One of the playing decisions available to land-based and online blackjack players in some (but not all) casinos is to surrender their hand. For the uninitiated, blackjack surrender works like this.

After comparing your initial two-card hand against the dealer’s upcard, if you think your chances of winning the hand are not very good, you can forfeit playing your hand and surrender (or give up) half of the amount of your wager. If you decide to surrender, the dealer will remove half of your bet and then scoop up your initial two cards and place them in the discard tray. 

Most players disdain the surrender option because they much prefer to try to “win their hands,” rather than wimp out and surrender them. But as you will see shortly, surrender can be a smart play if you know which hands to surrender. 


Before I show you the surrender playing strategy, it’s important that you understand the math behind surrender. You know that when you surrender a hand you will lose 50% (or half) of your wager. Therefore, it makes sense to surrender only those hands when your expected loss from playing the hand to a conclusion is greater than 50% (i.e., when your chances of winning are less than one out of four hands).

The latter means that statistically if playing a hand has less than a 25% chance of winning (and consequently greater than 75% of losing), you will save money in the long run by surrendering the hand instead.

Here’s a real-world example. Suppose you are dealt a 10 and 6 and the dealer’s upcard is a ten. This is the worst blackjack hand that you can get when you are playing. You have three choices on how to play the hand: hit, stand, or surrender. The percentages of the time that you will win or lose for each playing option are (assumes a six-deck game):


Strategy Win Lose Loss per $100 Bet
Hit 23.4% 76.6% $53.20
Stand 22.8% 77.2% $54.40
Surrender 50% of bet 50% of bet $50

The above percentages mean if you stand on your 16, you can expect to lose the hand 77.2% of the time and win only 22.8%; therefore, you can expect to lose $54.40 for every $100 bet on the hand. Hitting improves your outcome slightly; your expected loss is $53.20 per $100 bet.

Think about this:  When you surrender your 10-6 against a dealer 10 upcard, you will lose exactly 50% of your bet, meaning for every $100 wagered, your expectation is to lose $50. Now let me ask you this: is it better to lose $50, $53.20, or $54.40? (I hope you said only $50, which is why surrender is your best option for this hand.)

For even more blackjack charts and numbers, click here.


The blackjack basic playing strategy for surrender in a six-deck game with the dealer standing on soft 17 is:

  • Surrender hard 16 (but not 8-8) against a dealer 9, 10, or Ace upcard
  • Surrender hard 15 against a dealer 10 upcard

Two situations you need to surrender at blackjack

Note: The above strategy differs slightly depending on the number of decks of cards being used and the mix of playing rules. See Chapter 2.2 in my Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide for tables that contain the complete surrender playing strategy for any number of decks and different playing rules.


To make surrender worthwhile, average losses on a starting hand have to be high enough to justify surrendering half your bet.

It becomes a balancing act. You'll win sometimes with any starting hand, but with one such as hard 16 when the dealer has a 10 face up, you're between a rock and a hard place. Hit, and you'll bust more often than not. Stand, and the dealer makes a 17 or better to beat you on a majority of hands.

When to surrender in blackjack is much like basic hit or stand strategy in that you must consider your cards as well as the dealer's upcard. Strategy for surrender depends on the number of decks in play, whether the dealer hits soft 17 and the composition of the hand.

Let's take blackjack surrender strategy and break it down hand by hand. In the charts below, "R" stands for surrender, "s" for stand, "h" for hit, and "p" for splitting a pair. If a hand says "Rh," it means to surrender if the option is available and to hit if not. Rs means surrender is preferred, but stand if it's not offered.


Player Hand Dealer has 9 Dealer has 10 Dealer has Ace
Hard 15 H Rh Rh
Hard 16 Rh Rh Rh
Hard 17 S S Rs
Pair of 8s P P Rp

You can see basic strategy calls for surrender with hard 15 against 10 or Ace, hard 16 against 9, 10 or Ace, hard 17 against Ace, and a pair of 8s against Ace. If there's no surrender, hit the 15 or 16, stand on the 17, and split the 8s.
Let's run some numbers.

