What to do when I get two aces in blackjack?

If you’re new to real money blackjack, you might wonder what we mean when we talk about concepts such as splitting and re-splitting. Here, we will discuss one of the fundamentals of basic strategy in 21: what to do when you get a pair of Aces with your first two cards.

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What is splitting in blackjack?

Splitting is an option in real money blackjack that can be taken when you draw two cards of the same rank – that is, a pair – on the initial deal. This allows you to double your stake and divide your cards into two separate hands, thus giving you two chances to beat the dealer.

Splitting two Aces in online real money blackjackLet’s say we draw a pair of Eights with our first two cards. To split them, we place an additional bet, equal to our original wager, next to our active chips and call “split”. In standard face-up blackjack games, the hand signal for splitting is a left-to-right motion with the index finger pointing towards the table.

The dealer then separates the two Eights and deals a new card to each one, thus creating two new hands. Our original bet is placed on one hand, while our new bet corresponds to the other. We then play out each hand in succession just like we normally would, until we either bust out or opt to stand and await the dealer’s play.

Why you should always split Aces

This is one of the golden rules of blackjack. But why do gambling experts say you should always split Aces when given the chance to do so?

On its own, a pair of Aces is not a very strong hand; it counts as either two points or as 13, neither of which are very appealing scores to start with. But when you split them up, you significantly increase your chances of beating the dealer.

The reason is simple: with 10s, Jacks, Queens and Kings all counting as 10 points, having split Aces gives you the best possible odds of drawing 21. Indeed, with so many 10-point cards in a full shoe (up to 128 in an eight-deck game), you open up the very real possibility of scoring 21 on both hands.

In probabilistic terms, splitting Aces at every opportunity increases your likelihood of success by around 0.18 per cent. That may not seem like much at first glance, but consider the fact that most American, European and Australian blackjack games have an overall house edge between 0.3 and 0.6 per cent. That means refusing to split Aces (or not having the option to do so) would worsen your odds by as much as half the casino’s original advantage.

Special rules for splitting Aces

Most gambling operators – including both offline and online blackjack casinos – impose certain restrictions on what you can do after dividing a pair of Aces. This is so the house can maintain its mathematical advantage over the punter; otherwise, basic strategy players would gain an edge on the casino whenever they scored two Aces.

Common drawing rules for split Aces include:

No re-splitting Aces
Should you score a pair of Aces on one or both of your new hands, you may not then split them again. This rule is all but universal in casino blackjack games, even those which allow you to resplit up to as many as four hands.

Cannot draw to split Aces
After splitting a pair of Aces, you cannot then hit or double down on either of the new hands. In other words: you must stand with only two cards per hand, unless you can resplit. When this common condition is removed, the house edge decreases by some 0.19 per cent.

No blackjack on split A + 10
A split hand featuring an Ace and a 10-value card counts as 21 points, not as a natural blackjack. Thus, a split A-10 hand would lose to a dealer blackjack in most games, which advantages the house by around 0.19 per cent.

More basic strategy tips for blackjack splits

Always split Eights
A hard 16 is without question the ugliest hand in blackjack. If you have a pair of Eights, however, splitting them gives you a good chance of turning that 16 into an 18 or 19.

Never split 10s
Besides a natural 21, a pair of 10-point cards is about as good as it gets. By splitting them, you run a serious risk – a likelihood, even – of drawing lesser scores on both new hands. Always take the 20.

Never split Fives
A hard total of 10 puts you in a strong position to hit or double down, depending on the dealer’s up card, while splitting those Fives will most likely leave you in no man’s land with scores between 12 and 16. Keep the 10 points and play for an Ace or a 10 on the draw.

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