Splitting a Pair of 2’s or 3’s

Every card game has lots of combinations, especially if more than one deck is used. Blackjack can be played with multiple decks which makes the whole game very challenging and interesting. Players who want to know how to manage to beat it and gain an advantage over the casino, need to acquire the needed knowledge and skills to do so.

One compulsory thing is to follow a reliable strategy and adhere to it throughout the game as this is the only way they can be in an advantageous position from time to time. It is also of great importance to have solid knowledge regarding all of the possible hands they can get in order to make the best move in every situation.

One of the choices players need to make is to decide when to split. Most casinos allow splitting of two cards of the same rank, for instance two aces, two 2s, and so on. However, players need to make sure that this is the case before playing as some places have certain restrictions on this move and the number of times players can split.

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A few crucial questions come to mind – what pairs to split, when, and why. In this chapter, we will have a look at two pairs of these possible combinations in particular – a pair of 2s and 3s.

Reasons for Splitting

First of all, let’s use the occasion to remind what the reason for splitting is in general. The motive behind this move is the same as the one for doubling down – players need to get as much money as possible whenever the dealer is in a weak position. This is extremely important to be considered since splitting is only beneficial if applied correctly.

Splitting pairs against weak face-up cards, like 4, 5, and 6, is considered an offensive play since it gives players the opportunity to capitalise on the dealer’s disadvantage. This dents the casino’s edge and leads to higher average earnings for the player.

With that said, splitting is sometimes used as a defensive move, as is the case with paired 7s against the dealer’s deuce in shoe-dealt S17 games without doubling after a split. Hard 14 is generally a lousy total for the player and produces a negative expectation against this upcard when one stands. Meanwhile, hitting this total yields even higher long-term losses for the player as the odds of busting are higher with hard 14.

Splitting the pair of 7s is the best way to go since it allows you to start two new relatively strong hands, each with a 7, and cut your inevitable losses. Sadly, the concept of increasing one’s wager for the purposes of loss reduction is counterintuitive and confusing to many novice players, who end up frequently misplaying such tricky pairs.

Finally, the third major reason why you split is that you can transform a lousy starting total into a winning one. The most prominent example for this is splitting paired 8s against the dealer’s deuce through 7 in multiple-deck games. Out of all possible playing decisions, splitting the 8s is the only move that improves your odds and gives you positive expected value.

Players need to follow their chosen strategy and understand why a particular move should be done. Otherwise, they are bound to lose over and over again. They need to bear in mind that blackjack is a card game and as such, it is logically driven. Thus, gamblers can predict the outcome of their moves to some extent and make better choices. Splitting can be really beneficial if players know how to take advantage of it.

2s and 3s Basic Strategy Chart for Double-Deck and Multiple-Deck Games with DAS
Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
2-2 Ph Ph P P P P H H H H
3-3 Ph Ph P P P P H H H H
H = Hit; Ph = Split if you can double after splitting; If not – hit

When To Split Pairs of 2s and 3s

Whenever players are dealt two cards from the same rank as their first two cards, such as a pair of 2s and 3s, most casinos allow the move to split. The same strategy goes for both pairs and players should apply it throughout the game. It takes into account their hand value as well as the dealer’s upcard.

The choice of play here is based on how many decks the game is dealt out of as well as on whether the house allows you to double down after you split. There are only two viable moves the player can make with these two pairs, splitting or hitting.

In double-deck and shoe-dealt blackjack variations that support doubling after splitting (DAS), paired 2s and 3s should be split in cases where the dealer’s upcard is from a 2 through a 7, or in other words, whenever the dealer is in a weak position.

This way they will be able to bet extra money when the dealer is in a disadvantageous position which should be every player’s goal. The dealer has higher chances of ending up with a breaking hard hand when their first card is 2 through 7. Splitting the 2s and 3s has a multi-fold purpose for the player, though.

It provides you with the opportunity to catch a good card that could potentially allow you to make a successful double down following the split. Then again, a starting total of hard 4 (2-2) or hard 6 (3-3) is not particularly strong for the player. By splitting these pairs, you get to transform a losing total into a winning one.

As for the rest of the dealer’s upcards, the 2s and 3s should be hit versus 8 through ace in multiple-deck blackjack with DAS. These cards put the dealer in a stronger position. They are less likely to break their hand and have better chances of reaching their standing total of 17 or higher.

Player is dealt a pair of 2’s. Dealer’s Up card is a 3. Player should Split.

Outcomes of Splitting Pairs of 2s

Let’s have a look at one of the possible outcomes of splitting pairs of 2s and when this move is a good option. As already mentioned, players usually make it on condition that the upcard of the dealer is a 2 through 7.

In this sense, it will be best to consider a particular situation in order to illustrate the possibilities of this case better. For instance, if players have a pair of 2s in their hand and the dealer’s upcard is 4, the chances that they will draw a card that will allow them to double down are very high.

If they are dealt with an 8, their hand will be totalling 10 and they will be able to double down. The same goes for when they get a 9, 7, 6, or an ace. The above-mentioned case shows that splitting 2s gives multi-deck DAS players the opportunity to double down and take advantage of the dealer’s weak position.

There are five cards in a deck that lead to this option and whenever players get lucky enough to have them, they need to know how to make the most of this situation. As the chart below demonstrates, hitting your paired 2s produces negative expected value for the basic strategy player. Splitting your deuces versus the dealer’s 4 helps you overcome your disadvantage and generates positive expected value for you.

