Blackjack Surrender Strategy – Who, What, Where, When and Why?

January 28, 201010 Comments

SurrenderBlackjack Surrender – Surrendering in blackjack is a great move when used in the right situation. Unfortunately most blackjack players either ignore this option completely or surrender when they really shouldn’t. Knowing and using optimal surrender strategy helps reduce the house edge for casual blackjack players and increases profitability for card counters. Let’s take a closer look at the “who, what, where, when and why” of surrendering in blackjack and see how this valuable player option might be able to help us at the blackjack tables…

Who:

So who is it that you’ll see using the surrender option at the blackjack tables? Is it a fearful player that quickly throws in the towel? Is it a superstitious player trying to change the flow of the cards? The truth is that it’s the smart blackjack player that takes advantage of great surrendering opportunities. There are certain situations in blackjack when the expected value of your hand is a loss of more than 50% of your bet. When that’s the case, clearly you’re better off surrendering and getting half of your bet returned to you rather than playing out the hand.

Here’s a look at the expected loss on a $100 bet without card counting. The reality is that whether you’re keeping track of it or not, there is always a count. The more positive the count goes, the higher the expected loss is when hitting this 15 or 16…

Blackjack Surrender Strategy

What:

For those that are new to blackjack or just haven’t played many games where surrendering was an option, let’s clarify exactly what surrendering is. When you surrender in blackjack you are immediately forfeiting your hand and getting 50% of your bet returned to you. An example would be if you bet $100 and were dealt a 16 versus a dealer’s 10, you might prefer to “surrender” the hand and get $50 back instead of potentially losing the entire $100. You’re taking an instant loss of half your bet in order to save the other half of the bet. Surrendering is only an option on your first two cards before you take a hit. Once you have taken a hit you can no longer surrender and must finish playing out your hand.

Where:

So where is blackjack surrender offered? Surrendering is usually only allowed on certain shoe games that use 4, 6 or 8 decks. There are only a handful of exceptions that I’ve seen on the west coast (none in Las Vegas)…

Double Deck Blackjack with Surrender (Southern California)

    Barona Casino
    Sycuan Casino
    Harrah’s Rincon Casino
    * Pechanga and Pauma no longer offer surrendering on double deck.

3-Deck Blackjack with Surrender (Tucson, Arizona)

    Casino Del Sol

Typically it’s going to be the 4-8 deck games dealt from a shoe where you might find the surrender option. Here’s a list of the larger casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, plus a few noteworthy mentions off the Strip. I’ve noted where you will find surrender available, if at all…

    Aria (City Center) – high limit 6-deck, $100 minimum
    Bally’s – 3:2 paying 8-deck games, watch out for the 6:5 tables!
    Bellagio – all 6-deck blackjack
    Caesars Palace – high limit 6-deck games and some 6-deckers on the main floor
    Circus Circus – surrender not allowed
    Cosmopolitan – all 6-deck and 8-deck blackjack
    Encore – all 6-deck blackjack
    Excalibur – surrender not allowed
    Flamingo – surrender not allowed
    Green Valley Ranch – high limit 6-deck, $50 minimum
    Hard Rock – high limit 6-deck, $100 minimum
    Harrah’s – surrender not allowed
    Imperial Palace – surrender not allowed
    Luxor – surrender not allowed
    M Resort – high limit 6-deck, $50 minimum
    Mandalay Bay – all 6-deck blackjack
    MGM Grand – all 6-deck and 8-deck games
    Mirage – all 6-deck and 8-deck games
    Monte Carlo – all 6-deck and 8-deck games
    New York, New York – all 6-deck blackjack
    Palace Station – all 6-deck blackjack
    Palazzo – all 8-deck blackjack
    Palms – high limit 6-deck and all 8-deck games
    Paris – high limit 6-deck and all 8-deck games
    Planet Hollywood – all 6-deck blackjack
    Red Rock – high limit 6-deck, $50 minimum
    Rio – high limit 6-deck, $50 minimum
    Riviera – some 6-deck games
    Sahara – surrender not allowed
    Stratosphere – surrender not allowed
    Treasure Island – all 6-deck blackjack
    Tropicana – surrender not allowed
    Venetian – high limit 6-deck and all 8-deck games
    Wynn – all 6-deck blackjack

