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A Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack Surrender

An Introduction to Blackjack Surrender 

While you may see some casinos offering a game called Blackjack Surrender, you will in fact find that many versions of the game offer the option to surrender. All it means is that the game gives you the chance to abandon a hand in exchange for part of your bet back. This of course has many advantages and it has a significant effect on the house edge.  

On occasion, it can be the best decision available to you and it is worth fully exploring how the rule works and when it is best to take advantage of it. Essentially, it can help you avoid losing money when you have been dealt a poor hand, which is something that every card player is sure to be eager to do.  

First, it is important to understand the basics of Blackjack. Nearly every game that you find with a surrender option will follow the same basic rules. The aim is to build a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible but without exceeding 21 and going bust. When the round ends, if your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s is then you will win.  

When calculating a hand’s value, the number cards 2 through 10 are worth their face vales, Jack, Queen and King are all worth 10 and Aces are worth 1 or 11. Therefore, the best possible hand is an Ace and a 10 card as they form 21 with just two cards. It is called Blackjack and no other hand can beat it.  

When playing a game with the option to surrender, the round will always follow the same basic structure. First you need to place your bets on any hand positions that you want to play (some versions of the game will allow you to play multiple positions simultaneously). You will then receive two face up cards to each hand position while the dealer will receive one face up card and one facedown.  

Putting the surrender option to the side for a moment, you will then have a few basic options for your hand. You can choose to Stand, which will leave the hand as it is, you can Hit, which draws another card to your hand, or you can Double, which will double your bet and draw one more card to the hand.  

There are a couple more options that may be offered. If the dealer’s face up card is an Ace then you will be given the chance to take out insurance against the dealer having Blackjack. Insurance costs half of your initial bet and if the dealer does have Blackjack, it pays at 2:1, so you won’t lose any money for that hand.  

If your first two cards have the same value then you will have the option to split them into two hands. This will double your bet and you can then play each hand independently. However, if you split two Aces then just one more card is dealt to each hand (in most versions of Blackjack).  

When you have finished playing the dealer plays. The rules governing the dealer will vary slightly from game to game; however, often the dealer will draw more cards until the hand is worth at least 16 and stand as soon as it is worth 17 or more.  

At the end of the round, you are paid out for winning hands. A winning Blackjack hand pays at 3:2 while all other hands pay at 1:1. If you have drawn with the dealer then your bet is returned as a push. 

The Option to Surrender  

There are actually two versions of Surrender in Blackjack, Early Surrender and Late Surrender. The vast majority of the games only offer Late Surrender, but it is still important to understand the difference between the two of them. 

As an historical side note, the option to Surrender was first introduced by Resorts International in Atlantic City as a way to try to attract more players. However, despite being an incredibly useful tool, as will soon be explained, today many players fail to take advantage of it.  

If a game offers Early Surrender, it means that you have the option to surrender your hand before the dealer has checked for Blackjack if they have a face up Ace or possibly a 10 value card depending on the specific game’s rules. This is a fantastic option and in games that are played with six decks where the dealer stands on soft 17s, it can reduce the house edge by as much as 0.63%!  

The more common form of the rule is Late Surrender. In these games, you can surrender your hand only after the dealer has checked for Blackjack. If the dealer then does have Blackjack, the surrender option is removed. It is still a very useful option to have and can reduce the house edge by 0.07%, but it is not quite as advantageous as Early Surrender is.  

Basic Blackjack Surrender Strategies 

As noted, today it is very rare to find games offering Early Surrender, so here we will focus on strategies for games that offer Late Surrender. As with all versions of Blackjack, there is an optimal strategy that is based upon the likelihood of cards being drawn in any given situation. If you are interested in optimal strategy then you will need to find a chart for the specific version of the game that you are playing that takes into account the number of decks in the shoe and the rules that the dealer follows.  

However, it is still possible to discuss basic strategy without worrying too much about specific Blackjack variants. Using the surrender option will be a good idea when you have particular hard totals (a hand without an Ace or when the Ace is a 1 and cannot be 11), the dealer is showing a strong face up card, and choosing hit has a significant chance of causing you to go bust.  

Surrender will always be the best option when the probability of you winning with your hard total is less than 50%.  

When playing a single deck Blackjack game you should always surrender in five specific situations. First, if you have a hard 16 and the dealer has an Ace or a 10. This applies in games where the dealer Stands on soft 17 and hard 17. Second, if you have a pair of 7s and the dealer has a 10 in a game where the dealer Stands on soft 17. Third, if you have a hard 15 and the dealer has an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. Fourth, if you have a pair of 7s and the dealer has an Ace or a 10 in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. Finally, if you have a hard 17 and the dealer has an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. In this final example, you would surrender the hard 17 as it is below the average winning hand value of 18.5 and the dealer has a good chance of drawing a stronger hand than you hold from both an Ace and a 10.  

This strategy only works in single deck games so it is vital that you always check how many decks you are playing with and what the rules are governing the dealer’s draw. When playing with two decks of cards you should surrender in these five circumstances. First, when you have a hard 15 and the dealer has a 10 in games where the dealer Stands on soft 17. Second, when you have a hard 16 and the dealer has a 10 or an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on soft 17. Third, when you have a hard 15 or 16 and the dealer has an Ace or a 10 in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. Fourth, when you have a hard 17 and the dealer has an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. Finally, when you have a pair of 8s and the dealer has an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. This final circumstance only holds in games where you cannot Double Down after splitting the 8s. If you can do so then that is what you should do.  

Of course, most Blackjack games use four, six or eight decks or cards, and even with these, the Surrender option can be very helpful. Therefore, it is probably best to memorise the following five circumstances in which it should be used. First, when you have hard 15 and the dealer has 10 in games where the dealer Stands on soft 17. Second, when you have hard 16 and the dealer has 9, 10 or Ace in games where the dealer Stands on soft 17 or hard 17. Third, when you have hard 15 and the dealer has a 10 or an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. Fourth, when you have hard 17 and the dealer has an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17. Finally, if you have a pair of 8s and the dealer has an Ace in games where the dealer Stands on hard 17.  

Examples 

Single Deck Blackjack – You are dealt 10 and 6, the dealer has a 10 - surrender. You are dealt A and 5, the dealer has a 10 – don’t surrender (as you have a soft 16).  

Two Deck Blackjack – You are dealt 10 and 5, the dealer has 10 and must stand on soft 17 – surrender. You are dealt A and 4, the dealer has 10 and must stand on soft 17 – don’t surrender (as you have a soft 15). 

Multi Deck Blackjack – You are dealt 10 and 6, the dealer has a 9 - surrender. You are dealt A and 5, the dealer has a 9 – don’t surrender (as you have a soft 16). 

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