The optimal plays for some pairs in blackjack are pretty much intuitive but this is not the case with a pair of 7s. There is a widespread tendency among inexperienced players to approach this hand poorly. The trouble is such mistakes can be very costly over the long term.
What makes it all the more difficult for rookies to master the correct plays is the fact the strategy for this particular pair varies under different table conditions. It is different for 7s in pitch games and multiple-deck blackjack. The house rules for the dealer also play a role in this case, which further complicates the matter.
The ability to double down after the split affects the basic strategy for a pair of 7s, too. On top of it all, there is the surrender option to take into account. The optimal strategy requires players to surrender their 7s against certain strong upcards but if surrendering is not an option, you will have to learn the second-best moves for this hand. Confused much? We are not surprised.
To spare you the headaches associated with memorizing the moves for this pair, we have categorized them into three distinct categories on the basis of deck number. Be sure to at least learn the optimal plays for the blackjack variation you play the most frequently. The article also tackles the most common mistakes for paired 7s so that you know what not do when you start a hand with those two cards.
Playing a Pair of 7s in Single-Deck Games
Let’s first take a look at what you are supposed to do with your 7s in a game that utilizes a single deck of cards only. Your decisions, in this case, are affected by the following variables – the dealer’s fixed drawing rules, the presence or absence of the surrender option, and the ability to double after a split, knowns as DAS.
Interestingly, the correct strategy is a bit more complex despite the fact you are playing against a single deck. The explanation is that here players will have to hit or stand on their 7s at some tables and surrender against the same dealer upcard at others because surrendering is largely not an option in single-deck blackjack variations. But if you do happen to find a landbased or online variant that supports surrender, you should be able to recognize the instances in which this is the best possible move.
The possible moves for a pair of 7s are to stand, hit, split, and surrender. Doubling is never recommended for the simple reason this is a bad play with a hard 14 no matter what upcard the dealer has. DAS and the dealer’s fixed rules also play a crucial role. Let’s take a look at the optimal plays for 7s in a single-deck S17 game with DAS. They are as follows:
- Split the 7s against dealers with upcards 2 through 8 (with NDAS, hit against the 8)
- Hit the 7s against upcards 9 and Ace
- Surrender the 7s against a dealer showing a 10 (if surrender is unavailable, stand instead)
The basic strategy changes under the H17 conditions because this dealer drawing rule calls for surrendering against one more upcard. Provided that DAS is possible, it becomes more beneficial for you to:
- Split the pair of 7s against upcards 2 through 8 (you again hit against the 8 if there is NDAS)
- Hit the 7s against a 9
- Surrender the 7s against upcards 10 and Ace
- If surrender is unavailable, you stand against the 10 and hit the pair of 7s against dealer Aces
Playing a Pair of 7s in Double-Deck Games
The basic strategy for this pair changes slightly after we introduce a second deck of cards to the game. The reason lies mainly in the absence of surrender, which is never advisable with 7s against any dealer upcard in double-deck games, even if it is available as an option.
The number of playing decisions for this pair dwindles down to two – splitting or hitting. The good news is the correct moves remain the same regardless of whether you are playing H17 or S17 blackjack.
As you will see, the absence of DAS impacts only one playing decision here, the one for a pair of 7s against dealers who expose an 8. Thus, the moves you need to make if you stick to basic strategy and play a double-deck game are to:
- Split the 7s against dealers with cards 2 through 8 (or hit the 8 under the NDAS rule)
- Hit the pair of 7s against dealer upcards 9, 10, and Aces
Playing a Pair of 7s in Multiple-Deck Games
These days, most casinos offer blackjack variations that use multiple decks (four, six or eight). If you would allow us to express our personal opinion, these are the tables you should attack because multiple-deck games tend to abide by more liberal rules than pitch games.
Many of the single-deck variations offer players reduced returns for blackjacks and pay 6 to 5 instead of 3 to 2, which significantly increases the house edge. Another good thing is that there is no need for you to memorize any alternative moves. The majority of blackjack variants played with several decks give you the option to double after splitting so and so.
