Surrender In Blackjack – How and When to Surrender

Does the concept of the surrender rule in blackjack confuse
you?

You’re not alone.

We think this is the least-understood rule in blackjack. The
difference between early surrender and late surrender is
important. Improving your understanding of blackjack surrender
rules means improving your overall game strategy.

Some blackjack games allow players the option of giving up
(or “surrendering”) their hands right after the initial deal is
complete, for the cost of half of their ante bet. The idea is to
quit while you’re ahead if you feel like you don’t have a shot
at winning the hand. Surrender rules are an advantage for the
player, in that she can choose to keep half of her original bet
rather than play out her hand and lose the entire thing.

Blackjack surrenders come in two flavors: early and late.

To use the surrender rule to your advantage, it’s important
to understand the differences between the two types of
surrender.

What Is Early Surrender?

An early surrender is when the player chooses to give up on
their hand immediately after the cards are dealt but before the
dealer checks for a natural blackjack. The early surrender
requires that players forfeit half their original wager.

The early surrender rule is the most desirable type of
surrender because it’s available regardless of whether or not
the dealer was dealt a natural. As is often the case with rules
that favor the player, the early surrender rule is rare these
days.

Why has the early surrender disappeared?

According to the Wizard of Odds, the addition of an early
surrender rules cuts into the casino’s built-in edge by 0.63%.
To put that in perspective, changing a game’s shoe from eight
decks to one affects the house edge less (+0.59%) than the
addition of an early surrender rule.

This doesn’t means that casinos won’t offer early surrender –
some do–especially online casinos.

But they compensate with other rule changes that chisel away
at the advantage you gain from the early surrender rule.

What Is Late Surrender?

The late surrender rule allows a player to give up on their
hand for the cost of half their ante, just like an early
surrender.

But unlike an early surrender, this rule requires that you
wait to see if the dealer has been dealt a natural blackjack
first. If the dealer did catch a natural, you can’t surrender,
and you’ll lose your whole wager just like if you never chose
the surrender option in the first place.

Late surrender rules don’t lower the casino’s edge anywhere
near the amount that early surrender rules do.

According to the same source at Wizard of Odds, a late
surrender rule cuts into the casino’s edge by about 0.1%–about
as much as a Doubling rule. As a consequence of its smaller
negative impact on the casino’s bottom line, you’re more likely
to see this form of the surrender rule than the early version.

Even though the reduction in the house edge is small, it’s an
advantage that’s worth seeking out.

A note on blackjack etiquette and surrender rules – it’s
common for land-based casinos to offer a late surrender without
advertising it. You should always ask your dealer if there’s a
late surrender option. Even though the player advantage is
small, the casino isn’t in the business of giving any amount of
money away.

The Difference Between Early & Late Surrender

The difference between the two is simple – early surrender
rules allow you to give up your hand for half your wager even if
the dealer holds a natural blackjack, while late surrender rules
allow you to give up half your wager only if the dealer doesn’t
hold a natural.

Surrender Strategy

The strategy for games with early surrender and games with
late surrender rules is different enough that even the ideal
playing styles are different. Here’s a basic guide to the proper
ways to play for both early and late surrender blackjack games.

When You Should Take an Early Surrender

Though the early surrender is a tempting move when you find a
table that offers it, we only recommend you consider abandoning
your wager in the following three situations:

  1. When the dealer shows Ace and you hold a hard total of 5 – 7 or 12 – 17.
  2. You should hit on hard totals between 8 and 11, but up
    against an Ace the early surrender rule gives you the best
    possible return on pretty much every other hard hand.

  3. When the dealer shows Ace and you hold 33, 66, 77, or 88.
  4. These are all acceptable split hands in other situations but
    against a soft dealer hand, an early surrender is the acceptable
    play here.

  5. When the dealer shows any 10 and you hold a hard total of 14-16.
  6. If you draw is anything about 5-7, you’re bust. Unless you’re
    keeping a stellar count, you’re in dangerous territory, and the
    early surrender will help you cut your losses.

When You Should Take a Late Surrender

Once again, the late surrender option may be appealing in
plenty of game situations, but we only think it is
strategically-feasible in the following three:

  1. When the dealer shows Ace and you hold any total of 15.
  2. The only exception here is that you don’t surrender if the
    game’s rules indicate that the dealer must hit a soft 17.

  3. When the dealer shows Ace or any 10 and you hold any total of 16.
  4. This rule is true regardless of the game’s rules regarding
    how the dealer behaves on a total of 17.

  5. When the dealer shows Ace and you hold any total of 17.
  6. If you’re playing in a game in which the dealer is forced to
    hit a soft 17, ignore this rule.

When You Should Refuse a Late Surrender

Here are a couple of common mistakes blackjack players make
with the late surrender rule:

  1. You should NOT take a late surrender when the dealer stands
    on soft 17 while showing a 9, 10, or Ace while you hold any
    total of 15 or 17.
  2. This is one of those rules you just have to memorize at first
    until it starts to make sense to you at the table.

  3. You should NOT take a late surrender when the dealer shows a
    9 and you hold any total of 16.
  4. This is simple mathematics. The dealer is more likely to come
    in underneath your point total than you are to bust out by
    taking a hit.

Summary

Anyone who’s played a round or two of blackjack in the casino
appreciates the appeal of the surrender rule. Sometimes it’s
best to accept the loss of half your ante and hope for a better
deal.

The most obvious example is 16, the worst garbage hand in the
game.

Holding a 16 looks even worse when the dealer is showing a
10.

This is just one example of a time when you’re obviously
better off giving up half the ante and moving past the terrible
deal. If you think of this move as getting back half of a bet
you would have lost, you see the beauty of the blackjack
surrender rule.