Introduction to the Surrender Strategy

Knowing when to surrender can make or break your blackjack game, so it’s an important strategy to be familiar with when playing games that offer this option. It’s a simple enough strategy to get down and can really help save your bet when you’ve been dealt a tough hand and the dealer appears to be racking in the high cards. At the same time, it’s important to understand how the strategy works, so you don’t surrender too often and lose out on a good hand – it happens to many novice players. The surrender option is best thought of as a security blanket that’s there if you need it, but shouldn’t be utilised too often.

The essence of the surrender strategy is that you’re given the option to end your hand (usually after the first two cards are dealt) in exchange for forfeiting half your bet. So if your cards don’t look like they’ll stack up against the dealer’s, you can save at least some of your wager (often 50%) and move on to the next deal – it’s that simple.

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To Surrender, or Not to Surrender

The key to the strategy is knowing when to (and when not to) surrender. There’s a simple table that helps you learn which hands, when faced against the dealer’s face card, are the best to surrender on. Get these tables memorised and you’ll be upping your winning chances the next time you hit the felt (or want to show off on your weekly poker night).

The most basic surrender strategy is all based on the dealer’s move when they have a soft 17.

When the dealer hits on a soft 17:

  • Surrender if the dealer is showing a 10 or Ace and you have a hard 15, or
  • Surrender if the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or Ace and you have a hard 16, or
  • Surrender if the dealer is showing an Ace and you have a pair of 8s or a hard 17

When the dealer stands on a soft 17:

  • Surrender if the dealer is showing a 10 and you have a hard 15, or
  • Surrender if the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or Ace and you have a hard 16.

If you follow the table, you’ll want to surrender whenever both you and the dealer have hands in the same row as below. For example, when the dealer hits a soft 17 (with a 9, 10 or Ace showing) and you have a hard 16, it’s in your advantage to surrender.

Your Hand Dealer Hits on Soft 17 Dealer Stands on Soft 17
Hard 15 10 or Ace 10
Hard 16 9, 10, or Ace 9, 10 or Ace
8-8 Ace
Hard 17 Ace


In the two spots where there’s just a dash present, it’s better to play the hand – so really, the number of variations in which you should surrender is quite small. You can start improving your game by simply carrying a printout of this table with you until, eventually, memorisation makes your gameplay even smoother.

Pros and Cons of the Surrender Strategy

With many casino card games, it never hurts to know strategies and memorise tables as they’ll generally help your odds in betting. That being said, strategies can change for different games, so while having a table like this memorised for classic blackjack would be extremely handy, it won’t be as helpful in games with multiple decks. In those games, there are other tables that you can learn, specific to the number of decks and sometimes even the variations in game rules.

The fact is the rules in blackjack games can vary quite a bit, so although it is important to know a basic strategy like when to surrender, it’s also important not to get stuck in the strategy itself. Players who aren’t confident enough with their strategy can be prone to surrendering too often. However, if you get comfortable with the table and the rules before you play, this strategy can really reduce your losses with poor hands and the general idea notion can be applied to multiple game variations.

The Bottom Line

The surrender strategy is a good one to know: it’s not too complicated, even for the most novice of players, and can save you plenty of potential losses when facing a tough decision. Start with the table to understand the basics and eventually memorisation will kick in and this strategy will be second nature.