But let’s get back on topic. The best plays here are either to split or hit. Which decision you make is based solely on what upcard your dealer is showing. Here is what you need to do with your pair of 7s if you insist on playing it optimally against multiple decks:
- Split the pair of 7s if your dealer shows cards 2 through 7
- Hit the pair of 7s when the dealer exposes cards 8 through Ace
Common Mistakes to Avoid with Pairs of 7s
Certain basic strategy plays for this pair are so logical that most blackjack mavens rarely misplay them, if ever. Such is the case with a pair of 7s against dealers who start their hands with small cards like 4, 5, and 6. Most fans of the game would readily split as they rejoice at the opportunity to win two hands instead of one when the dealer is at a disadvantage.
Everybody and their grandma knows blackjack dealers are the most susceptible to breaking their hands when their starting point is one of the above-mentioned upcards. Similarly, it is just as logical not to invest more money into splitting when a strong card like a 10 or an Ace gives your dealer an edge over you.
Misplaying 7s against the Dealer’s 8 in Pitch Games
The issues start with less intuitive hands where the optimal moves cannot be deduced with the help of intuition and hunches. In pitch games, this particular pair is commonly misplayed when players are facing a dealer with a so-so upcard like an 8, for example.
The confusion arises mostly because of the DAS rule. We already outlined the optimal plays. If you remember, you should split the 7s against the 8 but only if you can double down afterward. If not, you stand better chances when you hit your pair.
Splitting becomes the better of the two moves when DAS is permitted because you might end up catching a 3 or a 4 for totals of 10 or 11, which increases your chances for a successful double after the split. In both cases, this pair holding gives you negative expectation against the dealer’s 8.
However, the objective of a savvy blackjack player is not only to win more but to lose less. You split the 7s against the 8 with DAS because this decreases the long-term losses per dollar you incur with this pair. Take a peek at the table below and you will see what we mean:
|Playing Decision with 7s vs. 8||Average Expected Losses with DAS||Average Expected Losses with NDAS|
Misplaying 7s against the Dealer’s 8 in Pitch Games Additional TipsObviously, the option to split with DAS yields the smallest losses, which renders it the optimal choice in this scenario. Please note that the figures in the above table are accurate for a single-deck S17 game with the standard 3-to-2 payout on blackjacks, where you can double on any two cards, split to up to four hands (no RSA) and late surrender (LS).
That being said, basic strategy still favors hitting over splitting with NDAS even if you are playing under far-from-optimal rules like 6-to-5 payouts for naturals, H17, doubling on 9, 10, and 11 only, and no surrender.
Misplaying a Pair of 7s against a 10
Some casual one-decker players stubbornly refuse to wave the white flag with pairs of 7s against dealers who expose a ten-value card. They are either too scared to hit and expose themselves to the risk of busting or are reluctant to stand because they believe they can outdraw the dealer by catching another 7.
They hate the idea of giving half of their original wager back to the house without putting up a fight first. In reality, they are fighting a losing battle since neither of the two moves is correct when surrender is available. And indeed, hard 14 is a very bad hand to get when your dealer starts with such a powerful card.
The trouble here is that hitting is the least player-favorable move you can make with this pair (along with splitting which, as you have seen, is not recommended in this case) especially if you aim for a total of 21. Your chances are not great considering you have depleted the deck of 7s since two of them are already in your hand.
Check the table below and make your own observations. It applies to a single-deck game with relatively liberal rules – H17, 3 to 2 for blackjacks, doubling on 9, 10 and 11 only, DAS, resplitting to four hands, no RSA, and LS. Doubling is altogether excluded because no one would be crazy enough to increase their bet in exchange for one more card in this situation. Or at least we hope so.
|Playing Decision for a Pair of 7s vs. 10||Average Expected Losses|
Misplaying a Pair of 7s against a 10 Additional TipsObviously surrendering is the best playing decision you can make here since it causes you to lose less than the other three options. It is followed by standing which, as we told you, is the second best move for this two-card holding against a 10. You should forget all about hitting and splitting – these are the most disadvantageous moves in this situation.
Let’s now sum up all we have said so far. How does following perfect basic strategy help players with their pairs of 7s? There are several main benefits you get from playing this hand correctly – you win more money over the long term, you decrease the losses you incur in negative-expectation situations, you potentially improve a bad starting total of hard 14 through splitting, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you play your pairs of 7s optimally.