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Sometimes It's Best to Surrender

26 April 2022

In the glory days of blackjack, and maybe even in some casinos today (maybe in the remote hinterlands), there was an option called “surrender.” If you didn’t like your hand you could give up half your bet.

This was an excellent option if used correctly. Sadly, even when offered by the casinos most players did not take advantage of this positive option. That indicates that so many blackjack players, even those who seemingly play perfectly, are not fully aware of what to do in some unusual situations.

If you were saddled with a hand of 16 and the dealer showed a 10 as the up card, you could figure you were going to bust or the dealer was going to have a high hand, so you would say, “Surrender.” And that would be that. The dealer would take half your bet. The idea was that it was better to lose half a bet than to lose a whole bet.

I remember once using this option in Tropworld (now the Tropicana) in Atlantic City and the truly annoying dealer kept busting my chops by saying, “You coward! Don’t you have the courage to play out your hand?”

I probably should have told this guy to “shut up” or “take a hike” or “swim out into the ocean as far as you can.” I didn’t; I’d just smile. Sometimes it is best to play pleasantly dumb. (I was having a very, very good session at this time so I didn’t leave the table.)

The option was helping me; the dealer wasn’t. I’m guessing this dealer didn’t understand when to surrender and thus thought of it as some kind of lack in the individual using this option. Or he was just a creepy guy who should have been working in a different profession, perhaps brain surgery.

I haven’t found this option in casinos lately. Too bad; it did reduce the house edge somewhat and that’s always a good thing. I guess my advice here is that it is sometimes good to be a coward if you get a chance.

Roulette has two surrender-type options that can be found (or used to be found) at some casinos. You can probably still find one of these options in Atlantic City and the other of these in some of the European or Asian casinos.

If you do not see a sign signifying one or the other of these options ask the dealer if one or the other is available. You’ve got nothing to lose by asking except hearing the dealer say, “No.” By the way, Atlantic City roulette games do not have a sign that shows this option exists.

In the American version the option is called surrender (take that you Tropworld dealer!). In the European game, the option is called en prison (a good place for that dealer).

The American double-zero wheel (0, 00) has 38 pockets for the ball to land. The payout is 35 to one for a hit directly on the number wagered. The house edge on these straight up bets is 5.26 percent. That means an average loss of $5.26 per $100 wagered over time.

However, there are even-money proposition bets, the high/low, the red/black and the odd/even wagers, that will pay one to one. You bet $10, and if you win the decision, you are paid $10. These are called even-money bets because they pay even money not because the bet is fair between the player and the house.

The player has 18 ways to win one of those proposition bets and 20 ways to lose it. The 0 or 00 is a loss. The house edge would still be 5.26 percent unless the casino had the surrender option. That option means that if the 0 or 00 hits, the casino will only take half of your even-money bet. This reduces the house edge to 2.63 percent – nowhere near as bad as the other bets at the game.

In the European single-zero game (0) the even-money bets still pay one-to-one but, if the 0 hits, again you only lose half your bet. The dealer does not take the bet; instead he or she leaves the bet up for the next decision. This option is called the en prison rule – your bet is locked up as that dealer from Tropworld should have been (do you sense any bitterness in me here?).

En prison reduces the house edge on the European game down from 2.70 percent to 1.35 percent; one of the lowest house-edges in the casino. The best bet at craps has a house edge of around 1.4 percent. So en prison is a great option.

The recommendation here is clear; if a casino has surrender or en prison you would be crazy to not make this your exclusive bet at the game. It makes no sense to double the casino’s edge over you by playing any differently. Over time having the surrender or en prison options will cost you half as much money.

All the best in and out of the casino!

Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete