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Best of John Grochowski

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Splitting 10s in blackjack

27 June 2013

It was late on a Monday night in Las Vegas, and I was playing blackjack head-to-head with the dealer until a younger couple joined me. They were in their late 20s or early 30s, and obviously had already had a few drinks before they asked the cocktail waitress for a couple of beers.

“How’s Kim been treating you,” the man said, noting the name on the dealer’s badge.

“Not bad,” I replied. “You win some, you lose some.”

The woman chimed in, “We’ve mostly been losing some. But we’re having a good time.”

Before long, the man was dealt a pair of 10-value cards, while the dealer had a 6. He split. I didn’t react at all. It’s a poor play, but the poor play of others is going to help me as often as it hurts me.

On the first hand, he drew an 8 for 18, then he drew another 10.

“Can I split these, too,” he asked.

The dealer told him he could. House rules allowed up to three splits for a total of four hands.

“Great,” he said. “Where we were playing before, they wouldn’t let me split again.”

The voice in my head said he’d have been better off if they didn’t let him split the first time, but I stifled the urge to speak out.

He drew another 10, and split again, giving him the maximum of four hands. On the three remaining to be played, he drew a 4, a 6 and another 10, so he had hands of 18, 14, 16 and 20 in play against Kim’s 6.

Dealer Kim turned up a 7, for a two-card 13. Then she drew a 4, giving her 17. The 10-splitter won on the 20 and the 18, but lost on the 14 and 16.

“Well, at least I broke even,” he said.

His partner chimed in, “That’s like a win so far tonight.”

Some might note that had the splitter stood on his original 20, he’d have won instead of just breaking even. You might also note that had he split his pair just once, he’d have had 20 and 18 and won two bets.

But that’s all short-term talk. On any one hand, anything can happen. With repeated play, the odds of the game drive long-term results so that those who split 10s against 6s win only about half as much money, while taking on twice the risk. Every additional split takes on additional risk in the form of added wagers, while decreasing the overall profit on the hand.

Given that long-term reality, the couple would have been better off had they stayed at the casino that didn’t allow resplits. Rules that give players options are beneficial to players, but only if players know how to use them.

In the case of splitting pairs, basic strategy for a multi-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17 -- the most common game around nowadays -- basic strategy tells us never to split 5s or 10s, always split aces and 8s and split 9s if the dealer shows anything but a 7, 10 or ace.

That leaves, 2s, 3s, 4s, 6s and 7s. Split 2s and 3s if the dealer’s up card is 4 through 6, and also if the dealer shows 2 or 3 and you’re permitted to double down after splitting pairs. Split 4s against a dealer’s 5 or 6 only if doubles after splits are allowed. Split 6s against 3 through 6, and also against 2 if you can double after the split. Split 7s against 2 through 7.

In all cases for a non-card counter, if basic strategy calls for you to split once, then if you’re dealt another matching card, your best play is to split again. Most casinos won’t allow that with split aces, But if you split 8s and get another 8, then split again. If you split 7s against a 5 and are dealt another 7, then resplit the new pair.

When the casino allows resplits, it’s giving a bit of the house’s natural edge on blackjack back to players who know how to use the option. But players who split 10s, like the couple who joined me that night, or who split 6s against 7s or make any other off-the-chart splits, resplitting gives an extra edge for the house. Those players would be better off with a more restrictive rule instead of being allowed to resplit to their heart’s content.


Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski