Always split aces and eights when playing blackjack.
You always split aces because you are getting two hands that theoretically can hit 21 on the next card. You split them into two strong hands, and therefore, you get more money on the table in a strong position. Besides, leaving two aces gives you a two or twelve, neither of which is a good start to a hand. If given the chance, wouldn't you double your bet knowing that your first card was going to be an ace? Sure you would and should.
Now for the eights. You always split eights for a couple of reasons. First of all, sitting with a sixteen against any card the dealer is showing is bad. It gets worse if the dealer has a 9, 10, 11 showing. You will lose about $53 for every hundred you bet by playing a hand of 16. When you split 16 into two hands of eight, you decrease that value of the combined loss to around $43 per hundred dollars bet, even though you put more money on the table. Where splitting the aces is an attempt to win more, splitting eights is an attempt to lose less. It is actually a defensive bet. If you plan to play blackjack, play by "the book," or the way you have the best odds of walking away a winner.
By the time this column is published, Lehman (LEH) will have reported its quarterly numbers. We are all expecting that massive $2.8 billion loss. They were kind enough to surprise us with that last week instead of surprising us with it Monday. Let's hope Mr. Fuld and company have no more tricks up those very long, loose sleeves.