Blackjack is famously simplistic, but the deeper you can understand it, the better advantage you’ll have in defeating that (low, but dastardly) house edge.
When the cards are first dealt, you have a few options to choose from no matter what you receive from the Dealer (unless you get a Blackjack, in which case congratulations are in order.) You can hit and receive another card, stay and make your final hand, or you can double down, receiving one additional card and placing an additional wager equal to the original.
However, if you receive a pair, you can Split, a move that can skyrocket the winning potential if you’re lucky.
When Do You Split?
It’s important to note right off the bat that you do not just split whenever you receive a pair. For example, under no circumstances should you Split a pair of tens, Jacks, Queens, or Kings, or a pair of fives.
It’s also important to note that the decision to Split in most cases is going to be dependent on the card the Dealer is showing. While it’s always recommended that you Split pairs of eights or Aces, such is not the case with others. In fact, you should only Split on a pair of fours if the Dealer is showing a five or six and if you’re able to double down after a Split. Otherwise, you always hit.
For pairs of twos, threes, fours, sixes, and sevens, you don’t split if the Dealer is showing an eight, nine, ten, or Ace.
The easiest way to approach this when you’re first starting off is to simply have a strategy chart in front of you. The beauty of playing online is that you have all the time in the world to weigh your decisions, so there’s no reason not to have that in a different window while you’re playing online Blackjack.
What Happens After a Split
If you decide to Split, you are required to place an additional wager equal to your original, same as Double Down, to cover the additional hand, but unlike Double Down, the game moves forward.
Your two hands are now able to win independently against the same Dealer’s hand, and therefore they require separate strategy. Look at them as separate entities, not as one single part.
Make sure you take a look at the rules of the Blackjack version that you’re playing, but in most cases, you can Split up to three times, so you can have four hands total when you started with just one hand. While this is uncommon, it’s definitely possible.
It’s also important to see if they let you Double Down after a Split, because as already mentioned, it can greatly affect strategy.
Otherwise, where you go after a Split is up to you, and if you follow basic Blackjack strategy, you have a good chance to double, triple, quadruple (and so on) the winning potential that you started with. Even if you Split it into two hands and win both, you double what you would have won with your original bet. Now imagine if you Split twice and Doubled Down a couple times. Now we’re talking big bucks!
Limitations on splitting severely affect the house edge, and the same goes for Double Down. If a variation of Blackjack limits you on what you can or can’t do when it comes to those aspects, which is almost always the case with those specialty versions, you should avoid them unless you’re just looking for a change of pace, because if you’re looking for the best chance of getting consistent wins, classic Blackjack is the way to go. The fewer the decks the better as well, but the fewer the decks, the higher the table minimum.