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Best of John Grochowski

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Don't Surrender to the Temptations of Casino Surrender

21 March 2006

I've heard that surrender is a good thing for blackjack players, even though you don't see it that often. Does the same thing go for Casino Surrender? I've seen it at three or four different casinos now, and I'm wondering if it's something I should be doing.

Despite its name, Casino Surrender seems more akin to the "even money" form of insurance than to surrender. In casinos that offer surrender, you are allowed to give up half your bet in exchange for not playing out a bad hand. You have what figures to be a losing hand more often than not, so you cut your losses.

With the even money form of insurance, a player who has a blackjack when the dealer shows an Ace decides to forgo the possible 3-2 payoff and accept even money instead of facing the possibility that the dealer also has blackjack. In that situation, you have what figures to be a winning hand more often than not, but fear the dealer and settle for cutting your win.

That's similar to the situation in Casino Surrender. The option kicks in when the player has a two-card 20 and the dealer has a 10-value card face up, but does not have an Ace down for a blackjack. When those conditions are met, you have the option of taking Casino Surrender, and get a payoff of half your bet instead of playing out the hand. If you've wagered $10, you keep your original bet and get paid $5.

Now, that may sound like a good deal to some, and I can just hear dealers around the country revamping the "It's the only sure win you'll ever get in the casino" speech that so many give players who are trying to decide whether to take even money on their blackjacks. But that 20 is a good hand, and even against a 10 it's a favorite to win more often than it loses.

On the average, you'll make a little more than $5.50 for every $10 you wager when you have a 20 and the dealer has 10 up without having a blackjack. The amounts vary a bit according to the number of decks in play and the composition of your 20. At www.wizardofodds.com, Mike Shackelford calculates that in a common six-deck game, your expected profit per $10 wager is $5.59 if you have two 10-value cards, and $5.55 if you have Ace-9. If you're playing a single-deck game, your expected profit rises a bit, to $5.85 with two 10-values, while staying at about $5.55 with Ace-9.

In every case, your expected profit is more than 10 percent higher if you play out the hand rather than taking the Casino Surrender option and settled for a $5 payoff.

Like taking even money on blackjacks, Casino Surrender smooths out the volatility of the game a bit. You won't feel the lows of the times the dealer beats or ties your 20. But you also give up the highs of winning the full $10 on your $10 wager, and they outweigh the lows.

Is there ever a situation where it's the best play to take Casino Surrender. Sure, if you're a card counter. If the concentration of high cards remaining to be played outweighs the low cards by enough --- a true count of plus-4 for the Hi-Lo counters out there --- then it becomes worthwhile to take Casino Surrender.

But the average, non-counter, basic strategy for Casino Surrender is that you should never take it.

Does it make any difference whether I play Triple Play Poker or Five Play Poker? I don't really like the games with more hands, like Fifty Play or Hundred Play, but it's exciting to have more than one chance to draw a winner from the same start. One time, I held four parts of a royal flush, and missed it on the first hand, but got it on both the second and third! That made my day! In fact, it made my month!

That was on Triple Play. Are the odds any different on Five Play?

The odds on video poker games are determined by the pay tables, not by the number of hands you play. If you're playing 9-6 Jacks or Better, where full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1, at expert level, in the long run you'll get back 99.5 percent of everything you wager whether you're playing one hand, three, five, 50, 100 or 1 million.

Where the number of hands you're playing makes a difference is in your bankroll. If you're playing for quarters, a single-hand maximum-coins bet is $1.25, while it costs $3.75 for Triple Play and $6.25 for Five Play. If your bankroll is tight, you're better off to play fewer hands.

As a personal preference, I like Triple Play because one three of a kind will get me my 15-coin bet back. On Five Play, one three of a kind plus four losers means I lose 10 coins overall. But that's just a personal quirk. In the long run there'll be more multiple winners on Five Play, and the payback percentages will come out the same.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski