Today I want to answer a question sent in by an MBS reader, who has asked to remain nameless. They ask: “can the dealer split in blackjack, and if so what happens when they do?”
Now before all you veteran players start sniggering, let’s remember we were all novices once.
And if you’re new to the game and still learning how to play, it seems a reasonable question. After all, if you are playing against the dealer, you might reasonably expect the rules to be the same.
The quick answer is NO – the dealer cannot split pairs, only the player has that option.
If the dealer gets a pair, it just gets treated as a normal hard or soft hand.
Rules the Dealer Must Follow
Remember that in Blackjack, the player gets to make decisions about what they want to do, based on their cards and the dealer’s upcard that is visible from the start of the game.
If the player gets a pair, they have the option to split. There are rules and guidelines about splitting pairs which you should familiarize yourself with. Essentially, you should only split pairs in certain circumstances, when it is mathematically beneficial for you to do so. This decreases the house edge when done properly.
For the dealer, there are no decisions to make. The dealer must follow specific rules at all times, and there is no scope for strategy, instinct, or decision-making.
In that sense, the dealer is essentially robotic. For example, dealers must always hit on 16 or below, no matter what.
Why Can’t the Dealer Split?
Casino blackjack only works when the dealer follows a set pattern. The predictability of the dealer’s actions is what gives the player the opportunity to increase their RTP.
It also stops dealers from cheating the casino.
If a dealer was allowed to make their own decisions, and choose when to hit, split pairs, or stand, they might decide to work with a player and lose deliberately. The player could walk away with thousands and then split the profits with the dealer later.
There are practical considerations too. When a player splits a pair it becomes two separate hands, and they are required to add more chips to stake their second hand.
If the game allowed the dealer to split, then the player would also be forced to increase their stake to play against two dealer hands. Imagine your outrage as a player if you’d already gone bust, or had to stand on a low score, and the dealer was then able to insist on you doubling your bet size.
You may not even have enough chips at the table to cover another bet, which would cause all sorts of problems. If some players were forced to add more chips and others could not, it would destroy the integrity of the game.
So while the answer to the original question was a simple one – no, the dealer can’t split – I felt it was worth taking the time to answer the question in more depth and explain why the rules are the way they are, and why it’s important.
If you’re just starting out on your online blackjack journey, I suggest taking the time to play some free online blackjack games on your PC or mobile. These will give you the opportunity to get used to the rules and the gameplay, without the pressure of any money riding on it.
Blackjack is a very easy game to learn, and those rules and terms which can seem intimidating at first will soon become second nature. You’ll then be able to help your friends and family if they ever ask you the same thing.
Until next time, stay lucky.
Last Updated on September 15, 2022
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