Blackjack Surrender Explained


Surrender Flag

Among the many questions I answer by email, blackjack surrender is a common topic. Because surrender is not offered at all casinos, and is rarely advertised or posted even when it is available, many beginning players don’t know much about it.

In this article, I’ll explain exactly what Surrender is, what the two variations are, and when you should utilize this option.

What is Surrender in Blackjack?

Surrender is a blackjack option that allows you to fold your hand and receive half your bet back.  Instead of playing out the hand, you can surrender and automatically lose half your bet.  Obviously this is an option that should only be used with really bad starting hands.

Surrender is not offered at all casinos, or even on all tables in the same casino.  It is rarely mentioned on any signs at the table, so you’ll generally have to ask the dealer if surrender is allowed.  If you decide to surrender some of your hands, be prepared for some odd looks from the other players.  Most players don’t even know what surrender is, and other players mistakenly think that it is always a bad choice.  Still another group of players seem to understand it may have value, but they have some aversion to using the option anyway.  Go figure.

How do I Surrender?

If you want to surrender a hand, you must do so as the very first action on the hand.  If you have already hit, doubled, or split, you won’t be allowed to surrender.  There are two different hand signals that are often used for this play.  The most common is to use your finger to draw a horizontal line behind your bet.  You can think of that motion as cutting off your bet. The other version is to hold up both hands, with your palms facing the dealer, as in “I give up.”  Because these hand signals are not universal, you should always tell the dealer verbally that you want to surrender.

What is the difference between Early Surrender and Late Surrender?

You may have noticed that our Blackjack Basic Strategy Engine offers three choices for the surrender rule: No Surrender, Early Surrender, and Late Surrender.

First, let me be very clear, especially for people generating strategies with the Strategy Engine…  Late Surrender is far more common.  Early Surrender is quite rare to find.  In fact it is found more often as a mistake by poorly trained dealers than as an intentional rule.  If you’re not sure which you need, you definitely want to choose Late Surrender for your strategies.  So what’s the difference?

The key here is what happens when the dealer has an Ace or Ten card up.  If you are allowed to surrender your hand before the dealer checks for blackjack, then that is “Early” surrender.  You can see why that would be far more valuable, as it offers a way to get out of a possible dealer blackjack losing only half your bet.

Late surrender is available only after the dealer has checked for blackjack and did not have it.  That’s the common rule.

What hands should I surrender?

Now that you know about surrender, don’t overdo it.  Some players surrender far more often than they should, costing themselves a lot of money.  Some people mistakenly assume that you should surrender any hand that you are more than 50% likely to lose.  That’s not correct.  In fact, a hand needs to lose more than 75% of the time to make surrender the correct decision.  (Winning 25% of the time and losing 75% of the time makes you lose half your bet on average.)

So, which initial hands should you surrender?

Here are the main ones:

If you are playing a game where the dealer hits soft 17, add these surrenders as well:

This particular advice is for six-deck games with late surrender.  For specific advice tailored to your exact game, use the Strategy Engine, or purchase one of our Blackjack Basic Strategy Cards.

What’s it worth?

The effect of surrender for an accurate basic strategy player is to reduce the house edge by somewhere between 0.07% and 0.09% depending on the other rules of the game.  If you are a $10 bettor, you should save about 50 cents an hour over the long run.  While this improvement is small, every little bit helps.  For a card counter, surrender is considerably more valuable for several reasons.  And, if you manage to find a rare game that offers early surrender, the improvement is about ten times larger, around 0.7%.

Hopefully your next session won’t have many hands you can surrender, but it’s nice to know when to raise the white flag.  Now, go win some money.


35 comments on "Blackjack Surrender Explained"

  • Charles said:

    A local casino nearby has some odd rules in this regarding: 6D, S17, double any, re-split except As, double after split, no peak.
    Surrender is allowed except against As since there is no peak by the dealer. I wonder how should I set the Basic Strategy Engine?. With early surrender or late?.

    Thanks for ur answer… regards…

  • Does anybody know a casino in vegas which offers early surrender?
    Did you try to irritate the dealer by saying “Surrender” after he has dealt and did it work as “Eary surrender”?
    In Czech Republik in Europe there is surrender allowed but only against a dealers 10

  • Paul said:

    That was the main question. Whether or not you could surrender after you have already taken a hit.
    I initially thought that’s what “late” surrender was.
    But I know now that late surrender means after the dealer has checked his hole card when showing an ace.
    The app I am using is 21-Pro. It keeps the count and keeps track of hands played using proper basic strategy.
    Thanks again!

