Blackjack players are well aware of the old truth about blackjack, namely that it has the smallest house advantage at just about 1% – and they also realize the only way to have a chance at winning at the blackjack table is to play by a very exact strategy. In blackjack, you live by the odds and you die by playing on intuition.

One area which separates quality players from the once-a-year patron of a Las Vegas casino is in splitting cards. Some places where a split should be done are not obvious, and others are completely counterintuitive. But if you follow these simple rules, you can make your game better.

  • Always split aces. A basic.
  • Split 9s on all cards except 7, 10 and ace. You should just hope for the best with 9s when the dealer shows 10 or ace, but the chance you’ll improve enough to beat a worst-case 20 after splitting is minimal.
  • Split 7s when dealer is showing 7 or lower and 6s if the dealer shows 3 through 6. The dealer is facing multiple bust hands in these situations and your odds of improving on a 12 or 14 are at least 61.5%.
  • Same goes if you’re holding pairs of 2s or 3s. Split if dealer holds cards 4 through 7. You’ll be taking multiple cards, but the dealer is again in peril of busting or having to hold a 17.
  • Finally, here’s the trickiest one: *Always split 8s.* The reasoning here against 10s goes like this: Hitting a 16 results in a bust in about 62% of hands. Standing on 16 results in a loss in 77% of hands. These odds can be sharply reduced against a 10 if you have two 8s. You may not always win on this move, but you’ll loss far less often than when you merely accept your weak 16.

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