In the vast majority of blackjack variations, when players receive a starting total that consists of two cards of equal rank, they have the option to split the pair into two separate hands. The dealer then draws one extra card to each of the new hands and play continues as normal.
Provided that the player gets dealt another pair after the split, they can resplit it, with many casinos allowing resplitting to up to four separate hands. This peculiarity of the game gives players the opportunity to generate twice as much profit during a round when the dealer is in a particularly bad position with small upcards.
Making the correct splitting decisions is of vital importance for all serious blackjack players. Most people who play the game casually know they should always split Aces and 8s. They also know 5s and 10s should never be split.
These plays are easy to remember because they are rather intuitive. However, the correct decisions for less intuitive pairs like a pair of 4s, for example, are more difficult to memorize because they vary depending on game conditions and deck number.
This often translates into confusion which, in turn, leads to bad plays and long-term losses. In this article, we shall attempt to dispel the perplexity by explaining the optimal playing decisions for a pair of 4s and how they change under different table conditions.
Correct Playing Decisions for a Pair of 4s in Single-Deck Blackjack
Do you have a basic strategy chart? If so, take a quick look at it and check what it tells you to do with a pair of 4s. It might recommend you to always take a hit on this pair or it might suggest you split the 4s and even double down against certain dealer upcards instead of splitting. Neither piece of advice is incorrect.
It all depends on whether you are looking at a single-deck or a multiple-deck strategy chart. If you are recommended to split this pair against weak dealer upcards 4, 5 and 6 and double on totals of 8 against 5 or 6, you are almost certainly looking at a basic strategy chart intended for use at the single-deck tables. As soon as you add more decks to the game, doubling on a total of 8 turns into a bad idea unless you have mastered card counting and are able to recognize the rare instances where this is a good move.
The optimal decisions here are influenced by yet another factor, the presence or absence of the DAS rule (doubling after a split). The main idea here is that if the casino allows players to double following a split, it is more beneficial for them to split the 4s when the dealer is in a bad spot with a 4, a 5 or a 6.
If the player succeeds in pulling cards like 5, 6, 7, or Ace next to their 4, doubling becomes the correct play. It enables you to pour more money onto the table when you hold the advantage. Keep in mind that when players split the pair under these conditions, they end up doubling on at least one of their 4s over 50% of the time, meaning there is a good chance for you to catch a card that justifies the increase in your action.
Correct Playing Decisions for a Pair of 4s in Single-Deck Blackjack Additional TipsProvided that doubling after splitting is prohibited at the single-deck table, hitting or doubling on the pair of 4s become the more profitable options. Now, let’s summarize the basic strategy moves for 4s applicable to single-deck games that allow DAS. It matters not whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17 in this case.
- Hit the pair of 4s against dealer upcards 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, and Ace
- Split the pair of 4s against dealers with weaker cards 4, 5, and 6
But what happens if the game you are playing does not allow you to double after you have split? This is the case with most single-deck games today – casinos usually tackle the rules to increase their edge on these otherwise profitable tables. Few establishments give their single-deck players the opportunity to double down after splitting pairs.
Because of this, you need to adjust your strategy a tiny notch, particularly for the plays against the dealer’s 4, 5, and 6. The optimal decisions for single-deck blackjack tables with the NDAS rule are as follows:
- Hit the pair of 4s against dealers with cards 2 through 4 and 7 through Ace
- Double down on your 4s against weaker dealers with upcards 5 or 6
How to Play a Pair of 4s in Double-Deck and Multiple-Deck Games
Gone are the days when players were able to find single-deck blackjack games with rules that are decent enough to justify taking a seat at the table. The blackjack games of the 21st century have evolved and commonly utilize multiple decks, usually four, six or eight. This increases the casinos’ advantage but the bigger edge they hold is offset by the more favorable rules at the tables.
There are, of course, double-deck variations still, but similarly to single-deck blackjack, these are crippled by poor table conditions. If you do happen to come across a double-deck game with good enough rules, you can use the same basic strategy plays for paired 4s as those intended for multiple-deck games.
The correct decisions coincide and are not influenced by the dealer’s standing and drawing rules. The only variable that affects your decisions for this pair is again DAS. Assuming DAS is an option in the multiple-deck games you play (and it usually is), you are supposed to abide by the following basic strategy rules when you are dealt a pair of 4s:
- Hit the paired 4s if the dealer shows cards 2 through 4 and 7 through Ace
- Split the pair of 4s but only if the dealer has weaker starting cards 5 and 6
How to Play a Pair of 4s in Double-Deck and Multiple-Deck Games Additional TipsThe logic behind these plays is the same also. You split against these weak upcards mainly for the purpose of boosting your action when the dealer is at a stark disadvantage. These cards carry the highest likelihood of the dealer breaking their hand.
The idea here is that you can further increase your action if you happen to catch a good card like a 5, a 6, a 7 or an Ace that justifies doubling after the split. If not, you hit each of the two hands and keep your fingers crossed that the dealer breaks theirs.
The bad news is many casinos prohibit players from doubling down on split hands in double-deck games. These restrictions decrease players’ profitability of splitting their pairs of 4s against a 6. What is worse, the absence of DAS transforms this play into a negative-expectation one when the dealer shows a 5.
Therefore, players are required to change their approach against these two dealer cards. The strategy adjustment for multiple-deck NDAS games is to never split the 4s. Instead, you always hit no matter what value the dealer’s upcard has.
As you can see, splitting pairs is a tricky business. To avoid confusion as to how to approach specific pairs, players must ensure they are armed with a basic strategy chart that contains the correct decisions under the rules of the particular blackjack variation they play. The most convenient option is to use the basic strategy engines some blackjack websites offer. They show you the optimal plays within seconds – you only need to tackle the rules so that they fit those of the blackjack variant you are interested in.