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Surrender — A Great Player Option
Blackjack Professor
by Lance Humble

A great player option in Blackjack is surrender. It was first introduced in the Philippines in the late 1950’s, allowing the player to throw in his hand and get half of his bet back. The concept is based on the player having a very bad hand and the dealer having a very good one. In those situations you would expect to lose the entire wager, instead the player surrenders the hand, is out for that round only, and gets half of his or her wager back. Today, we find two types of surrender offered: early and late. The early surrender rule allows the player to throw in the hand before the dealer checks the hole card for a Blackjack. The late surrender option is offered after the dealer looks at the hole card. In the case of late surrender, the option is not available if the dealer shows a Blackjack.

Since there is no hand signal for this option you simply say, “surrender” when it’s your turn to play. When I’ve used this play I’ve had dealers call out loudly to the pit boss, “surrender,” thereby alerting management that they have a player at their table that knows how to take advantage of this rule. Since most players are unaware of the option, you might be seen as a skilled player, one who requires additional observation. I’ve also had dealers criticize me for taking this option. They would say things like, “You came to play and surrendering is not playing.” Ignore statements like these. The important fact to remember is that the real object of the game is to win more then you lose.

Surrender should only be used with very bad hands. A hand totaling 16 is considered the worst hand in Blackjack followed closely by 15. To illustrate: when you have 15 or 16 and the dealer is showing a 10 or an Ace, you have over a 70% chance of losing the entire hand. Surrender then becomes an excellent alternative. What specific hands should you surrender? The following shows the best ones:

Dealer’s Up CardPlayer’s Hand
Ace(9, 7), (10, 6)
10(9, 7), (10, 6), (9, 6), (10, 5)
9(9, 7), (10, 6)

Julian Braun in his book, How to Play Winning Blackjack, found that a hand with 16 against a dealers 10, can expect to lose 76.6% of the time. This results in a loss of $53.20 for every $100 wagered. If you surrender, you will lose exactly $50.00, which is 3.2% less; therefore, surrender should be considered a strategy for losing less.

Things are starting to look up for this excellent player option. A recent survey of Las Vegas casinos indicates that about twenty of them now offer late surrender. It seems to be getting more and more popular, and I would expect to see more casinos around the country adapt this favorable rule. On the other hand, it is rare to find early surrender. The difference in odds, 0.065 for late surrender and 0.62 for early surrender, seems to be just too much of an advantage to the player, so the house doesn’t offer the latter. In the end, it’s important to remember that when you surrender, you get half your bet back to use on the next hand, definitely better than losing it all!

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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