who will try to convince you that you should never split your aces when the dealer is showing a ten. Their logic is predicated on the assumption that the dealer’s hole card is also a ten.
That would mean that you must hit tens to win the hand. Your odds of doing that are under 12%, so it seems logical.
But that’s only if the dealer has twenty. The chances are that the dealer doesn’t have twenty at all.
These players also fail to account for how a nine could be highly beneficial when splitting aces. Even when the dealer has twenty, you’ll push with a nine.
You may still win one of the bets and be up a unit on the hand. Blackjack players will always try to bend the narrative to fit their agenda.
Fortunately, math is constant and doesn’t lie. So, look at the numbers when you’re confused about conflicting blackjack intel.
You’ll Always Split Your Eights Too
While we’re on the subject of always splitting your aces, let’s cover another hand that you should split every single time. A twelve is a pretty tough number in blackjack, but only the tens will kill you.
However, start watching a player that’s being dealt sixteen on a regular basis. Sixteen is the worst hand in blackjack because you’ll probably get beat if you stand. Yet, if you hit, you’re probably going to bust.
Sixteen is a true lose/lose proposition at the blackjack table. Even basic strategy will tell you to fold half the time, hit the other half, and pray always.
But if you’re lucky enough to be dealt your sixteen as a pair of eights, suddenly things aren’t so terrible. I’ll take my chances with eights anytime, anything 17 or higher, and the dealer has their work cut out for them.
So, it would help if you looked at a pair of eights the same way you do aces; they get split like a Hollywood couple. That’s fast and immediately paired up with a better match.
Never Deviate from Basic Strategy, Unless You’re Counting Cards
Basic strategy is one of the most excellent tools a blackjack player has at their disposal. I’d say card counting is the only more valuable weapon for combating the house edge.
Most successful card counters won’t hesitate to tell you that they use basic strategy for every hand they play. That includes splitting their aces (and eights).
Yet, there’s one slight difference in the card counters’ approach to splitting aces. There aren’t many tens left in the deck when the count is negative.
Accordingly, card counters will avoid splitting aces in these scenarios. If you’re not counting cards, this does not apply to you.
When card counters have eights, and the dealer is showing a nine or ten, they won’t split with a rich count. The high number of ten-value cards give them a greater chance of getting eighteen, but it’s also likely the dealer already has them beat with nineteen or twenty.
Again, this won’t apply to you if you’re not counting cards. It would be best to never deviate from basic strategy, which tells us always to split our aces and eights.
Splitting Often Means Bankroll Considerations
When you begin getting into the act of splitting aces, many players balk at the additional strain on their bankroll. However, the basic strategy already accounts for your splits when factoring in the house edge.
Suppose you’re playing in a decent game where the strategy reduces the house edge to below 1%. That’s because the math counts on you splitting where it’s appropriate.
By refusing to split your aces, you’re pushing the house edge back in the casinos’ favor. It would be best if you weren’t splitting so often that it has any real impact on your bankroll anyway.
I’ve gone hours playing in blackjack games without ever having a hand that needed to be split. I’m usually doubling down more often than I’m splitting.
Still, you should consider your additional wagers when setting a flat bet amount. Set the number too high, and you won’t use strategy to its fullest.
Hands That Should Never Be Split
Basic strategy will suggest that you split nearly every pair under the right circumstances. However, you’re never going to split tens, fives, or fours.
When it comes to fours, the standard play is to hit but doubling down is the best play whenever the dealer has a five or a six.
It’s amazing how often players split tens. You are all but guaranteed to win the hand with twenty; stop making it so easy for the casino to take your money.
I hope you’re starting to see why you always split aces in blackjack. The game’s object is to beat the dealer, so don’t give up if you aren’t rewarded with double blackjacks.
Grab a basic strategy card and study it profusely. Play online with the chart at the ready and reference it on every hand. That will start to become second nature, and you’ll begin leaving the casino with more money.