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When Should You Surrender in Blackjack? – Everything You Need to Know

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Blackjack has always been a game that a lot of people preferred over poker or slots, as the former is often too complex and challenging, while the latter can be too simple and not very exciting. Blackjack finds itself somewhere in the middle, where the player gets to make decisions and take a more active role. At the same time, it is a game of luck and strategy, but it doesn’t require as much concentration, the ability to bluff, and alike, as is the case with poker, where you are playing against other people.

Even so, blackjack does have a number of rules, strategies, and even mechanics of the game that you should know in order to create the best strategy and give yourself the best chance of winning. Today, we are interested in the mechanic called surrender, which can dramatically cut the house advantage over you, provided that you are skilled enough to use it at the right moment.

These days, surrender is not as popular as it used to be, but it can still be found in some physical casinos, as well as in most online casino platforms and electronic table games.

What is Surrender?

While surrender might just mean that you are giving up and walking away from the game, that is not quite what it does. Simply put, it is an optional rule that tends to appear in blackjack games, and its purpose is to allow the player to give up half of their bet after seeing their first two cards and the dealer up card.

At this point, experienced players already know whether there is a chance of winning some amount or not, and if they assess that their chances are slim, it is better to surrender and get half of your initial bet back than to lose the entire amount if you proceed. Typically, most players would aim to have at least a 50% chance or more to win against the dealer. If they decide their chance of success is below 50%, then surrender is a worthy option to consider.

There are two types of surrender, the first of which is known as early surrender and the second one as late surrender. Let’s take a look at both of these rules, although it should be noted right away that the early surrender is very hard to find in its original form these days. Most casinos that offer it have a modified version of it, so be ready for that, as well.

Early surrender: What is it and how does it work?

This type of surrender allows the player to give up half of their bet before the dealer checks the hole card for blackjack. As such, it has a massive effect on the house advantage, as players get to give up on a bad hand when facing a dealer’s up card, especially if it is a strong one.

The rule was invented in the late 70s after casino games became legal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it supposedly originated. It came to be as a byproduct of decisions that the Casino Control Commission made that many found questionable. In hopes of luring players, early casino operators invented a rule that would allow the players a way out while preventing the dealer to peek at their hole card.

The rule also made a .6 percent blow to the house edge, as even basic strategy players suddenly got an important advantage. In fact, the rule had quite disastrous consequences for casino operators. As a result, the early surrender rule, in its original form, is next to impossible to find in land-based casinos today.

However, if you run into this rule in online casinos, it is best to carefully check all the house rules and see whether it was tweaked and how much. The most likely result is that you will find a change that is not as fatal for the house edge as it was in the 70s. Once you check the rules, if they seem reasonable to you, you will likely want to surrender when a dealer has a 10 up, while you hold 14, 15, or 16. Alternatively, if the dealer has an ace, you should consider surrender in case of you holding a hard 5, 6, or 7, or if you have 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, or 17. If, on the other hand, the dealer has soft 17, it is best to surrender if you hold hard 4.

Late Surrender: What is it and how does it work?

Alternatively, we have late surrenders, which differs from early surrender in the fact that you can only give up and take half of your bet after the dealer checks his hand for blackjack. This version makes the surrender option less effective, putting it somewhere between .05% to .1% percent. While it doesn’t sound like much, it is still significant, given that it reduces the house edge from .42% to .35%. This represents a 20% drop overall, provided that you use it effectively.

In other words, while nearly as impactful as early surrender, late surrender can still be a valuable tool that should be considered during a game of blackjack. If you play at online casinos, it should be a fairly easy option to come by, However, in physical casinos, it is rarely displayed, as the house prefers not to announce it, even if the option is available.

With that said, you can always ask the dealer if the surrender option is available and if it is — whether it is late or early. In most cases, it will be the late one, but you never know — you might just run into a casino that decided to allow early surrender.

Another thing to keep in mind is that not all casinos use the same hand signal for surrender. The universal signal is drawing a horizontal line behind your bet using your index finger and announcing the surrender verbally as you do so. This should work for any blackjack game dealt out of a shoe. But, if you are at a casino with handheld games, the procedure for calling a surrender might be different. Again, it is best to ask the dealer what to do.

As for when to use it, generally, you should surrender when your chance at winning is under 50%. So, if a dealer has 9 up, you should surrender if you hold a 16. If the dealer gets a 10, surrender whenever you get a 16. Also, consider surrendering all 15s unless if you are playing a single deck game. In case the dealer has an ace, the situation gets more complicated, and your move depends on whether the house stands or hits soft 17. If they stand on all 17s, surrender 16 regardless of how many decks are in the game. And, if they hit soft 17, surrender 15, 16, and 17.

Composition Dependent vs Total Dependent

The rules that we talked about so far are for a situation known as Total Dependent. This means that you are only interested in the total score of the first two cards that you receive, and that is what you use to make a decision regarding whether you should move forward or give up and save half of your bet.

However, there is another scenario known as composition dependent surrender. Let’s say that you are dealt 9,6 vs 8,7. In both scenarios, the total is 15. However, the two hands consist of different groupings of cards. So, how does this change the situation?

