Blackjack Strategy: When to Surrender

One option that is available when playing blackjack in some casinos is to surrender. Like insurance, using this option at the wrong times can lose you a lot of money. However, there are circumstances when it can be useful. Not all casinos allow you to surrender, so make sure you are allowed beforehand.

For casinos that allow you to surrender, you can do so at any time after receiving your first two cards. The only exception is that in most casinos, if the dealer’s upcard is an ace, he will check for a blackjack first. If the dealer has a blackjack, you cannot surrender and you will either lose your hand or push (if you also get 21). By surrendering, you give up half of your original bet and do not finish playing out the hand.

This seems to fly in the face of logic. After all, this is supposed to be gambling, right? Giving up and throwing away half of your bet because you think you might lose is kind of contrary to the whole concept of gambling, right? In many ways it is. Your odds are usually better to play out your hand and see what happens. If you just want to throw your money away, I’ll send you a link to my PayPal account. Otherwise, you need to learn the right situations to surrender.

The thing that you need to remember is that surrendering is usually a bad idea. If you surrender, there is a 100% chance that you will lose half of your bet. Since employing the right strategy can reduce the house edge to as little as 0.5%, giving away half of your wager just doesn’t seem wise. Casinos make money on the surrender bet because too many people use them when they shouldn’t. There are, however, situations when it could be wise to surrender.

Take, for example, one of the worst hands in blackjack: a hard 16 when the dealer’s upcard has a value of 10. This is a bad hand to have because if you stand, there is a good chance the dealer has a total over 16, in which case your best chance would be for him to bust. If you hit, you have a good chance of busting yourself. In fact, the odds are basically the same (when rounded) in that situation whether you hit or stand. Either way you lose approximately 77% of the time. How does that compare to surrendering?

To realize the effect, look at what would happen if you played 100 hands and bet $1 on each hand. If you either hit or stand on the hard 16, you would win 23 hands and lose 77, which is a net loss of $54. If you surrendered on each of those hands, you would lose $50. Therefore, you would lose slightly less by surrendering. Keep in mind, however, that the money lost when hitting or standing is a theoretical amount based on the odds. As is always the case, the odds can be different than the true outcome in the short term. When surrendering, though, the outcome is always the same: You are guaranteed to lose half of your bet.

Following basic strategy, you only surrender in the following circumstances: when you have a 15 and the dealer shows a 10 and when you have 16 and the dealer shows a 9, 10 or ace. Remember that these are only for hard totals. Never surrender on a soft 15 or 16.

While surrendering may seem to go against the spirit of gambling, in those select scenarios, it can be a good idea.  If the casino allows it, it is a good idea to surrender then. In each of those cases, if the casino does not allow you to surrender, you should hit, since the odds of hitting are slightly better than standing. By using the surrender correctly, you can avoid throwing your money away and live to fight another day.

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