EV of Basic Strategy Moves for 2s and 3s against 4 and 2 in Multi-Deck DAS Games
EV of 2-2 vs. 4 EV of 3-3 vs. 2
Hitting -0.049367 Hitting -0.140759
Splitting +0.059088 Splitting -0.13771

Some shoe-game players abstain from splitting their 2s when the dealer exposes low cards deuce or 3. They prefer to hit instead, arguing that the dealer’s bust rates are lower when they start with 2 or 3. Unfortunately, this wariness only ends up costing them money in the end.

Such players forget doubling after a split is a rule that works to the advantage of casino patrons, enabling them to increase their wager should they catch a good hit card on their split deuces. That is why correct basic strategy advises in favour of splitting your 2s and 3s against 2 or 3 as well as versus the other small upcards (4, 5, 6, and 7).

But what about games that disallow doubling after a pair split (NDAS)? Under such circumstances, both splitting and drawing produce negative expected value over the long haul. Nevertheless, the odds lean slightly in favour of hitting, helping you to incur lower losses from this pair on average.

2s and 3s Basic Strategy for Double-Deck and Multiple-Deck NDAS Games
Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
2-2 H H S S S S H H H H
3-3 H H S S S S H H H H
H = Hit; S = Stand

Playing 2s and 3s in Single-Deck Blackjack

There are differences in the recommended strategy plays against some upcards when one plays blackjack variations dealt out of a single pack. The dealer drawing to soft 17 or not is not what’s relevant here. What matters is whether or not players have the option to double following a pair split.

In single-deck games where DAS is in place, you should split your deuces against the dealer’s 2 through 7, and hit against all other upcards. A pair of 3-3 should be split but only when the dealer’s starting card has a value of 2 through 8.

2s and 3s Basic Strategy in Single-Deck DAS Games
Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
2-2 Ph P P P P P H H H H
3-3 Ph Ph P P P P Ph H H H
H = Hit; Ph = Split if you can double down after splitting pairs, if not – hit

The strategy is a little different in cases where NDAS applies. When this is the case, single-deck players are advised to split only when the dealer has disadvantageous cards 3 through 7, and hit against the dealer’s deuce, 8, 9, 10, and ace. The pair of 3s should be split versus the dealer’s 4 through 7. Hitting is optimal with 3s when the dealer starts their hand with 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, and ace. This is because hitting slightly overpowers the split where expected value is concerned.

2s and 3s Basic Strategy in Single-Deck NDAS Games
Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
2-2 H P P P P P H H H H
3-3 H H P P P P H H H H
H = Hit; P = Split

When to Avoid Splitting Pairs of 2s and 3s

If players find themselves in a situation where their first two cards turn out to be a pair of 2s or 3s, there are a few things to take into account. As already mentioned above, these pairs should be only split if the dealer’s upcard is weak. This raises the question what players’ best move will be if the situation was any different.

In case the dealer’s upcard is from an 8 through an ace, they should hit (in multi-deck DAS games), contrary to the popular statement that they should always split regardless of the dealer’s upcard. Players need to understand that whenever the dealer has a power card, he or she is not in a weak position and splitting would rather make the matters worse for them.

Doubling one’s wager by splitting is a poor decision versus high upcards for two main reasons, the first one being the dealer is not as likely to bust. On the contrary, this improves their odds of arriving at decent enough totals like 19 or 20 and winning the round. An example is a dealer with an exposed 9 in a six-deck S17 variation whose likelihood of reaching 19 stands at 35.18% whereas their bust rate decreases to 22.92%.

In comparison, a dealer who starts with a 5 stands a 41.84% probability of breaking their hand whereas their likelihood of forming a total of 19 is considerably reduced to 11.76%. Similar tendencies can be observed when the dealer’s starting cards are aces or ten-value ones. It makes zero sense to up your wager by splitting under such unfavorable circumstances.

Player is dealt a pair of 2’s. Dealer’s Up card is a 10. Player should Hit.

Things Worth Remembering When Splitting

It is of great importance for players to be aware of all the opportunities splitting gives them and why this move is their best choice in a particular situation such as when the dealer’s upcard is 4. They need to remember that the main reason behind splitting 2s and 3s against the dealer’s weak card is that it gives them the chance to take advantage of this situation by increasing their money bet.

Another useful tip to bear in mind is that when players are done splitting and get the additional cards for both hands, they should deal with the first hand and proceed to the second one only if the first hand is completed. Otherwise, there is a chance to slow down the game in the meantime, not to mention that switching from one hand to the other can be very confusing.

It is also worthwhile mentioning a few words on resplitting your 2s or 3s, for example, when you happen to catch another deuce or a 3 on one or both split hands. When this happens against small upcards, say a 4, you should resplit again to make a third hand. Assuming you receive yet another pair, you should again resplit provided that the house rules allow for splitting up to three times (i.e. to a maximum of four hands).

Resplitting multiple times is a player-favourable option one should always make use of. Due to this, players must acquaint themselves with the exact house rules on pair splitting before they buy in at any given blackjack table.

Conclusion

If players want to master Blackjack and win in the long run, they need to be aware of all the subtleties and difficult choices they need to make throughout the game. Knowing the possible outcomes in a particular situation is crucial as it allows them to make the move that leads to the least amount of money loss.

Moreover, players need to follow a strategy and prepare themselves in advance as at the time of playing, they will not be able to think the situation through and are bound to lose the hand. It is essential to know when to split 2s and 3s as they give players the chance to double down afterwards and increase their bet providing that the dealer’s position is weak. Such chances are a rarity and players should take full advantage of them.