If you use composition dependent rules to analyze the situation, and the game in question is a single deck game, you should play with 8,7 but surrender 9,6. This is where the concept of surrendering gets a bit more complicated, and it is understandable if those who are only starting out with blackjack betting and surrendering find it hard to understand. After all, playing like this provides only a small advantage, and it is probably not even worth it in the end, given that the advantage itself is not that big while there is difficulty in learning the rules and including them in your strategy.

However, if you are a seasoned player and you are already familiar with the concept of surrender, the odds, the ability to calculate the house edge, and alike — you should be able to harness even this small advantage and improve your chances of winning at blackjack, or at least — protecting half of your initial bet, if things don’t end up going in your advantage.

Hit - After the player is dealt the two initial cards, the player has the option to hit (request an additional card). The player should keep asking to hit until they feel that they have a sufficiently strong hand to win (as close to 21 as possible, without going over 21).

Stand - When the player has cards that they feel are sufficiently strong to beat the dealer then they should  “stand.” For example, a player may wish to stand on a hard 20 (two 10 cards such as a 10, jack, queen, or king). The dealer must keep playing until they either beat the player or go bust (going over 21).

Split - After the player is dealt the first two cards, and if those cards are of equal face value (for example, two queens), then the player has the option to split their hand into two separate hands with equal bets on each hand. The player must then continue to play both hands with regular blackjack rules.

Double - After the initial two cards are dealt, if a player feels that they have a strong hand (such as a king and an ace), then the player may choose to double their initial bet. To learn when to double read our guide on When to Double Down in Blackjack.

Blackjack - This is an ace and any 10 value card (10, jack, queen, or king). This is an automatic win for the player.

Hard 20 - This is any two 10 value cards (10, jack, queen, or king). It is unlikely that the player will receive an ace next, and the player should always stand. Splitting is also not recommended.

Soft 18 - This is a combination of an ace and a 7 card. This combination of cards offers the player different strategy options depending on what cards the dealer is dealt.

As the name implies this is blackjack that is played with only one deck of 52 cards.  Many blackjack aficionados refuse to play any other type of blackjack as this blackjack variant offers slightly better odds, and it enables savvy players the option to count cards.

House edge:

0.15% compared to multi-deck blackjack games that have a house edge between 0.46% to 0.65%.

This offers more excitement as players can play up to 5 simultaneous hands of blackjack, the number of hands offered varies based on the casino.

The key difference between American and European blackjack is the hole card.

In American blackjack the dealer receives one card face up and one card face down (the hole card). If the dealer happens to have an Ace as his or her visible card, they then immediately peek at their face down card (the hole card). If the dealer has blackjack with a hole card that is a 10 card (10, jack, queen, or king), then the dealer automatically wins.

In European blackjack the dealer receives only one card, the second card is dealt after all of the players have had the chance to play. In other words, European blackjack has no hole card.

The game is always played with 8 regular decks, this means anticipating the next card is more difficult. The other major difference is players have the option to play a "late surrender".

A late surrender enables a player to toss their hand after the dealer checks his hand for blackjack. This could be wanted if the player has a really bad hand. With a surrender the player loses half their bet. 

In Atlantic City blackjack players can split twice, up to three hands. Aces however, can only be split once.

The dealer must stand on all 17 hands, including soft 17.

Blackjack pays 3 to 2, and and insurance pays 2 to 1.

House edge:


As the name implies this is the most popular version of blackjack in Las Vegas.

4 to 8 standard decks of cards are used, and the dealer must stand on soft 17.

Similar to other types of American blackjack, the dealer receives two cards, one face-up. If the face-up card is an ace, then the dealer peaks at his down card (the hole card).

Players have the option to play a "late surrender".

A late surrender enables a player to toss their hand after the dealer checks his hand for blackjack. This could be wanted if the player has a really bad hand. With a surrender the player loses half their bet. 

House edge:


This is a rare variation of blackjack that increases the odds in the players favor by enabling the player to see both of the dealers cards face up, versus just one card. In other words there is no hole card.

Another key difference is that the dealer has the option to hit or stand on soft 17.

House Edge:


This is a version of blackjack that is played with 6 to 8 Spanish decks.

The Spanish deck of cards has four suits and contains 40 or 48 cards, depending on the game.

The cards are numbered from 1 to 9. The four suits are copas (Cups), oros (Coins), bastos (Clubs), and espadas (Swords).

Due to the lack of 10 card it is more difficult for a player to hit blackjack.

House Edge:


This is an optional side bet that is offered to a player if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. If the player fears that there is a 10 card (10, jack, queen, or king) that would give the dealer a blackjack, than the player may opt for the insurance bet.

The insurance bet is half of the regular bet (meaning if the player bet $10, then the insurance bet would be $5).

If the dealer has a blackjack then the player is paid 2 to 1 on the insurance bet.

If both the player and the dealer hit blackjack, then the payout is 3 to 2.

An insurance bet is often called a "suckers bet" as the odds are in the houses favor.

House edge:

5.8% to 7.5% - The house edge varies based on the previous card history.

In American blackjack players are given the option to surrender at any time. This should only be done if the player believes they have an extremely bad hand. If the player chooses this than the bank return half of the initial bet. (For example, a $10 bet has $5 returned).

In some version of blackjack such as Atlantic City blackjack only a late surrender is enabled. In this case, a player can only surrender after the dealer has checked his hand for blackjack.

To learn more visit our in-depth guide on When to Surrender in Blackjack.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.