Surrender is a rule variation that changes from casino to casino and table to table. Since it is very specific and not usually advertised on the table, the variation of blackjack that includes this rule is known as Blackjack Surrender. After going through a list of casinos that offer blackjack surrender I couldn’t help but notice that it was available on tables with 6 to 8 decks only. For the sake of simplicity, everything we cover in this article will be relevant to a 6 to 8 deck game.
What is surrender?
Surrender is when the player opts to throw in the towel on their hand and lose half their bet. There are 2 types of surrender, early surrender and late surrender. Early surrender is offered to the player after being dealt his first 2 cards but before the dealer has had a chance to check for blackjack. Late surrender is when the dealer is showing an ace or a 10 and has already checked the hole card to see if he has blackjack and he does not have blackjack. If the dealer has blackjack, surrender is not offered.
When to surrender?
The option to surrender should only be considered under very specific circumstances. When you, the player, are holding a hard total of 15, 16 or 17 check the dealers up card to make your decision. Anything less than a 9 and surrender is not on the cards for you this time.
If you are holding a 16 and the dealer has 9 or above, surrender. If you have a 15 and the dealer has a 10 or ace, surrender. If you have a 17 and the dealer is showing an ace, surrender.
If the dealer is forced to stand on a soft 17, the rules change a little and surrender is even more limited but one rule stays the same. If the player has a hard hand of 16 and the dealer shows an up card of 9 and above, surrender. The only other time a player should surrender at a table where the dealer stands on soft 17 is when the player has a hand of 15 and the dealer shows a 10.
All of this is strictly according to basic strategy.
Sometimes considered a coward move by even the dealers, it is neither a well-known nor well played move even though it is considered a move made mostly by seasoned players. The reason for this is that with late surrender the player is able to confirm that the dealer does not have blackjack which means that the player still has a chance of winning, right? Let’s turn to probability to see what the chances really are of beating the dealer with a hand of 16 when he does not have blackjack.
If the dealer is showing a 10 value card the chances that he or she will bust while playing out the hand is around 23%, the chances of getting a total of 19 or more is a mere percentage points short of 50% and more than 16 is 53% chance. Which means that you have more than 50% chance of losing your entire bet.
Either way you look at it you are expecting to lose the hand, when you take the option to surrender you are accepting a smaller loss and in the long run this fractionally brings down the house edge. In fact, you reduce the house edge by almost 0.11% when you exercise your right to surrender and do so correctly.
You knew there was one and here it is, the exception to the surrender rule. You may find some literature that suggests that even double 8’s count as 16 and should be surrendered with an up card of 9 and above. However the best practice is to split the two 8’s to form two new hands. The only time when a pair of 8’s should be surrendered is on a table where the dealer hits on a soft 17 and shows an ace.
Surrender for card counters
If you are keeping the count, making the decision to surrender becomes a whole lot easier. If the count is high, meaning the deck is full of high value cards you can be quite sure that hitting on your 16 will cause you to bust. You can also guess that even without a blackjack the dealer has a good chance of hiding a high value card. This justifies your move to surrender.
An integral part of basic strategy, surrender in fact offers the player a chance to reduce their losses in situations where they have a good chance of losing more, in the long run it reduces the house advantage ever so slightly for the skilled player.