Surrender in Blackjack gives players the opportunity to cut their losses if they feel they have a very limited chance of winning the round in play. So what is surrender in Blackjack, when can you do it and when should you? Read on to find out.
What is surrender in Blackjack?
A player can surrender a round of Blackjack after each player’s opening two cards and the dealer’s face up card have been dealt. A player may decide to surrender if they feel they have a substantially weak initial hand, especially if the dealer has a strong face up card, and they therefore consider themselves to have a poor chance of winning the round.
There are two types of surrender available to players in Blackjack: early surrender and late surrender.
If a player decides to surrender, then they accept to have half of their original bet returned to them (essentially voluntarily taking a 50% loss) and they are immediately withdrawn from the round.
There are two main types of surrender, depending on the variant of rules being used. The process just described whereby players can surrender in any round they want is referred to as early surrender, and is largely used in European and Asian casinos.
Casinos in the US predominantly use a process called late surrender. In this version, if the dealer’s face up card is an Ace or worth 10, they are allowed to check their second card to see if they have Blackjack. If they don't then surrenders are allowed, but if they do then surrenders are not permitted.
Whether playing Blackjack in real life at a casino table or on an online game, it is important to check whether surrender is permitted, and indeed if the rules follow the early surrender or late surrender process.
When should you surrender in Blackjack?
There are only a few scenarios for which the law of probabilities and the majority of Blackjack strategies will actively recommend surrender. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are all when you have an opening hand with a hard value of between 15 and 17 (largely considered to be the weakest start you can have) and the dealer has a face up card likely to give them a strong hand.
If you are deliberating surrender in Blackjack, you must consider the probabilities involved.
If you have an opening hand with a hard value of 16 (not comprised of a pair of eights), you should surrender if the dealer has a face up card of nine, a card valued at 10, or an Ace. If you stand in this scenario, your only means of victory is if the dealer busts, and for a face up card of nine, one valued at 10 or an Ace there is only an approximate 23.4%, 21.4% or 11.7% probability of this occurring respectively.
Alternatively, if you hit, you automatically run a 61.6% chance of going bust yourself and will only possess a 30.8% chance of getting a hand valued between 18 and 21, compared to 57.1% for the dealer. In other words, the odds are vastly stacked against you irrespective of what approach you take and therefore the logical solution is to surrender.
The same applies if you have a hard hand valued at 17 and the dealer’s face up card is an Ace. In this instance, standing offers the dealer an approximate 61.5% chance of getting a second card that will provide a better hand or allow them to hit again and have another opportunity to build a strong hand via a soft 17.
If you decide to hit, there is a 69.2% probability of going bust, again suggesting that the most proficient response is to surrender.
The odds are against you to a similar extent if you have a hard hand worth 15 and the dealer’s face up card is worth 10 or an Ace. If you stand, you are handing a 78.6% or 88.3% chance of victory to the dealer depending on if their face up card is worth 10 or an Ace respectively. If you hit, you would have a 58.1% probability of going bust and just a 15.3% chance of getting 20 or 21, which unfavourably compares to the dealer’s 38.4% chance of getting 20 or Blackjack.
The information discussed in the last few paragraphs is summarised in the table below:
Blackjack surrender strategy
NB: This table assumes four to eight decks in play and that the dealer hits on a soft 17.
Enhance your Blackjack strategy
If you’re looking for general advice on how to play Blackjack, read our guide to Blackjack. If you want to learn more on how to inform your Blackjack strategy, remember to read our articles on how to double down and split, alongside how to place a side bet and insurance bet.