When:

So when is the right time to surrender? That depends on the blackjack table rules (S17 or H17) and whether or not you’re counting cards. Even without card counting, knowing the correct basic strategy surrender moves will help to reduce the house edge. Here’s a comparison of some 6-deck blackjack games with and without the surrender rule available…

Blackjack Surrender

A general rule of thumb is to never surrender against a dealer showing a 2 through 7. Surrendering should only come into consideration when the dealer shows an 8, 9, 10 or ace. Let’s have a look at the correct basic strategy surrender moves on a 4-deck, 6-deck or 8-deck game…

Dealer Stands on Soft 17

    Surrender 16 vs 9, 10 or ace
    Surrender 15 vs 10

Dealer Hits on Soft 17

    Surrender 16 vs 9, 10 or ace
    Surrender 15 vs 10 or ace
    Surrender 17 vs ace
    Surrender 8,8 vs ace

Card counting gives you some additional info to work with. Assuming you’re not using any cover plays that involve surrender situations, here are some easy-to-remember surrender moves that will save you money…

    True Count of zero or higher: Surrender 16 vs 9, 10 or ace… Surrender 15 vs 10
    True Count +2 or higher: Surrender 15 vs 9 or ace
    True Count +3 or higher: Surrender 14 vs 10
    True Count +4 or higher: Surrender 16 vs 8

If for some reason you’re a numbers freak and want to know every precise surrender move that exists when dealt a 14 through 17 against a dealer’s 8 through ace, you can contact me for a complete guide. This will get extremely detailed, for example you would want to surrender a 14 versus an ace (S17) at +6 or higher, but against an ace (H17) at a +4 or higher. In my opinion such extensive knowledge is overkill and not at all necessary to play a profitable game of blackjack. Stick to the four surrender points shown above and you’ll be fine.

Why:

The bottom line of why we want to surrender at the appropriate time is that we’re doing everything we can to gain and maintain a mathematical advantage over the house. I make my living off of maximizing my odds at the blackjack tables. Knowing optimal surrender strategy is definitely a key piece of the puzzle. Remember, surrendering is not about giving up or lacking courage, it’s about taking a smaller expected loss to improve overall results. Card counting or not, using correct surrender strategy is just plain smart.

Blackjack Trainer
About the "Blackjack Instructor":

When I'm on a card counting trip, I'm hitting the tables hard. When I'm home with the family, I run BlackjackClassroom.com and go by the title "Blackjack Instructor". I hope you've enjoyed the site and come back soon. If you're interested in any of my training services, please don't hesitate to contact me to discuss your options.

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10 Responses to “Blackjack Surrender Strategy – Who, What, Where, When and Why?”

  1. Mike S. says:

    Can you surrender at blackjack in the Atlantic City casinos? How about the casinos in PA like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun? Thanks!

    • Blackjack Instructor says:

      Mike: Surrendering is not an option in Atlantic City. You will find plenty of “Stand on Soft 17″ games though. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Penn do offer surrender as well as standing on soft 17, so those games have slightly better odds than the Atlantic City casinos.

  2. Ted says:

    You advise surrendering with 17 when dealer shows an Ace and can hit on soft 17. Do you only surrender with hard 17 or with soft 17 as well?

  3. Jeff says:

    Can you only surrender on your first two cards?

  4. J says:

    FYI- Cosmopolitan allows surrender on 6 and 8 deck games including continuous shuffle shoes. No minimum bet (other than obviously the table minimum)

    • Blackjack Instructor says:

      J: You are correct that Cosmo offers surrendering on their 6-deck and 8-deck games. Cosmo hadn’t opened yet when I wrote this article, so that’s why it was left off the list. I’ve gone ahead and added it now, so thanks for the heads up!

  5. C says:

    Do you surrender on hard 15/16 only or on hard and soft 15/16 in the above examples?

    Thanks.

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