# How to play a pair of aces in blackjack

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An ace is the most powerful card in blackjack. Period.

Where picture cards (jack, queen, king) count as ‘10’ and numbered cards are represented as their face value, aces enjoy a dual function of being counted as either ‘1’ or ‘11’. Players are therefore free to choose either option, whichever is most likely to score them 21.

It is understandable, in that case, that many blackjack players – beginners and veterans alike – are intrigued by the powerful payout potential of receiving a pair of aces from their dealer. But what is the best way to play a pair of aces in blackjack? And why are they so valuable?

Read on for how to play a pair of aces in our blackjack tips guide, below.

## Why are aces important in blackjack?

Aces provide a distinct strategic advantage over the dealer. This is because blackjack players can tailor the value of their ace according to their hand without exceeding 21.

Blessed with a pair of aces? You can count yourself twice as lucky. A pair of aces can be split into two separate hands, thus providing two strong chances at hitting 21. Other options in blackjack include standing and hitting, surrendering, or doubling down, although none are as effective as splitting when it comes to playing a pair of aces.

Of course, any two cards of the same denomination can be split in much the same way as a pair of aces. What makes this the most powerful duo, however, is that they are the only pair to provide a choice of starting hand values: either a 2 (1 + 1) or a soft 12 (1 + 11). (Soft hands are any which include at least one ace in the first two cards.)

## Why you should split aces in blackjack

Splitting aces is an offensive strategy as it gives players a positive expected value (one mediocre hand becomes two powerful hands that are equally likely to hit 21).

By choosing to split the pair of aces, players gift themselves with the most mathematically optimal move available in the game. They are, therefore, more likely to hit 21 on any of the dealer’s possible up-cards.

Once blackjack is hit, the dealer pays 1.5x the bet. That is, unless the dealer also has blackjack, in which case it is a ‘push’ and neither wins.

## What happens if you choose not to split your aces in blackjack?

Let’s say you kept your pair of aces as one hand. In this instance, you would start with a value of 12 (one ace played as ‘11’, the other as ‘1’), and only a 9 would give you blackjack.

Splitting your aces, on the other hand, opens up the floor so that you have four ways to get to 21 using your two new hands. For instance, you could make blackjack by pairing either ace with a 10, jack, queen, or king, respectively.

Still not sure how that looks in a typical blackjack game? Take a look at the table below to see why splitting aces is the most favourable strategy in both US and European blackjack.

## Basic strategy when playing Aces

 Player’s hand Dealer’s up-card Optimal strategy (US blackjack) Optimal strategy (European blackjack) A-A 2 SPLIT SPLIT 3 SPLIT SPLIT 4 SPLIT SPLIT 5 SPLIT SPLIT 6 SPLIT SPLIT 7 SPLIT SPLIT 8 SPLIT SPLIT 9 SPLIT SPLIT 10 SPLIT SPLIT JACK BLACKJACK BLACKJACK QUEEN BLACKJACK BLACKJACK KING BLACKJACK BLACKJACK ACE SPLIT HIT*

*European blackjack prefers that players hit if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. This is because there are no hole cards in play in this variation.

Now you know how to split aces in blackjack, it’s time to put yourself against the dealer. To play fun blackjack games online, or to play live blackjack, take a look at the Mr Green portfolio today!