Don’t Push Your Luck in Blackjack

Sometimes knowing blackjack basic strategy and putting it into practice are two different things. I have an old friend, someone I’ve known since college days. He knows the strategy charts say never to split 10s. He does it anyway if the dealer has a 6 face up.

“With a 20 against a 6, I have an advantage,” he explained when I asked him about his bad habit. “But I also have an advantage with a 10 against a 6. And when I have an advantage, I have to take full advantage by getting my money on the table, right? The way to increase my bet and maximize my advantage is to split the pair.”

There’s a flaw in that thinking. It underestimates just how good a 20 is. It’s a much stronger hand than 10. When we start with 10, we can keep our fingers crossed and hope we get to 20.

Starting with 20, we win an average of $70 per $100 in wagers. Split the pair and start with two hands of 10 vs. a dealer’s 6, and our profits decrease to $43 per $100 in original wagers.

Let’s say we’re making $10 wagers, and we face the decision on whether to split 10s vs. a 6 100 times. Stand on the 20, and for our $1,000 in total wagers, we expect our profit to average $700. Split the 10s instead, adding another $10 wager each time, and we increase our risk to $2,000. While we’re increasing our risk, our average profits drop to $430.

More risk, less profit is not the way you maximize an advantage.

There’s nothing wrong with the basic thought that we want more money on the table when we have and advantage. That’s why we double down in favorable situations. In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, we double our bets when we have 11 against any dealer up card and double on 10 against 2 through 9 because we win a majority of those hands.

That’s also true in certain pair-splitting decisions, although sometimes we’re splitting not to win more but to lose less. Splitting 8s against a 6 is a money-making opportunity. Splitting 8s against a 10 is a way of cutting our losses.

We lose more hands than we win at blackjack, so a big part of being a successful player is maximizing profits when we have an edge. But when we split a pair of 10s, even against a 6, that’s not pressing an advantage, it’s diminishing one. Don’t undervalue your 20s.

John Grochowski is a local freelance writer. Look for him on Facebook (; Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at

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