Blackjack Strategy for Pairs of Fives and Tens

When I first started writing about casino games on a regular basis for a newspaper just shy of 17 years ago, I wrote a column about when to split pairs in blackjack. One tip was that players shouldn’t split 10s, that the should just stand on their 20s.

A co-worker came to me with an opposite theory.

“The way I look at it,” he said, “is that when I have an advantage, I want more money on the table. When I have a pair of 10s, I split them if the dealer has a 5 or a 6. That was I have two hands where I have an advantage.”

That’s a nice theory, but flawed in that 20 is a MUCH stronger hand than 10. You’ll make more money in the long run with one hand of 20 against a dealer’s 5 or 6 than you will with an extra bet on the table to start with two hands of 10.

Pairs of 10-value cards — 10s, Jacks, Queens or Kings — are among the hands you should never split in blackjack, unless you’re a card counter who knows the composition of the remaining deck is so unusual it makes splitting a profitable play.

The other hand you should never split is a pair of 5s After all, 10 is a strong building block for a good hand, even if it’s not a strong as 20. You wouldn’t want to create two weak hands by starting each with 5. That’s just throwing you’re money away. Instead, play that pair of 5s as a 10 and give yourself the option of doubling down if the dealer shows anything from 2 through 9.

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