Should I ever split 10s in blackjack?

If you have ever played blackjack for real money, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the mantra, ‘never split 10s’. This is a great thing for new players to learn straight away, as it applies to the vast majority of online and land-based blackjack games everywhere. Every golden rule has its rare exceptions, however, and this one is no different on that score. We’ll show why it’s almost always a good idea to keep your 10s intact, as well as what changes in those odd situations where splitting might be appropriate.

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Why should I never split 10s in online blackjack?

There is a very good (and very simple) reason most authorities say you should never separate a pair of 10-point cards. The best hand in blackjack is 21; two 10s gives you 20. It’s the second-highest starting hand you can draw, so why on earth would you mess with it?

Some folks might argue that splitting 10s actually gives you a decent shot at making two hands of 20 or 21. Others claim it is a good way to double your winnings when the dealer has a weak up-card. In most cases, however, the numbers simply don’t support these theories.

For example, let’s say we are playing a standard eight-deck blackjack game online. We have a pair of Kings and the dealer is showing a Six. This would be the best possible situation for splitting 10s, giving us an expected win rate of around 43.2 per cent; but if we simply stick to basic strategy and stand pat, that figure rises to 70.3 per cent.

The motto of ‘never split 10s’ applies to all the most popular variations of real money 21, including every common variety of American blackjack, European blackjack, Spanish 21 and Pontoon. But what about some of the more exotic variants available at online casinos?

Splitting strategy for Double Exposure 21

Double Exposure strategy chart
Double Exposure blackjack is a unique format in which both of the croupier’s starting cards are dealt face-up. This quirky rule gives the player a significant advantage, although it also requires a hefty adjustment to one’s normal mode of play.

Probably the biggest difference between standard blackjack and Double Exposure strategy is that the latter offers a handful of situations where it is preferable to split a pair of 10-point cards. Because we know the dealer’s total before we act, we can take advantage of instances where the house is quite likely to bust out. Thus, splitting 10s in those cases has a higher expected value than standing on 20.

The chart above outlines the correct splitting strategy for Double Exposure blackjack games, as calculated by Michael Shackleford. As you can see, it is recommended to split 10s against a hard total of 13, 14, 15, or 16. Also note that because the dealer wins all ties (except blackjack) in DE, you would hit a hard 20 against any dealer 20.

Why do card counters sometimes split 10s?

We intimated earlier that it was never a good idea to split 10s in a regular blackjack game. While this is entirely true for basic strategy players, it may not always be the case for the more ballsy card counters out there.

Now, for those who don’t know, card counting is all about taking advantage of a deck when it has more 10s and Aces than low-scoring cards. By making bigger bets when the deck is ‘heavy’ with favourable cards, a skilled counter can drastically improve their odds of success.

The most common method is known as the ‘high-low count’. Here, you add a point to the count whenever you see a Deuce, Three, Four, Five, or Six, and subtract a point whenever a 10 or an Ace comes up. The higher the count, the better the chances of drawing a strong hand.

But besides knowing how many high cards are left in the shoe, card counters may also derive an edge by straying from basic strategy in certain situations. One such way is to split a pair of 10s, but only when:

  • The dealer’s up-card is a Five or a Six
  • The table has a high positive count (i.e. an abundance of 10s and Aces in the deck)

However, while the expected value of splitting 10s might be very high when the true count is +4 or better, that doesn’t necessarily make it a smart play. Remember, land-based casino operators are always on the lookout for signs of blackjack card counting.

So if you’ve been using textbook basic strategy and suddenly decide to split your Queens on a big bet, you might as well as hold up a red flag and a megaphone and shout, “I’m counting cards!” into the pit boss’s ear.

Where to play real money 21 online

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For more helpful hints and guides to optimise your chances of winning in blackjack, read up on the following:

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