  • Paul said:

    Hello. I have a question that I haven’t been able to find an answer too. Might be to obvious.

    Scenario 6D H17 game
    My first 2 cards are A6 vs 10. I hit and get a 9 and now I have a total of 16
    So 16 vs 10. Now I should surrender correct?

    In my practice apps it says I played it wrong but 16 vs 10 should be a surrender.
    Does basic strategy not apply In this scenario?
    Thanks very much for all the help

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      If you were allowed to surrender (Ace,6,9) vs T, it would be the correct play. Unfortunately, surrender is only allowed on your first two cards, before any other action is taken. You don’t mention what practice app you are using, but it should not even be providing a button for surrender in this case.

  • Can u explain why its not a good strategy to surrender hard 15 vs Dealers A? (With S17 casino rule)

    • The simple answer is that if you hit 15vA in the S17 game, you will lose less than half your bet on average (it’s around -0.48 or -0.49). Why does the advice differ between H17 and S17 games? (You should hit 15vA in S17, but surrender 15vA in H17.) The dealers final total will average a bit higher in H17, making your chances worse when hitting. But basically, basic strategy is often tough to explain with a simple reason. It is a combination of many variables. Just trust the math. All possible outcomes are weighted in deciding the optimal strategy. For customized charts, be sure to use our Strategy Engine.

  • Ben Nelson said:

    I’m guessing the increased benefit for card counters is due to the fact that surrendering when we’ve got a big bet on the table is going to save us proportionately more money (high count, larger bet). Are there any other variants that we need to be aware of?
    Thanks again for the site and help

  • Some major casinos in Macau don’t allow surrender only when dealer has an Ace. There is no hole card. And they often remind player to take even money. What is the strategy for such rules if you have 8-8 or 7-7 when dealer has a 10? Thanks.

    • Since the Strategy Engine does not have an option for “Early Surrender, but not against Ace” (yet!), you have to mix and match the charts.
      Here is the strategy for 6D, H17, ES, No Hole Card:
      Ignore the advice to surrender against an Ace, since it is not allowed. (Or you can create a second chart with No Surrender and use the Ace column from that.)
      For your specific questions: The dealer has a 10 card, there is no hole card, and you are allowed to surrender…
      You should surrender the following hands (as seen on the linked chart above):
      (7,7) vs Ten
      (8,8) vs Ten
      Hard 14 vs Ten
      Hard 15 vs Ten
      Hard 16 vs Ten
      Also, Hard 16 vs 9.

  • Jack said:

    I have found a card room that offers surrender after you have hit your hand. Meaning if you have a 9 against a dealer 10 and you hit a 7 you can surrender the hand at 16. How does this effect the odds in your favor and how beneficial is this?

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      I don’t recall seeing this option specifically analyzed, but it’s certainly a nice option to have. The impact will be quite small but every little bit helps. It would also be useful if you can surrender after doubling. (Such as doubling 11vT, and you draw a 5.)
      I don’t think the free CA software at my site offers this option. Too bad, it would be nice to have a specific answer.

      • Jack replied:

        Hi Ken, thanks for answering my question I visited this card room here in San Diego and you can actually surrender at anytime before you stay so if you hit twice to say a 16 against a ten you can still surrender. Would be nice to know the actual percentage advantage on this game. You cannot surrender on a double unfortunately.

  • fabio s. said:


    does anybody know in which casino in Europe the surrender option is available? I am planning a trip and I will opt for places which allow ES or LS.

    Thanks for the help!

  • Jim B said:

    Forgive me as I’m a beginner. So when counting cards, the more negative the count, the more beneficial hitting the (7,8) would be since you seek the 5 and 6 from the other hard 15 combinations of the player.

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      Yes, negative counts would mean you are more likely to be able to improve the hand by hitting. This effect is however somewhat offset by the fact that the dealer is also less likely to bust if he has a small card under. But you’ve got the right idea.
      In a 6D H17 game, you should hit 15vT in negative counts, but surrender at true counts of 0 or more.

  • Jim B said:

    I’ve seen suggestions that one should surrender a hard 15 to dealer 10, except when player’s 15 is (7,8). Is this true? If so, why?

