Pairs are some of the most confusing starting hands for a novice blackjack player to handle. Most rookies memorize the correct hitting, standing, and doubling decisions for hard totals with relative ease but when it comes to pair splitting, they are utterly perplexed. The struggle is real with soft totals as well but nothing quite beats the confusion that arises when novices are dealt pairs at the blackjack table.
The sad thing is splitting originally was not an option in the earliest variations of blackjack and neither was doubling down. These two moves were introduced at a later stage of blackjack’s development for the purpose of making the game more interesting and attractive since both doubling and splitting are known to significantly reduce the casinos’ edge.
Instead of taking advantage of this fact, most unskilled players misplay their pairs which ultimately turns them into long-term losers. To prevent blackjack rookies from falling victims to their intuition, we shall tackle in further depth the optimal plays for all pairs you can possibly be dealt in blackjack, starting with the paired deuces and treys.
Optimal Plays for Paired Deuces in Single-Deck Blackjack
As is usually the case, the optimal playing decisions for paired deuces are more or less influenced by the playing conditions at a given table. There are strategy discrepancies in the correct moves for this pair which come as a result of the different number of decks the game may utilize. So let us first take a look at how you should approach a pair of deuces when you are playing against a single deck of cards.
The plays are not influenced by the playing conditions for the dealer. The only thing that bears consideration here is what upcard the dealer shows and whether or not DAS (doubling after splitting) is an option. The optimal moves with a pair of 2s in a single-deck game are to:
- split the 2s against dealer upcards 2 through 7
- hit the 2s against dealer upcards 8 through Ace
This certainly makes sense because paired deuces give you a very lousy starting total of 4. In contrast, you stand better chances of winning if you split and start two hands with a 2 which makes for a significant improvement of your odds.
Splitting the deuces is the most sensible move against a dealer who shows a card with a bad or medium value like 2 through 7. These are the most volatile cards for the dealer because they expose them to a relatively high risk of busting, something you should take advantage of by raising your bet against one such weak dealer.
Optimal Plays for Paired Deuces in Single-Deck Blackjack Additional TipsConversely, when you are facing a dealer with stronger cards, who is more likely to reach their standing total or possibly outdraw you, you must approach your paired 2s more conservatively and refrain from investing more money into this round of play.
The above strategy is applicable when you play single-deck H17 or S17 games with DAS and late surrender (LS). In the case of NDAS single-deck games, the strategy changes a little – you are recommended to hit the 2s against a dealer with a deuce instead of splitting them.
Optimal Plays for Paired Treys in Single-Deck Blackjack
A pair of treys also gives blackjack players a very bad start. In fact, when unsplit, this hand makes for an even worse starting total of 6. This certainly is a regress when compared to a total of 4. Similarly to the paired 2s, a pair of 3s requires a different strategy when you play single-deck and multiple-deck games.
DAS, or its absence thereof, also influences the correct plays for this pair against certain dealer upcards. Whether or not the game is an H17 or an S17 one is again irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what upcard your dealer exposes. Here basic strategy tells us to:
- Split a pair of 3s against dealer upcards 2 through 8
- Hit the pair of 3s against dealer upcards 9 through Ace
Again, this approach is accurate on condition the casino allows you to double after a split. Provided that you play single-deck blackjack under the NDAS rule, you should adjust your strategy a little bit. In this case, you split the 3s but only against dealer upcards 4 through 7 and hit against a 2 or a 3. The plays against dealers with strong upcards 8 through Ace remain the same.
Correct Splitting Decisions for 2s and 3s in Multiple-Deck Games
Finding a single-deck blackjack table with half-decent rules is a mean feat these days. You are more likely to end up playing 21 with multiple-decks of cards, at least if you are looking for good rules and lower house edge.
So let’s take a look for the optimal splitting decisions for paired 2s and 3s which thankfully coincide in double-deck and multiple-deck games regardless of the table conditions. The only rule variation that affects decision-making is the presence or absence of DAS. There are two logical decisions here – hitting or splitting. So here is what you must do with these two pairs in multiple-deck games that play under the DAS rule:
- Split both 2s and 3s against a dealer with 2 through 7
- Hit your 2s or 3s against a dealer with 8 through Ace
But what if you are not permitted to double after you split? The discrepancies are again small and concern your moves against a dealer whose exposed card is either a deuce or a trey. In NDAS multiple-deck variations of blackjack, the correct strategy is to hit your 2s and 3s when the dealer shows a 2 or a 3. Everything else remains the same. The dealer’s standing rules have no effect on your playing decisions for these two pairs.
Correct Splitting Decisions for 2s and 3s in Multiple-Deck Games Additional TipsYou are probably asking yourself how does this help you? The plays listed above are referred to as “optimal” because it is mathematically established they help you achieve several things with these two pairs – increase your average profits, reduce your average losses, and improve your bad starting totals.
These plays may not appear to work in the short term. Sometimes it would feel like you are losing split 2s or 3s time and again despite following basic strategy to the tee. But you will inevitably notice these moves have a positive effect on your bankroll after you go through thousands of hands. Until then, the only thing you can do is trust the math and make the optimal playing decisions for your paired deuces and treys.