Blackjack Insurance and Surrender

Blackjack Insurance, Surrender, Early Surrender
Most Intermediate players are quite familiar with these terms; however, we don’t see a lot of players playing these situations properly. Also, it’s a good idea for beginners to get an idea what these terms are, and what they mean to the player.


Frequency of occurrence: 14.9% of all hands.
Insurance is a side bet that a player can make when the dealer’s face up card is an Ace. This is a bet that gets paid off 2-1 IF the dealer has 21 (the hole card is a 10 or a face card).
The dealer offers insurance before looking at his hole card. The bet may be in an amount up to one half of your initial wager. What you are betting on in this case is that the dealer has a 10 underneath the Ace to make 21 for the dealer. If the dealer has 10, the player loses the original bet but gets paid 2:1 on his insurance bet.

A variation on this theme occurs when the player has Blackjack. Instead of asking the player for insurance, the dealer may ask the player “even money?” In this case, instead of getting paid 3:2 for your Blackjack, you get paid 1:1, no matter if the dealer has Blackjack or not. If you don’t take even money and the dealer has Blackjack against your Blackjack, it is a push and no money exchanges hands. In reality, this is the same as taking a full insurance bet (50% of your initial wager) illustrated above, except it is presented to the player in a different fashion.
Insurance is one of the lamest options the casino gives you. Unless you are counting cards, and you know that the odds of drawing a ten-value card are very high, insurance is not a bet one would make on the Blackjack table. The reason is that the casino makes a lot of money in the long run on this bet.

The following example will illustrate this more clearly. Suppose you have a $10 bet on the table. The dealer asks for insurance. You take the maximum amount allowed, which is $5.00. The dealer turns over his card and lo and behold there is a ten underneath. The dealer will then pay you 2:1 on your insurance bet, or $10! What’s wrong with that? Well, the TRUE odds of the dealer having Blackjack are 9:4 or 2.5:1. You should be getting $12.50 for your insurance bet, not $10.00. That’s a rip-off!
Use insurance only if you are counting cards. Otherwise, forget it!

Advantage to the Player: None.


Frequency of occurrence: 3.6% of all hands.
Surrender allows you to stop playing on any hand under 21 and lose only half of your original bet (assuming the dealer does not have an Ace up).
Thus, if the player has a hand that will probably result in a loss (e.g. 16 vs. 10), the player must announce to the dealer that he wishes to surrender. The dealer will then remove half of the player’s initial wager.

When used correctly, and if allowed by the casino, surrender is a powerful tool for the Basic Strategy player. Why? In our 16 vs. 10 example, even if played correctly the player will lose 77% of the time. By taking surrender the player has reduced his loss rate from 77% to 50%, a real good deal! Putting it in terms of dollars and cents, a $10.00 bet will result in a loss of $7.70 when this hand is played out, but results in only a $5.00 loss when opting for surrender.
Use surrender when the dealer has an up card of 9,10 or Ace, and you have hard 15 or 16 (with the exception of 8,8 where you MUST split).
Advantage to the Player: 0.06% of all hands played.

Early Surrender

Frequency of occurrence: 10.4% of all hands.
Early surrender allows the player to surrender and lose half of the original bet before the dealer either looks at or deals a hole card.
This is the same as surrender, except in this case you don’t have to wait for the dealer to check if he has 21.
Use early surrender when the dealer’s up card is an Ace, on all hard 5-7 and all hard 12-17. If the dealer’s up card is 10, use this strategy on all hard 14-16.
Advantage to the Player: 0.62% of all hands played.