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Deal Me In: Times to split 10s at blackjack are extremely rare

27 February 2015

By Mark Pilarski
Dear Mark: I am aware that you never – ever – ever split 10s against a dealer’s 5 or 6. However, I have been tempted to do so when no one else is at the Blackjack table. My question is what is the percentage odds of winning (or losing) by doing so? Herb C.

Surprisingly, Herb, there was a gaming writer, John Scarne (Scarne on Cards), who did recommend splitting 10s when playing the standard version of blackjack. However, Scarne’s book was published in 1949, well before computers could analyze the game of blackjack with multi-million hand simulations.

Then in 1962 along came Edward Thorp, the first blackjack specialist who used an IBM 704 computer and published the results in his book, Beat the Dealer. Since then, I can’t think of any blackjack authors that recommend splitting 10s in most, if not all, cases.

Moreover, years ago I ran a 20-million hand simulation analysis using a Macintosh software program called BJ Trainer. My results clearly favored leaving those 10s unaided versus splitting them, even against a 5 or a 6. I favor taking computer results over advice written in 1949 every time.

That said, Herb, in reference to your question where you state “Never – ever – ever split 10s against a dealer’s 5 or 6” there are moments where it could be a good strategy.

In Face-up Blackjack, where all the cards dealt are exposed, including both dealer’s cards, the correct strategy calls for splitting 10s against the dealer’s 13, 14, 15, or 16.

Also, for card counters, a situation that favors splitting 10s would be when there is a high proportion of high cards left in the deck, for instance a high-low true count of plus 6 or more with the dealer showing a 6.

There is one other scenario where splitting 10s can be the better play than standing, that being the last hand of a round during a blackjack tournament. I had it happen to me once when, while observing the leader’s chip count, I calculated that by holding on to a probable winner of 20, I still wouldn’t have won enough money to overtake him. So, Herb, I split them, and a $20 payout difference got me to the next round.

As for the arithmetic, the statistical data on how often you will win when you split a pair of 10s against a dealer showing a 6 is 64% of the time. Your profit expectations for every $100 you bet while splitting those 10s will be, on average, a $56 profit.

However, Herb, we had better look at your other option: standing pat on your 20. By standing, you will win around 85 percent of the time, and will make about $14 more per $100 wagered than splitting.

My recommendation is to stand on your 20. Your fair share of being dealt a 20 is approximately 9.2% of the time, and I just don’t want you putting that stellar hand in unwarranted jeopardy, but for those few exceptions listed above.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Blackjack--what a game! How simple it looks, yet how complex it truly is.” – Victor H. Royer

Deal Me In: Player questions if he is a freak of nature

20 February 2015
Dear Mark: I am a freak of nature. Of the 50 times that I have played slots, maybe twice I left with $20 to $40. All the other times I have lost big. One time, I went with a lucky elderly teacher friend of mine and she won $300. I lost $50. So, she gave me another 20, and again I lost. She then gave me yet another 20, and again I lost. ... (read more)

Deal Me In: Decent game, for those running the casino

13 February 2015
Dear Mark: I happened to come across a game called 3-5-7 Poker. Could you please share some information regarding this game, and, if it is a reasonable game for the player who follows your rule of “only make casino bets that have less than a 2% house edge.” Jeff J. The game 3-5-7 Poker is a simple poker-based hybrid found both in table and video poker form in many casinos today. ... (read more)

Deal Me In: Does the Golden Arm exist?

6 February 2015
Dear Mark: I have read about people who are selling info about how to set dice. Is there anything to someone's ability to set dice and to throw them a certain way to improve their ability to throw desired numbers? On the other hand, are you convinced no matter how you "set" the dice that you will have a ... (read more)

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Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.