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      That’s correct, but only in single deck. In 1 deck, hit a hand of (7,8)vT, but surrender all the other 15vT hands.
      Why? Well, your hand of (7,8) includes none of the cards you would like to receive as a hit card, while the other 15s do.
      Again, this only matters in single deck, where the effect of a single card makes a bigger difference.

  • Hi,
    I have question,
    I am lucky (or not ?!) to find a casino where I can surrender in a way that I cannot see either Early or Late type, it seems something in between:
    – European style, there is no peek
    – I cannot surrender when dealer has ace, but I can surrender when he has any 10s, anytime
    – I can surrender after split or double-down.
    – The cards are shuffled by CSM, so counting cards is impossible.
    And most importantly, when I play with minimum bet of 5$, if I surrender, they give me 3$ since they do not have half a dollar chips. That adds up nicely to my bank

    So in these conditions how should I use basic strategy and how much is house’s edge approximately?

    • None of my current code supports surrender after split or double, so an accurate answer is elusive.
      You could use the free combinatorial analyzer here to look at some of these questions, but not all.
      And you could use it to decide which $5 hands you should surrender. Since you only lose $2 by surrendering (0.4%) of your bet, you can look at the best EV for the other strategies. If it’s worse than -0.4, you should surrender instead.

  • Frank Lu said:

    Thanks for all the informations.
    In Asia, most casino use continuous shuffle machines. ( usually 5 or 6 decks). I am asking , is there any change in basic strategy as compare to 6 decks shoes?

  • Frank Lu said:

    Thanks for all information. In Asia, most casino use continuous shuffle machine , 5 or 6 decks. I am asking ,is there any change in basic strategy? ( compare to 6 deck shoes) .

  • I know it’s not something that would occur often, but there is another additional hand that’s a (late) surrender if the dealer hits soft 17: A pair of eights against an Ace.

    (As a side-note, something clever I’ve inferred when comparing S17 vs. H17 strategy is there are no differences with upcards of 7-10 because it’s impossible for the dealer to reach a soft 17 in those cases – hence why all those additional H17 surrenders are against an Ace.)

    • Kelly, Thanks for noting that omission. I’ve added it to the article.

      And, yes, that’s a handy fact about comparing S17 vs H17 strategies. They will always match for dealer upcards 7-10.

  • Ron Rubin said:

    Don’t believe you can get cruise costs comped. Haven’t tried it, but as you have to prepay…Cruise lines are also famously selfish about giving anything away

  • Ron Rubin said:

    First, let me say that I always use this site to sharpen my skills before cruising/gambling. I’m well ahead of the game after the last 7 years…Thank You!

    Second, I find that the last cruise I took…last month…I couldn’t count cards as they were constantly reshuffling the cards back into the machine. Pity, as I was a decent card counter! 8o))
    Any suggestions?

    Again…THANK YOU!!

    • Thanks for the kind words about the site.

      Ah, the scourge of continuous shuffle machines. On a cruise ship it’s not unusual to see them at every table.
      As you fear, card counting tactics are useless in that situation. Occasionally you may find a dealer that doesn’t immediately put the discards back into the shuffler, but the minor information you can gain won’t offset the base house edge of the game.

      Note that it still may be possible to “beat” this game by getting more of your cruise costs comped than the expected loss on the game.
      I haven’t exploited this angle myself so I don’t know how practical it is.

  • You know I just want to say something, I’ve been using your training
    and everything you offer us on this site for nearly 5 years and I couldn’t
    be happier. Thank you so much for keeping this site up and running!

  • @George Low
    I assume you mean with a player hand of 11, and a dealer upcard of Ace.

    In a game where the dealer stands on all 17s, the basic strategy is to just hit 11vA instead of double down. Like all of basic strategy, this is determined by examining which option either makes the most money in the long run, or saves the most money in the case of losing hands.

    If you are instead playing a game where the dealer hits soft 17, the dealer will bust slightly more often with an Ace up, and the basic strategy changes. You should double down 11vA instead of hit in an H17 game.

    For card counters, because these are fairly close calls, you’ll often deviate from basic strategy based on the count.

    In 6D S17, double 11vA if the count is +1 or higher.
    In 6D H17, double 11vA if the count is 0 or higher.

  • George Low said:

    I know it is a rule that you must hit against a Dealers Ace when it is that he does not have a Blackjack even if the player has a double down hand, this I do not understand. I have been doubling down and most the time I have won. Can you explain.

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