Surrender Rule

It is no secret that the only way players can win in blackjack is if they have the needed knowledge and preparation. The game indeed requires a lot of skill and personal qualities such as discipline, but it really pays off to the players who have dedicated themselves to have everything that it takes to win. Blackjack has four basic moves players can choose from – to hit, stand, split or double down and one optional move to surrender.

This move is optional as not every casino offers it and the reason for this is that this move gives patrons a huge advantage over the casino if they are wise enough to use it in the appropriate situation. The fact that some places simply do not allow players to surrender is an indicator by itself that this option is beneficial for players.

In fact, it is recommended to ask the dealer or the floormen whether surrender is available or not before you sit down at a given table. Even if surrender is in effect, it is rarely advertised or included in the plaques with the tables’ rules.

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What is to Surrender

Surrender is a term in blackjack whose meaning players can guess very easily. When gamblers surrender, they get half of their bet and the casino gets to keep the other half. Players are done with that hand and do not play it.

Gamblers can greatly benefit from this move in cases when they know they are doomed to lose the hand. It gives gamblers the chance to get some of their money back in cases when they are bound to lose. This is the reason why it is advisable to always seek a casino that offers this option.

There are two variations of this rule. Originally, when this play was introduced in the early 1980s in Atlantic City, casinos offered early surrender. This meant the players could forfeit their hand and get half of their wager back before the dealer had checked for a blackjack when starting with a ten-value card or an ace.

It considerably decreased the advantage of the house, so much so that it led to a significant drop in the profits Atlantic City casinos generated from their blackjack tables for the first five months of 1981 when early surrender was originally introduced.

It did not take long for casino operators to figure this out, which explains why early surrender was ditched shortly after its introduction. We regret to say this option has become nearly obsolete in present days. You can still find it in some online variations of blackjack, though.

As for the precise figures, early surrendering versus the dealer’s ace decreases the house edge by 0.39% whereas early surrender against a ten-value card leads to a 0.24% drop in the casinos’ advantage. Overall, the combined reduction amounts to a staggering 0.63%. This will suffice to completely wipe out the house edge provided that the rest of the playing conditions are also favourable to the player.

Late surrender is far more common than its early predecessor. Under this rule, players still have the option to throw away a bad hand but can do it only after the dealer has peeked for a blackjack. Needless to say, a player who does not hold a blackjack automatically loses against the dealer’s natural and late surrendering is no longer possible. While still favourable to the player, late surrendering leads only to a 0.07% – 0.09% reduction in the casino’s edge.

How to Surrender

Just like any other move in order to indicate it, players need to get familiar with the way to do so. Unlike the rest of the moves, there is no generally accepted gesture or sign players can use. The most common way to surrender is by simply announcing it out loud. Prior to saying it, players need to make sure this is their final decision and they really need to withdraw from the current hand.

There is no need to worry about hand signals if you play blackjack exclusively online. However, it is worthwhile mentioning that some landbased casinos have introduced hand gestures for late surrender.

These might differ between casinos but the most common gesture is to draw an imaginary horizontal line behind your betting box using your index finger. The gesture looks as if the player is cutting their wager in half, which they practically are.

It is advisable to accompany this gesture with a verbal declaration because many break-in dealers are in the habit of mistaking it for hitting. The second most common way to surrender is by holding both of your hands up as if you are admitting defeat. Either way, it is best to be safe and announce your intention to give up verbally.

Another thing worth mentioning is that if players want to surrender, this needs to be their first move when they are dealt their first two cards. In cases when the players have already split, doubled down, or hit, they will not be allowed to surrender.

When To Surrender

It is appropriate to surrender every time players find themselves in a situation that they know they are bound to lose that hand. Many gamblers won’t do it even if they have the option to as this move is often criticised. However, strong players know that this move gives them a chance to get back some of their money in a situation where they are certainly bound to lose all of it if they continue playing.

To surrender is a wise decision as long as it is used only when players are really in trouble and their odds are not favourable. Even though in such cases gamblers give up half of their bet without playing the hand, if it is a hand that guarantees them a certain loss, it will be best to take back some of their money.

The standard is for basic strategy to favour surrendering with stiff hands that do not hold well against a dealer with strong upcards like 9, K, J, Q, 10, and ace. When you choose to forfeit a hand, you give up half of your bet.

That is why surrendering is largely optimal whenever the player holds a hand whose probability of losing is over 50%. This leads to long-term loss reduction when the players find themselves in very disadvantageous situations. This is usually the case when one is dealt stiff hands like 15, 16, and even 14 versus high dealer upcards in some single-deck games.

Optimal surrendering is influenced by the house rules for the dealer and how many decks are used, which calls for strategy adjustments when switching between blackjack variations. The basic strategy for surrendering in multi-deck blackjack differs from that in single-deck games as you shall see shortly.

In Cases When Players Have Hand 16

In order to make the usage of this move as clear as possible, it is best to consider one particular situation where it is recommended for players to take advantage of it. Let’s have a look at the case where gamblers end up with a hand that totals 16 and the dealer’s upcard is a Jack. The winning odds aren’t favourable for the players and they are very likely to go bust or be outdrawn by the dealer.

This is the reason why surrender is their best move as it gives them the chance to get back half of their initial bet, providing that they are certain any other move guarantees they will lose the round.

Hard 16 is bestowed with the title of the worst possible hand in the game of 21. Things get especially tough when the player is up against a dealer who starts the round with a ten-value card as is the case with Q-6 against a King.

There are three possible ways to play this hand. You can hit, stand, or surrender. Assuming you play a blackjack variation dealt out of six decks under the S17 dealer rule, the expectation of each of the three playing decisions will be as shown below.

