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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Casino surrenders at blackjack

2 September 2011

There is a new blackjack betting option gaining popularity known as Casino Surrender. It shouldn't be confused with the "old" surrender option, which has been around for a long time, that allows players to forfeit half their bet when they hold a poor hand against a strong dealer's up card (like a 10-6 against dealer ace). This new Casino Surrender betting option allows the player to get a guaranteed payout when dealt an initial two-card 20 against a dealer 10.

Here in a nutshell are the rules for this new, patented Casino Surrender option.

When a player receives a two-card 20 (either 10-10 or ace-9) and the dealer's upcard is a 10, instead of playing out the hand, the player can elect to have the casino surrender. If he does so, the player gets to keep his original bet plus win 50 percent of the original bet. So if a player bet $10 and decided to invoke the Casino Surrender, he would keep the $10 he wagered plus get paid an additional $5. Casino Surrender can only be invoked after the dealer checks her hole card for an ace. If she has an ace, the player's 20 losses (i.e., if the dealer has a blackjack, the player cannot invoke the Casino Surrender option).

Players are going gaga over this new option because they get an automatic payout on a 20 against dealer 10 and they don't have to risk that the dealer will wind up with a 20 and push their 20 (resulting in no win) or worse, the dealer having a blackjack (i.e., ace in the hole) and beating their 20. Those are the two most frustrating situations that befall blackjack players -- namely, they are dealt a strong, pat 20 hand against a dealer 10 and instead of winning they push or lose to a dealer's blackjack. Let's face it, it hurts when you are dealt a 20 and you don't win.

Player's also like this new blackjack betting option because it turns the tables on the casinos and has them surrendering. On the other side of the table, the casinos like this new option mainly because it doesn't alter the normal blackjack rules and provides the player with a winning option (like the insurance option).

Casino Surrender made its debut at the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas and it has since spread elsewhere. The option has become very popular with players and more casinos are planning to license the bet and implement it on their blackjack tables.

So is Casino Surrender a "good bet" for players like it's touted to be? The answer really amounts to this: Is it more profitable to take the sure 50 percent win by invoking Casino Surrender or go ahead and play out the hand? Before I had the chance to do the math on this, I discovered that Michael Shackelford had already done so and posted the results on his website www.wizardofodds.com. The result of his analysis is as follows:

A player's expected long-term return (as a percentage of the bet made) on an initial hand of 20 against a dealer 10 is 55.46 - 58.53 percent (spread due to slight difference in the number of decks the casinos uses - Shackleford analyzed 1 deck to 8 decks). We know that the expected long-term return for invoking the Casino Surrender option is 50% (because you always win 50 percent of your initial wager). Therefore blackjack players are better off not taking the Casino Surrender option and instead always playing out their 20 against a dealer 10.

Whoa now, I know what you are thinking. What if I bet $10, the dealer gives me a 10-10 (or Ace-9) and she shows a 10, I decline the Casino Surrender option, and lo and behold the dealer has a 10 in the hole and I push. I could have won $5 if I took the Casino Surrender option and instead I win nada. So how can the Casino Surrender option be worse?

The only way mathematicians can analyze betting options in blackjack is to compute the long-term expected value. This means how much money you stand to win (or lose) over many hands. On any given hand of 20 against dealer's 10, there are only three possible outcomes:

  1. You lose your bet if the dealer has a blackjack
  2. You push if the dealer has a 20 (win nothing) or
  3. You play out, but possible multi-card 21 hand for dealer.

The 55.46-58.53 percent expected value is an average of the three possible outcomes above. In other words, sometimes the dealer will wind up with a 21 (and beat you) or 20 (you push) but more often than not your 20 will beat the dealer's hand even when she has a 10 value card as one of her initial cards. This results in the expected value of playing out the hand being slightly greater than the 50 percent expected value for invoking Casino Surrender.

Here is a concrete example taken from Shackleford's analysis. It's a 6-deck game, you are dealt a 10-10 and the dealer shows a 10. If you play out your hand your EV is 55.91 percent of your initial bet. If you invoke the Casino Surrender option you win 50 percent of your initial bet. You would gain 5.91 percent (55.91-50.00 percent) in profit in the long term by playing out your hand compared to taking the Casino Surrender.

The bottom line is to think long term when you play blackjack. Even though invoking Casino Surrender looks at the moment like a "can't lose proposition," in the long run it is because you will win more by ignoring Casino Surrender and just playing out your hand.

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin