We guess everyone knows what surrendering means even if they have never played a single hand of blackjack in their life. The word itself bears negative connotations as it is synonymous with giving up, admitting defeat, throwing in the towel etc. And this is something many casual blackjack players hate to do.
Yet, surrendering is the smartest decision you can make with certain hands compared to some of the other possible playing options like standing or hitting. The only trouble is surrendering is vastly misunderstood, with fewer and fewer players taking advantage of this option these days. The latter has even been entirely ditched by some landbased casinos because almost no one bothers using it at the tables so and so.
However, surrendering can be very advantageous for the player when used correctly. It helps you save money when you are the underdog in losing situations and is one of the select few playing decisions that can actually decrease the casino’s edge. The following article explains how surrendering works in blackjack and tackles the instances in which this is the optimal playing decision.
The Surrender Playing Decision in Blackjack
Surrendering in blackjack is similar to folding in poker but there are two main differences between the two games. Blackjack players are allowed to surrender only on condition the hand they forfeit consists of no more than two cards. Another difference results from the fact that in blackjack, you automatically forfeit half of your initial stake and get to keep the other half. It makes sense this option should be exercised only when you have terrible two-card hands where the chances of you beating the dealer are minuscule.
Surrendering is not available in all gambling venues or even at all blackjack tables within the same establishment. What is worse, the availability of surrender is never indicated by any plaques at the table. It is not written on the felt, either. The only way to know with certainty whether this is an option is by directly asking the dealer or the pit boss. Many casual players are averse to using the surrender option, so at times, you will have to put up with eye-rolls or scathing remarks when you decide to forfeit a hand.
The Surrender Playing Decision in Blackjack Additional TipsIf you are looking to surrender your hand, you must do so at the very start of the round before you have drawn any additional cards. Players are also required to use the correct hand signal when surrendering. This usually involves drawing a horizontal line behind your chips using your index finger.
In some casinos, players signal surrendering by lifting both their hands up as if to say “I am giving up”. Since there is no universal hand gesture for this blackjack play, it is recommended to accompany your signal with a verbal statement. This helps prevent confusion and misunderstandings.
Regardless of which of the two gestures you use, the dealer will collect half of your original stake off the felt. Your starting hand will no longer be in action after you forfeit it so the cards will be placed in the discard tray along with those dealt on previous rounds.
Early and Late Surrender – What Is the Difference?
There are two types of surrender in blackjack and it is advisable for you to learn to distinguish between them, even though the first one has become nearly obsolete these days. The surrender option was first introduced in Atlantic City’s Resorts International as a form of an experiment.
Early surrender (ES) gives players the opportunity to forfeit their hand before the dealer has checked for a blackjack under their Ace (or/and their ten-value card depending on the casino’s rules). This is the more player-favorable variation of the surrender rule. It is known to reduce the house edge in six-deck games where the dealer stands on soft 17 by as much as 0.63%.
When late surrender (LS) is available, players can forfeit their starting two-card hands only after the dealer has peeked for a blackjack under their hole card. Provided that the dealer indeed has a natural, surrendering your hand will no longer be an option in this case.
Early and Late Surrender Additional TipsInstead, you automatically end up losing your entire stake unless you, too, have obtained a blackjack and push with the dealer. This variation of the rule takes away the meager 0.07% from the casino’s edge but is still better than no surrender at all.
Keep in mind that you will hardly find multiple-deck blackjack tables that use hole cards and offer the early surrender rule these days. Most casinos across the United States have altogether done away with early surrender for the simple reason it significantly decreases their edge.
Early surrender is still available in some casinos in Asia and Europe. However, the dealers in such games deal themselves one face-up card at the beginning of the round and draw a second card only after all patrons have finished playing their hands. This peculiarity leads to discrepancies in the optimal playing strategies for early and late-surrender games.
Strategy for Surrendering in Blackjack
We are not going to discuss the strategy for early surrender here because as was explained, this option has become largely obsolete in multiple-deck blackjack games where dealer hole cards are in play.
Similarly to the other playing decisions, the optimal strategy for late surrendering is affected by variables like deck number and the house rules the dealer must adhere to. Of course, what upcard the dealer exposes also plays a crucial role here. Because of these discrepancies, we have broken down the optimal surrender plays on the basis of the number of decks in play.
Surrendering is a good idea when you have certain hard totals and the dealer is in a favorable position showing very strong upcards. The dealer is likely to outdraw you when they start with a powerful card. Meanwhile, if you decide to take a hit on your hard total, you stand a significant chance of busting by drawing an additional card.
The probability of you winning with such hard totals should be under 50% for surrender to be the optimal decision. In single-deck blackjack variations, you should resort to surrendering under the following circumstances only:
- With a hard 16 versus a dealer with an Ace or a 10 in both S17 and H17 games
- With a pair of 7s for a hard 14 against a dealer with a 10 in S17 games
- With a hard 15 against a dealer with an Ace in H17 games
- With a pair of 7s for hard 14 against a dealer Ace and 10 in H17 games
- With hard 17 against a dealer’s Ace in H17 games
Hard 17 is forfeited in this case because it is below the average winning hand total of 18.5 while the dealer stands good chances of outdrawing you with their Ace or 10. The strategy for surrendering changes a little bit when we add a second deck of cards to the game.
Because of this, it is of utmost importance for you to know how many decks you are playing against and what the fixed drawing conditions for the dealer are. Thus, when you play double-deck blackjack, the strategy decrees that you surrender in the following instances:
- When you have hard 15 against a dealer’s 10 in S17 games
- When you have a hard 16 against the dealer’s 10 or Ace in S17 games
- With hard 15 and hard 16 against the dealer’s 10 or Ace in H17 variations
- With hard 17 against the dealer’s Ace in H17 variations
- When you have a pair of 8s versus an Ace in H17 games
Note that surrendering the pair of 8s against a dealer with an Ace, who hits their soft 17, is the optimal play only on condition you are not permitted to double down (NDAS) after you split the 8s. If DAS is available, you should split and double afterward if you happen to catch a 2 or a 3 on your 8.
And finally, below are the correct surrender decisions for players who attempt to take on the dealers’ in multiple-deck blackjack games. We suggest you do your best to memorize these surrender plays well because most blackjack variations with decent, liberal rules these days utilize four, six or eight decks of cards.
- Surrender hard 15 against a 10 in S17 blackjack
- Surrender hard 16 against 9, 10, or Ace is both S17 and H17 games
- Surrender hard 15 against 10 or Ace in H17 games
- Surrender hard 17 against a dealer Ace in H17 games
- Surrender pairs of 8s against an Ace in H17 variations
Being forced to admit defeat is never a pleasant sensation, neither in life nor at the blackjack table. However, the ability to recognize the situations where your hands are sure losers against the dealer’s powerful upcards spares you lots of frustration and money in the long term, so be sure to at least learn the surrender plays for the blackjack variation you play the most frequently.