Surrender In Blackjack

In games that allow the option of surrendering, players must know when to surrender in blackjack in order to maximize their EV in a particular game.

Surrender in blackjack, though becoming quite rare in brick and mortar casinos, is a much-discussed topic in blackjack.

In games that allow the option of surrendering, players must know when and how to surrender in blackjack in order to minimize their potential loss in a particular game.

Surrender in Blackjack Explained

Blackjack surrender is the option that allows the players to fold their blackjack hands and give up before drawing any cards. When a player decides to surrender, half of their original bet is returned to them and half is taken by the dealer.

Although there are several scenarios and rules associated with surrendering in blackjack, the best strategy for a player to surrender is when the odds are clearly against them winning the hand. The player must signal the dealer by placing their index finger behind the bet. Most online casinos have the option of surrendering in blackjack.

Rules for Surrender in Blackjack

The blackjack surrender rules are pretty simple and straightforward because all that the player needs to do is give up the hand after the initial two cards have been dealt. Blackjack players can greatly benefit from this move when they get a hand that is absolutely unfavorable in all respect.

By surrendering, a blackjack player can get back half of their money placed on a bet, however, they forfeit their ability to win the hand, even if the dealer busts.

As a blackjack variant, it was introduced in the early 1980s in the Atlantic City casinos. There are two variations of surrender namely early surrender and late surrender.

Early Surrender in Blackjack

Early surrender in blackjack gives players the option of tossing away their cards right when the dealer shows an ace or a 10 and is about to check if they have a blackjack. Early surrender is uncommon because it actually increases the rate of return to the player by 0.39% and 0.24% if the dealer shows an ace and a 10 respectively.

When casinos allow an early surrender, they also put some rules in place that would help them win the edge back, for instance, allowing the dealer to take another card on soft 17. Players need to be very careful while choosing early surrender.

A hand of hard 5 to 7, hard 12 to 17, or pairs of 3, 6, 7, or 8 when the dealer has an ace are situations worth taking an early surrender for.

Late Surrender in Blackjack

Late surrender is different from early surrender in that players can forfeit their hand and lose half of their bet only after the dealer has checked his hand for blackjack. When late surrender is used optimally in a 6 deck blackjack game, the house edge drops by almost 20%, which is a lot in favor of the player. Therefore, late surrender, whenever available, should be chosen as an effective tool for decreasing the house edge.

When to Surrender in Blackjack?

A blackjack hand

Surrendering your hand in blackjack is a good tactic when you have a weak hand against the dealer's relatively stronger hand with an ace or a 10.

However, there are strategies for surrender in blackjack that players must apply to make the most of this option, when available.

Early Blackjack Surrender Strategy

Early surrender allows the players to forfeit their hand and half of their bet even before the dealer checks for blackjack. The early surrender in blackjack strategies, therefore, remains the same irrespective of the number of decks used in the game.

Accordingly, players must surrender with hard hands of 5-7 and 12-17 when the dealer shows an ace. A hand of a pair of 3, 6, 7, or 8 must also be surrendered against a dealer's ace rather than splitting them.

On the other hand, if the dealer shows a 10, players with hard hands of 14-16 and pairs of 7 and 8 must go with the option of surrendering to make the highest EV play.

Players must also know about situations when they should not surrender and keep playing the game such as these:

  • Dealer's 10 vs. 4+10 or 5+9 in a single deck game
  • Dealer's 10 vs. 4+10 in a double deck game
  • Dealer's ace against a pair of 2 (if the dealer hits soft 17)
  • Dealer's 10 vs. 8, 8 in a single deck game (when doubling after split is allowed)

Late Blackjack Surrender Strategy

Late surrender is when the player forfeits their hand after the dealer has checked for blackjack. Many situations might seem to be worth taking a late surrender option but they are not. The late blackjack surrender strategy for a standard 6-8 deck blackjack game (commonly found on the Vegas Strip) can be summed in the following points. Accordingly, a player should go for a late surrender when:

  • The player holds a total of 15 against the dealer's ace (except when the game allows the dealer to only hit on soft 17)
  • The player holds a total of 16 against the dealer's ace or 10
  • The player holds a total of 17 against the dealer's ace

The player, on the other hand, must refuse a later surrender when the dealer stands on soft 17 while holding a 9, 10, or Ace and the player holds any total of 15-17.

Similarly, you should not take a late surrender when you hold a total of 16 and the dealer shows a 9 because they have more chances of coming underneath your total than you going bust.

16 Hand Surrender Strategies

A hard 16 is considered to be one of the worst and most misplayed hands in blackjack. The winning odds for the players are unfavorable and the players are likely to be either outdrawn by the dealer or go bust.

