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When should you surrender in blackjack?

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Simon Young

May 19th, 2020

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they play in a casino. In blackjack, you can quickly identify three types of personality from their playing style.

First, you have the hesitant bunch who prefer to stand or surrender at any opportunity. What does surrender mean in blackjack? Available on only some blackjack variants, it’s when you elect to throw away your cards rather than play on or stand. You lose half your stake and wait for the next hand.

Second, there are the natural risk-takers, those who are always willing to take just one more card, even if they have a half-decent hand, and the dealer looks weak because that extra card might edge them closer to 21.

The third is the studious type, the sort of player who understands basic blackjack strategy and plays it accordingly, taking extra cards, standing or surrendering when the variables of the hand become clear.

They may not know it, but both the conservative and the gambling types are doing nothing to reduce the house edge in blackjack. If anything, they are making their chances of winning more unlikely. Only by following basic strategy will you know when blackjack surrender or peeling off another card is correct.

Early surrender blackjack

Different casinos have various blackjack games, each with different rules, such as the number of decks in play, whether the dealer must stand on soft 17, and whether surrendering is available. Some allow early surrender blackjack, some late surrender blackjack.

In early surrender blackjack, you have the option to toss your cards away if the dealer shows an ace or a ten, and before the dealer checks if he has blackjack. The early surrender rule is more uncommon because it improves the return to the player by 0.39% if the dealer shows an ace, and 0.24% if he shows a ten.

Before you get too excited about this seemingly foolproof way to improve your return, check on the other rules of the table. It’s likely that the house will be grabbing their edge back some other way, like letting the dealer take another card on soft 17.

Further, when the dealer has an ace, you should only ever surrender if your cards show few prospects. For example, if you have

  • Hard 5 to 7
  • Hard 12 to 17
  • Pairs of 3s, 6s, 7s, or 8s

And if the dealer shows a ten, only take the early surrender if you hold:

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Late surrender blackjack

In late surrender blackjack, where table rules allow, you can toss away your hand only after the dealer checks his hand for blackjack (when he shows a ten or an ace).

You lose anyway if he does have blackjack, but late surrender rules mean you can throw away your hand and save half your stake if he doesn’t.

You will want to consider a late surrender only in these circumstances:

  • You have 14, 15, or 16

However, there are micro blackjack surrender strategy exceptions that you can study that alter when you should surrender in different variants of the game, such as the number of decks and when the dealer must hit on a soft 17.

Check for blackjack surrender rules

In many bricks and mortar and online casinos, you will be hard-pressed to find tables that accept blackjack surrender rules. If you do find one, make sure you understand the basics of when to surrender and when to play or stand.

Don’t be the gung-ho gambler who takes more cards regardless of the possible outcome. And don’t be the scared player who surrenders or stands at any given opportunity. It pays to take the sensible long-term strategy approach, one that will reduce the house edge and increase your chances of winning on a given session.

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