EV of Hard 16 (Q-6) against the Dealer’s King in Six-Deck S17 Blackjack
Losses per £100  
Standing -0.54043 -£54.04
Hitting -0.539826 -£53.98
Surrendering -0.5 -£50.00

As becomes apparent, neither of the three decisions can save you from incurring losses. If a player decides to stand on their Q-6 against the King, they will be outdrawn by the dealer often enough to suffer losses of approximately £54.04 for every £100 wagered on this hand.

Hitting reduces the players’ losing rates, albeit by a very small margin. The expected losses per every £100 wager decrease slightly to £53.98, which makes hitting the most optimal decision provided that forfeiting the Q-6 is disallowed.

However, if one is granted the option of late surrender, they should most definitely take full advantage of it since this cuts down their long-term losses to £50 for every £100 wagered on this stiff hand. Now, what is better? Losing £54.04, £53.98, or £50 with your lousy hard 16? We think the correct answer is pretty much obvious.

Player is dealt a Hand 16. Dealer’s Up card is a Jack. Player could Surrender.

In Case When Players Have Hand 14 and 15

It is also recommended for players to take advantage of the option to surrender when they have a hand totalling 14 and 15, and as already mentioned 16 and the dealer’s upcard is 9 through ace. The motive behind this is the same, player’s odds of winning the hand are extremely unfavourable and it is best for them not to go against themselves by choosing to play this hand.

The basic strategy for surrendering in blackjack variants dealt out of four to eight decks changes a little bit based on whether your dealer must hit or stand on soft 17. In multi-deck S17 variants, surrender becomes optimal when you hold a hard 15 versus a 10 as well as when you have hard 16 versus dealers who expose 9, 10, and ace.

Player is dealt a Hand 15. Dealer’s Up card is a 10. Player could Surrender.

A stiff 16 that contains 8-8 requires another approach. The 8s are never surrendered in multi-deck S17 blackjack, they are always split. As for shoe-dealt blackjack where the dealer hits soft 17, the instances that call for surrender include a player 15 against the dealer’s 10 and ace, a hard 16 against 9, 10, and ace, hard 17 against an ace, and 8-8 versus an ace. Standing on hard 17 vs. ace becomes the second-best decision on condition surrender is disallowed. All these plays are summarized in the chart below.

Surrender in Multi-Deck S17 Games Surrender in Multi-Deck H17 Games
Hand Total Dealer Upcard Hand Total Dealer Upcard
9 K, Q, J, 10 Ace 9 K, Q, J, 10 Ace
Hard 14 H H H Hard 14 H H H
Hard 15 H Rh H Hard 15 H Rh Rh
Hard 16 Rh Rh Rh Hard 16 Rh Rh Rh
Hard 17 S S S Hard 17 S S Rs

Many players wrongfully believe their hard 15 will hold up against the dealer and stubbornly refuse to surrender. In reality, this stiff hand is always inferior no matter what exposed card the dealer starts with.

However, the situation of the player is the worst when their 15 is up against ten-value cards and aces. A two-card hard 15 against a 9 or an ace is still bad but does not call for surrendering since the losing percentages of the hand are under 50% as you can see below.

EV of Hard 15 against Dealer Upcards 9, 10, and Ace in Multi-Deck S17 Games
Hard 15 vs. 9 Hard 15 vs. 10 Hard 15 vs. Ace
Standing -0.54315 Standing -0.54043 Standing -0.666951
Hitting -0.471578 Hitting -0.504428 Hitting -0.480006
Surrendering -0.5 Surrendering -0.5 Surrendering -0.5

As for hard 14, this is never surrendered in multi-deck blackjack regardless of how many packs are in play and the dealer’s fixed rules. Instead, the player stands on their 14 against upcards 2 through 6 and hits the hand when the dealer holds 7 through ace. Paired 7-7 must be split in shoe games only versus 2 through 7, and hit against the rest of the upcards.

The situations when surrender becomes the optimal play differ a bit in games dealt out of a single deck. Whether or not the dealer hits soft 17 should also be considered. In single-deck S17 blackjack, you are advised to forfeit hard 16 when the dealer exposes a 10 or an ace. Pairs of 7-7 should be forfeited versus the 10. As for single-deck H17 games, surrendering is advisable with hard 15 and hard 17 against an ace, with hard 16 against 9 through ace, and with 7-7 against the 10 and the ace.

Surrender in Multi-Deck S17 Games Surrender in Multi-Deck H17 Games
Hand Total Dealer Upcard Hand Total Dealer Upcard
9 K, Q, J, 10 Ace 9 K, Q, J, 10 Ace
Hard 14 H H H Hard 14 H H H
Hard 15 H H H Hard 15 H H Rh
Hard 16 H Rh Rh Hard 16 H Rh Rh
Hard 17 S S S Hard 17 H H Rs
Paired 7-7 H Rs H Paired 7-7 H Rp Rs

Conclusion

There is no special formula in blackjack or in any other casino game which guarantees players a 100% chance of winning as after all, this is gambling. However, if players want to increase their chances as much as possible, they need to strive to master the game and improve every day. This is the only way they can turn the tables and have favourable odds of leaving the casino as winners.

One of the most important things gamblers need to know thoroughly is the game basic rules and possible moves. Players who want to win, need to understand that the only way to do so is if they know how to proceed with every hand they have.

There are many tough decisions which they need to make and if they don’t follow a strategy and prepare beforehand, they don’t stand a chance to win the hand. Surrender is an option which is not allowed in some casinos for the reason that it works in player’s favour if used appropriately. Thus, gamblers need to make sure they know when and how they can take advantage of it.