The situation gets tougher when the hard 16 is against the dealer's 10 value card. There are three possible actions that you can take with a hard 16 and these are hit, stand and surrender. Out of these, surrendering is the best possible strategy to play because this would minimize the long-run losses incurred by the player.

Surrendering guarantees a loss but that will be restricted to half the bet and is overall the higher EV play.

Surrender in Blackjack: Pros & Cons

Surrender in blackjack has its set of advantages and disadvantages for the players as delineated here.

Pros

The pros or advantages are:

Better Player's Edge

The most significant benefit of the ability to surrender in blackjack is that it clearly reduces the edge of the casino. By surrendering, early or even later in the game, players have the chance to escape from the hand which would have led to more losses on their part and increased the house edge.

Statistics reveal that even in an 8 deck game, the casino has an edge of just 0.63% if it allows early surrender. The edge is further down to 0.1% with a late surrender. Thus, the biggest advantage of surrender is the promise of a better edge for the player and the chance to minimize the losses.

Flexible Profitability for Card Counters

Card counting is the process of assigning values to sets of cards and then keeping a running count and ultimately, arriving at a true count of the cards. This technique enables card counters to get an idea of the cards that are being dealt and the cards remaining in the deck. Positive values indicate the possibility of betting a higher amount and vice versa.

So, with card counting, players can estimate the type of hand they are about to get or even, the dealer's hand. When you have this knowledge, you also know if your hand is going to be unfavorable enough to be surrendered. This leads to increased profitability for card counters with respect to their use of the surrender option in blackjack.

Cons

The disadvantages or demerits are:

Not Available in Most Physical Casinos

The main disadvantage of surrender in blackjack is that the option is not available in most land-based casinos. There is a brief history behind this. In 1977, the Governor of New Jersey, Brendan Bryne along with the Casino Control Commission, declared that public welfare would be hampered if the Atlantic City casinos continued to allow surrendering in blackjack.

Earlier, the casino executives had complained to both Bryne and the Casino Control Commission that they were unable to earn the revenues expected from the business. Without surrender, the 0.16% advantage of the player over the house would turn into a 0.54% disadvantage for the player.

From then on, surrendering is hardly allowed at blackjack tables in the brick and mortar casinos.

Card Counting Not Available for Online Blackjack Surrender Games

Another prominent disadvantage of surrender in blackjack is that though it is available in online casinos, the use of the PNRG system prevents card counters from using this option in the game. PRNG or the Pseudorandom Number Generator is a device to secure the randomness of the games in online casinos.

Online casinos are required to comply with specific rules and regulations, implied by the gaming regulatory bodies and this requires them to ensure that the games are fair and random and hence, the use of PNRG comes to play.

The problem with the system is that card counters cannot use any card counting system to keep a running count of the cards. The reshuffling of the cards is so random that no one can possibly estimate which cards are played and which are left in the deck. When card counting becomes difficult, it is almost impossible for players to surrender based on the assumption of a hard hand that they might end up getting.

An overview of when you should surrender in blackjack

Surrender in Blackjack: FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about surrendering in blackjack answered in brief:

What is surrender in blackjack? 

Surrender in blackjack is the option given to the players to forfeit their hand and half of their original bet when they get a difficult hand against the dealer's ace or 10.

What is the difference between early and late surrenders? 

Early surrender is when the player has the option to toss away the hand after the initial two cards have been dealt and the dealer shows an ace or a 10 but has not yet checked for a blackjack. Late surrender allows the players to give up the hand only after the dealer has already checked for a blackjack.

Should you surrender with a 16? 

Surrendering is the often best option when the player has a hard 16 because it is the worst hand in blackjack and any playing action would lead to potential losses for the player.

Why did Governor Bryne stop blackjack surrender among land-based casinos? 

Governor Bryne stopped allowing the option of surrender in blackjack among land-based casinos because surrendering reduced the house edge to a significant extent and this made the casinos incur losses in their business.

Where can you find blackjack surrender games? 

The option of surrendering is mostly found in online blackjack games these days though rarely you will find a brick-and-mortar casino that will offer the game with certain rules.

How can card counters take advantage of surrender in blackjack? 

Card counters can take advantage of the option to surrender by using their knowledge of what cards are likely to come next and use that to inform their judgment of the strength of their hand.

Is surrender in blackjack worth it? 

Knowing when to surrender in blackjack is worth it because it offers the players an escape route and a chance to keep their losses at the minimum when the odds are against them.

Whilst it is often disregarded by casual players, a key part of an advantage player's arsenal is the knowledge of when to surrender in blackjack.