BlackJack: Splitting Pairs Does NOT Mean Splitting Tens

Brandon Prust (L) and Michael Del Zotto (R) play blackjack at the 2012 New York Rangers Casino Night at Gotham Hall on February 28, 2012 in New York City.

No matter what anyone tells you, do not, I repeat, do not split tens while playing blackjack! There are plenty of logical, mathematical reasons to avoid this non-strategy but probably the main reason to avoid it is that you will immediately incur the wrath of every other player at your table. If you are playing in a brick and mortar casino you run the risk of having an ashtray throw at you or at the very least everyone getting up and leaving you and the dealer at the table alone. If you are playing online, your chat box will immediately fill up with disparaging remarks in as many languages as there are players of different nationalities in attendance. Turning off your chat option won’t help because if you continue, they will leave as well.

There are a couple of things going on when this happens at a blackjack table; neither of them makes much sense from a logical point of view. First of all, players assume that what you do with your cards affects what happens with their cards. It’s just not true. Assuming that cards are shuffled properly (the methods of shuffling used in a casino are very effective and random number generators take care of that online), what card you get does not in any way predict what anyone else will get. Nor does any move you make have a domino effect on what will happen with the next cards dealt. That’s all pure superstition.

Secondly, and this is human nature, everyone thinks they can play your cards better than you can. Actually all everyone else wants to do is have you play your cards just as they would play your cards. Just put you money down and let them bet for you! Make sense? Of course it doesn’t.

Yet, the simple truth is that splitting tens and face cards is a lousy play and you shouldn’t do it because in the end the establishment will take more of your money than they need to.

Most blackjack players, especially online blackjack players, have never read a book about how to play the game and therein lies the trouble. The “rules” are simple and widely known to those who seek them out:

  • ALWAYS split aces and eights
  • NEVER split fours and fives
  • Split twos, threes, and sevens when the dealer’s up card is a two through a seven
  • Split sixes when the dealer shows a two through a six
  • Split nines when the dealer shows 2-6 or 8-9
  • And, of course, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER split face cards

The logic behind never splitting face cards is that twenty (the sum of the two cards you have – 10 + 10) is a good hand. As a matter of fact, it’s a great hand with a predictable win percentage of about 70% (by the way this includes a hand of A-9, which you should never double down on). Where else in any casino – online or brick and mortar – do you ever have a 70% chance of winning?

So, there you have. Take the advice or leave it. I fully expect to continue to be aggravated and annoyed by all the “10 splitters” out there, not because they are influencing my cards but because, if they want to throw money away, why don’t they just throw it my way!

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