HARD 15: Numbers differ slightly depending on whether your 15 consists of 10-5, 9-6, or 8-7. 

Anytime you surrender, your loss is 50 cents per $1 wagered. If you make the next best play and hit, average losses against a dealer 10 are 50.4 cents with 10-5 and 50.5 cents with 9-6. With 8-7 vs. 10, the average loss when hitting is only 50.01 cents, barely more than the guaranteed 50-cent loss for surrendering, but it still means your best average results come with surrender.

It's not as close a call when the dealer has Ace up. Average losses when hitting are 59.9 cents with 10-5, 59.6 with 9-6 or 59.5 with 8-7.

We don't surrender with 9 because average losses of 47.2 cents with 10-5 or 9-6 and 46.8 cents with 8-7 are less than the guaranteed loss when surrendering.

HARD 16: With hard 15, we bust with a one-card draw of 7 through 10. With 16, we bust with 6 through 10. That extra bust card swings the percentages in favor of surrendering against a dealer 9.

There are two possible two-card hard 16s: 10-6 and 9-7. When the dealer has a 9 up, average losses per dollar wagered when hitting are 50.6 cents with either 10-6 or 9-7, so the better play is to surrender.

Average losses when the dealer has 10 up are 53.6 cents with 10-6 of 53.7 with 9-7. Against an Ace, averages are 54.1 cents with 10-6 or 54.0 with 9-7.

8-8: Splitting 8s is almost always the correct strategy, but there's an exception in multiple-deck games with surrender when the dealer hits soft 17.

When you have a pair of 8s and the dealer has an Ace up, splitting results in lower losses than hitting or standing. But the average loss of 51.7 cents per dollar of your original wager is more than the flat 50 cents you give up for surrendering.

When you have a pair of 8s and the dealer has an Ace up, splitting results in lower losses than hitting or standing. But the average loss of 51.7 cents per dollar of your original wager is more than the flat 50 cents you give up for surrendering.



Player hand Dealer has 9 Dealer has 10 Dealer has Ace
Hard 15 H Rh H
Hard 16 Rh Rh Rh


We surrender a lot less often if the dealer stands on soft 17. That's because even though the dealer risks  busting when hitting soft 17, the average final hand is better than the 17 that results from standing. A favorable draw results in more player wins when the dealer stands on soft 17, so we surrender less.

Some numbers: 

HARD 15: Against a dealer Ace, average losses per dollar wagered when hitting hard 15 are 48.3 cents with 10-5 or 9-6 and 47.6 cents with 8-7. All are less than the 50-cent loss for surrendering. So while you surrender 15 vs. Ace if the dealer hits soft 17, you just hit if the dealer stands.

Under these rules, surrender hard 15 only against dealer 10 values, where average losses are 50.4 cents with 10-5 or 50.5 with 9-6. However, if your 15 consists of 8-7, average losses when hitting dip to 49.98 cents per dollar, just on the side of hitting instead of surrendering. It's a close call, but a consideration for dedicated players who use composition-dependent strategies.

HARD 16: Surrender is the preferred play when the dealer has 9, 10, or Ace.  
Average losses when hitting vs. 9 are 50.5 cents vs. 10-6 or 9-7. Averages against 10s are 53.5 with either hard 16, and against Aces average losses are 51.6 cents with 10-6 or 51.4 with 9-7. All are higher than 50 cents, so we surrender.


Player hand Dealer has 10 Dealer has Ace
Hard 15 H Rh
Hard 16 Rh Rh
Hard 17 S Rs
7-7 Rs Rh

If you find a single-deck game that offers surrender, you've found a rare treat. But be careful. A one-deck game with surrender is likely to more than offset it with negative rules that might make a different table a better option.
Some numbers:

HARD 15: Surrender only against an Ace, where average losses per dollar wagered when hitting are 52.4 cents with 10-5 or 51.8 cents with 9-6. But hit instead of surrendering with 8-7, where the average drops to 48.3 cents.

