Playing Paired Hands in Blackjack Well

Published: March 13, 2014

When most players start to get serious about blackjack, they start to look at basic strategy. Since most hands fall under the simple hard hand category or the slightly more complicated soft hand category, that's what most players study most of the time. However, paired hands come up pretty often, and they can be a strong source of value if they are played correctly. Because the difference between the best decision and the second-best decision with a paired hand are often pretty far from each other in terms of overall value, it's essential to learn to play these hands well.

First, you need to start with a few general rules. You always split with aces because of the chance for extra blackjacks, and you always split with eights to avoid playing a hard 16. You never split tens because a total of 20 is just too strong to break up, and you never split fives because the resulting hands would be weak and a hard 10 is pretty strong to play with. With paired nines, you will always split unless you're facing a seven, ten or ace in which case you'll stand. Against a ten or ace, your hand isn't quite strong enough to split. Against a seven, you're often going to win when the dealer has a ten because you'll have a hard 18, so it makes sense to stand.

You play paired twos, threes and sevens in almost the exact same way. You always split when facing a seven or lower, and you always hit when facing an eight or higher. An exception to this rule is that if you have twos or threes when facing a two or three, then you should hit if you don't have the option to double after a split. This is also the case with paired sixes when you're facing a two.

That leaves paired fours which are fairly easy to play but that aren't really played like any other total. You will always hit with paired fours except in a specific type of situation. If the game you're playing allows you to double after splitting, then you should double when facing a dealer card of five or six because those are the weakest two dealer cards. As a final note, if the dealer hits on soft 17 instead of standing, the only adjustment you should make to the above strategy is to surrender when you have paired eights against an ace if you have the option.