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Jul

23

2012

Splitting 8s vs. a Dealer’s 10 in Blackjack

Sometimes splitting pairs in blackjack is about playing offense, getting in strong position to win two hands. Splitting 8s against a 6 is like that, with two hands starting with 8 that both are stronger beginnings than the dealer’s 6.

Sometimes splitting pairs is about playing defense, trying to minimize losses. Splitting 8s against a dealer’s 10 is like that.

It doesn’t always work. On one June day, I was dealt a pair of 8s against a dealer’s 10. I pushed out a second bet to split the pair, then drew a 10 on top of each one for two 18s. Problem: The dealer then turned up a 10 for a 20, and took my double wager.

A 30-ish man sitting at first base grumbled, “That’s why I never make that play.”

I shrugged it off. If you stand on a pair of 8s vs. a 10, you win only if the dealer busts, and the dealer busts only a bit more than 21 percent of the time when starting with a 10-value card. If you hit, you lose any time you draw a 6 or higher to bust, and even if you draw a low card, you can lose to a better dealer’s hand.

Hitting is the better of those two options. The average loss  is 53.4 percent of the initial bet if you hit,  53.7 percent if you stand. Split, and the average loss decreases to 47.5 percent of the first wager if doubling down after the split is allowed, and 48.6 percent if it’s not.

That makes splitting the pair the best available play, a little defense to conserve bankroll in a bad situation.

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