Splitting a Pair of 8’s

A lot of players, even the ones who have been enjoying Blackjack for years, make the common mistake to sit on the table without the needed preparation. They stick to the old unwritten rules and don’t take into account the fact that throughout the years many professional gamblers have observed the patterns of the game thoroughly and managed to develop and improve the basic strategy significantly.

The statement that players should always split when they have a pair of 8s is well-known. It has been used by many of them all over the world. However, more and more arguments are appearing against some of the cases of this pair which suggest that splitting is the best move. There are exceptions to every rule, as you shall see later, albeit very few where splitting 8s is concerned.

It is just one of those tricky situations that always provokes heated discussions and second thoughts during the game. Nonetheless, basic strategy is perfectly clear about how players should approach this card holding if they engage in blackjack recreationally, even more so if they are looking to increase their win rates and cut their long-term losses.

It is really important for players to know what is the best way to proceed in advance, especially in such tricky situations in order to reduce the amount of their money loss to the minimum.

As already mentioned, having a pair of 8s is a challenging position to be in. Therefore, it is best to have a look at the reasons why a particular move is suggested to be the most reasonable one. Of course, even though blackjack is a game of skill, it is still played in a casino and chance is involved. There can never be a 100% guarantee of winning.

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Reasons to Split a Pair of 8s

Basic strategy suggests to always split a pair of 8s regardless of the dealer’s upcard. In most cases, this is players’ best move as having a total of hard 16 is a breaking hand. This places them in a very unfavourable position as they can easily go bust. Any card above 5 will cause them to lose the hand if they decide to risk by hitting .

The odds in such cases are not favourable for the players as they have more than 50% chance of surpassing 21. All playing decisions (hitting, standing, doubling), bar splitting, result in negative expectation for the recreational blackjack player. Meanwhile, splitting your 8s yields a positive expected value for basic strategists against lower dealer upcards deuce through 7.

As for splitting the 8s versus higher upcards 8 through ace, the expectation is negative but it is still better than that for hitting as some gambling authors would suggest. Both moves lead to long-term losses for the basic strategy players, but splitting helps you reduce the damages to your bankroll over the long haul. The chances that when this pair is split against high upcards the result will be any different aren’t too promising, either. However, splitting is the lesser of the two evils.

The bottom line is that this move gives players the opportunity to avoid going bust with one more hit and to have at least one decent hand. Whenever players find themselves in a breaking position, what they should do is split the losing hand into two, hopefully good, ones.

Hard 16 (which a pair of 8s essentially is) is notorious for being the worst possible total in the entire game of blackjack. This is true no matter how you play it. Yet, starting two separate hands, with a total of 8 each, offers better prospects than playing a single one with a total of 16.

You will still lose less money by splitting, compared to hitting, despite the fact you need to post an extra wager to cover the second hand. Of course, splitting does not always work in favour of players, which is why they need to get familiar with the possible outcomes of every hand.

One of the golden rules of basic strategists is to always split paired 8s in all blackjack variations where the dealer is bound to draw to 16 and stand on all 17s. This applies no matter whether the respective S17 game plays with one, two, four, six, or eight decks.

8-8 Basic Strategy for S17 Blackjack Games (Deck Number Is Irrelevant)
Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
8-8 P P P P P P P P P P
P = Split

Alternative Move

As already mentioned, some gambling authors would suggest that players should refrain from splitting their 8s and choose to hit instead, particularly when the dealer exposes a solid card like an ace or a ten. The argument of such authors is that there is no point in pouring more money into splitting against such powerful dealer upcards. They would even argue the odds of hitting and splitting are pretty much the same.

However, both basic strategy and established blackjack experts would beg to differ on this subject. Indeed, exceptions are made to the “Always split your 8s” rule but they do not involve hitting. Forfeiting the pair is recommended in some cases, depending on the dealer’s fixed standing position and the value of their upcard. Hitting hard 16 results in long-term losses against all possible upcards of the dealer. Tens and aces are no exception.

Smart players, who insist on accuracy, choose to stick to the basic strategy and split against strong upcards in S17 games due to the fact this move dents their losses the most. Hitting this pair versus tens and aces costs you around £0.54 and £0.52 per every pound you bet, respectively. By comparison, if you split the pair of 8s, your negative expectation drops to £0.48 against the ten and £0.37 against the ace. You can work out on your own which of the two plays is the best one.

Player is dealt a pair of 8’s. Dealer’s Up card is a 10. According to Blackjack Basic Strategy Player should Split, but they could also Hit.

Re-splitting

Even though the cases where players can get a second pair of 8s are rare, as previously indicated, they should be prepared for every hand. In such situations, it is worth remembering that the same strategy applies every time they get a pair of cards of the same rank.

If players happen to get another pair of 8s after the split, it is best to resplit them if allowed. Bear in mind that as the rules of the casinos differ, some places may have restrictions regarding this move. The fact that sometimes there are restrictions on resplitting shows that this move can be very favourable to players as long as they know how and when to take advantage of it.

It is crucial to get familiar with the casino rules for blackjack before you play since this way, you will avoid changing your strategy and making less optimal plays. For instance, if players get a second pair of 8s and they want to resplit it but this move is not allowed, the chances that they will misplay this hand are very high.

If resplitting is impossible, they should opt for the second-best move, which is either hitting or standing, depending on the strength of the dealer’s face-up card. The best blackjack variants normally enable you to resplit your 8s three times to up to four individual hands.

The Option To Surrender

Another very reasonable move players can make is to surrender, provided that this option is allowed. The reason why is that having a total of 16 is a breaking hand, which will almost certainly cause them to go bust.

It is a wise move to withdraw if players have a pair of 8s as their hand’s total in most cases will lead to losing the hand. By surrendering, they will at least be able to get half of their money back in such a disadvantageous situation. However, players should take into account that many casinos don’t allow this move due to the benefits it offers them.

If possible, surrendering your 8s is advisable against the ace in double-deck and multiple-deck blackjack games where the dealer must draw to soft 17. Paired 8s against an ace are always a split in single-deck games regardless of the dealer’s standing position.

8-8 Basic Strategy for Double-Deck and Multi-Deck H17 Blackjack Games
Player’s Hand Dealer’s Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
8-8 P P P P P P P P P Rp
P = Split; Rp = Surrender if you can, or else split

Conclusion

Sometimes, it can be really difficult to determine which move is the best in a particular situation. Even more seasoned gamblers struggle to say for sure and have second thoughts on some of them. However, this is why gambling is gambling and what makes Blackjack such an interesting and challenging game.

The only way to win in the long term and manage to make a profit is if players strive to improve every time they play. With the appropriate knowledge of the basic rules, a reliable strategy, and good money management skills, they can gain an advantage over the casino and achieve the desired result.

It is important to focus on winning the majority of the hands, not all of them. When there are tough situations, such as having a pair of 8s, players should try and reduce the amount of money they lose to the minimum rather than attempting to necessarily win the hand.