Splitting Eights - Why It's a Must!

What to do when you're dealt a pair of eights?

This is actually an academic question in blackjack circles, but I've still been encountered by my share of people who have their doubts about which move to make.

No responsible Basis Strategy would dictate the player do anything but split those eights. But it may look curious to someone who wonders whether, even if a ten is drawn to each of the split 8's - having twin 18's, which is not the strongest two-card hand anyone could have, merits putting twice as much money on the table.

Indeed, since the dealer achieves an average hand of 18.23, you're going to find yourself on the losing side of the equation more often than not.

But that's not the whole story here. In fact, it's not the story at all. When you're dealt a pair of eights, it represents what you might call a trichotomous situation. That is, there is a tremendous difference between making the correct move and the incorrect move, or in this case moves, since you would have three options here - hitting, standing or splitting.

Hitting the eights, which in effect constitutes hitting a hard 16, will cause you to lose over 60% more times than if you split the hand.

If you STAND with the pair of eights, it's even less effective, as you'll lose 74% more.

But is this any surprise? A 16 is one of the worst "stiff" hands the player could have.

Splitting eights is by far the most prudent play you could make in this situation, and in fact stands as one of the cardinal rules of Basic Strategy. It works not only mathematically, but should make perfect logistical sense, in that it takes your stiff hand and immediately transforms it into two hands that each have a fighting chance to beat the dealer.

By Charles Jay

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