HARD 16: Average losses when hitting against 10 are 50.7 cents with 10-6 or 51.2 with 9-7, while against a dealer Ace losses average 52.9 with 10-6 or 52.1 with 9-7. So we surrender.

HARD 17: Surrender only with 10-7 against an Ace, where losses when hitting average 50.4 cents. However, with 9-8 losses fall to 49.1 cents, so advanced players will hit instead.

7-7: The pair to watch in single-deck, hit soft 17 games is 7s. Surrender against 10, where the next best play is to stand with an average 51-cent loss.  Against Aces, the next best play is to hit with a 52.3-cent average loss.



Player hand Dealer has 10 Dealer has Ace
Hard 16 Rh Rh
7-7 Rs Rh

As in multiple-deck games, we surrender less often if the dealer stands on soft 17 The numbers: HARD 16: Average losses when hitting against 10 are 50.7 cents with 10-6 or 51.2 with 9-7. 7-7: Average losses against a dealer 10 are 51 cents when standing, and that's a better play than hitting (51.5) or splitting (62). However, we don't surrender against Aces, where the next best play is hitting, with a 49.4-cent average loss.


Early surrender is extraordinarily rare. It was introduced long ago, before basic strategy was devised and before the math of blackjack was fully understood. 

You are unlikely to encounter this rule unless it's in a blackjack-based specialty game that has an overriding rule or two so favorable to the house it can afford to give something back.

There's no point in getting bogged down in the numbers, but for curiosity's sake, basic strategy for early surrender looks like this:

  • Against a dealer Ace, surrender with hard 5 through 7; hard 12 through 17; and pairs of 3s, 6s, 7s, or 8s
  • Against a dealer 10, surrender with hard 14-16, or pairs of 7s or 8s.

Don't be too concerned with early surrender strategy. Focus on late surrender, where strategy could be useful -- especially in online play.


Here are some additional tips to keep in mind regarding the surrender option:

  • If you are not sure if a casino offers surrender, contact the casino beforehand (or just ask the dealer if you happen to be in a casino). Usually, if a casino offers surrender, it will state it on the placard that summarizes the rules at each table.
  • In US casinos, you can only surrender your hand after the dealer peeks at her hole card when she shows an ace or 10-valued card, to determine if she has a blackjack. If she has blackjack, the surrender option is no longer available, and you will lose your entire bet (unless you also have a blackjack). This is known as late surrender in blackjack and it is the strategy I presented in this article.
  • Another type of surrender, known as “early surrender,” is rarely offered in U.S. casinos and is more prevalent in European and Asian casinos where the dealer does not take a hole card until after all players have acted on their hand. With the early surrender option, a player can surrender his hand to a dealer’s ace and/or 10-value upcard before she checks to determine if she has blackjack. Early surrender is a much more favorable rule for players than late surrender, and it has a much different playing strategy than later surrender. (In this article, I only covered the playing strategy for late surrender. See Chapter 2.2 in the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide for the complete playing strategy for early surrender.)
  • In some casinos you must verbally announce to the dealer that you want to surrender your hand by saying, “surrender.” Other casinos have implemented a hand signal for surrender, which is to draw an imaginary line from left to right on the felt with your index finger.
  • Implementing the late surrender playing strategy will reduce the house edge by about 0.07% in multiple-deck games. Surrender also will stabilize your bankroll compared to a game where surrender is not offered and you have to play your hands to completion.
  • Surrender is also a valuable playing option for card counters because it will moderate the swings in their bankroll. Also, knowing when to surrender a hand based on the count should definitely be employed by a card counter. (For details on this, see Chapter 10.7 in Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide for the surrender “Fab Four” indices.)
  • Some (but not all) online casinos offer the surrender option in their blackjack games. Check the summary of the blackjack rules on the site to determine if surrender is available.

Henry Tamburin is one of world’s most respected blackjack experts and a world-class player. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, and Blackjack: Take The Money and Run. He edited the monthly Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and was a featured blackjack columnist for Casino Player magazine, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Gaming South magazine, Southern Gaming magazine, New England Gaming News, Jackpot, Bingo Bugle, and Casino City Times.