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Deal Me In: You heard it right: SPLIT 'EM

8 April 2011

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: A prime rule in blackjack is always split Aces & 8's. I recently watched a player split aces against a dealer 7. He drew a 4 on one ace and a 3 on the other. The dealer showed 17, so both hands lost. Is one card all you get on each split card? If so, what is the advantage of splitting? Dave S.

Anytime you are dealt a matching pair of cards, Dave, you have the ability to split your hand into two separate hands, which allows you to play them independently. As with any two-card matching hand, there are times you want to take advantage of this splitting rule, and splitting a pair of aces is definitely one of those times.

Since splitting Aces is a very strong player move, the casino restricts you to drawing only one additional card on each Ace. But even though this rule limits your opportunity for additional cards, that shouldn’t keep you from splitting. For openers, Dave, there are more 10-value cards than any other card in the deck, and that’s reason number one to split them. Besides, you are better off with a hand of 11, than with a hand of 12, and splitting aces gives you two hands of 11.

The math bears this out. By taking just one card to a single Ace, its application is now identical to doubling down with an 11. Hence, after adjusting for ties, you'll win 60% of the time while losing just 40% of your hands. Oh, and by splitting Aces, the casino graciously allows you to do this twice.

It gets even better, Dave. Against a dealer 6, you’re in the winners circle 67% of the time. Even against a dealer's face card, you will still win 54% of your split hands. There is no dealer's up card in which you are not the favorite.

In short, Dave, put your anecdotal evidence aside and focus solely on the blackjack odds and probabilities. Playing each hand as an 11, even with only one hit apiece, is always superior to waltzing through a soft 12.

Dear Mark: Does the random number generator continue running even while the reels are spinning? Also, does speed of play have anything to do with altering the random number generator? Lastly, does it make any difference to my outcome if I push the spin button or pull a handle? Doug D.

Yes, Doug, the RNG runs continuously, crunching never-ending numbers even when the reels are whirling away.

As to you second question, playing faster will not increase your chances of winning. The RNG will generate thousands of numbers between the spins of even the fastest player.

Finally, it makes absolutely no difference to the machine, or the results, if you yank the handle or press the Spin button.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "You hear people say things like, 'If I could just get even I could die happy.' I don't believe that." — Bob Dancer
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.