Surrender In Blackjack

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:

1When the dealer shows Ace and you hold a hard total of 5 – 7 or 12 – 17.
  • 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.
2When the dealer shows Ace and you hold 33, 66, 77, or 88.
  • These are all acceptable split hands in other situations but against a soft dealer hand, an early surrender is the acceptable play here.
3When the dealer shows any 10 and you hold a hard total of 14-16.
  • 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:

1When the dealer shows Ace and you hold any total of 15.
  • The only exception here is that you don't surrender if the game's rules indicate that the dealer must hit a soft 17.
2When the dealer shows Ace or any 10 and you hold any total of 16.
  • This rule is true regardless of the game's rules regarding how the dealer behaves on a total of 17.
3When the dealer shows Ace and you hold any total of 17.
  • 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:

1You 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.
  • This is one of those rules you just have to memorize at first until it starts to make sense to you at the table.
2You should NOT take a late surrender when the dealer shows a 9 and you hold any total of 16.
  • 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.

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.
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