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Best of John Grochowski

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When to surrender in Super Fun 21

5 October 2010

In blackjack, in all its variations and spinoff games, extra options are good for players — provided players know how to use them.

What brings that to mind is a question from a reader who's been playing Super Fun 21. It's a blackjack spinoff in which most two-card 21s pay only even money instead of the 3-2 we see at most tables. If both cards are diamonds, then your blackjack pays 2-1, but that doesn't come anywhere near making up the shortfall. Only one per 16 blackjacks has both the ace and the 10-value card in diamonds, so 93.75% of our blackjacks will pay only even money.

To get the house edge back to a reasonable level — 0.8% with a specially adapted basic strategy — Super Fun 21 adds a host of positive rules. All player blackjacks win, even if the dealer also has blackjack. You can double down after any number of cards, including after splitting pairs.

Any hand totaling 20 or less with six cards pays even money instantly, unless the player has doubled down. Any hand totaling 21 with five or more cards pays 2-1 instantly, unless the player has doubled down.

And after the dealer has checked for blackjack, player may surrender half the bet instead of finishing the hand, even after hitting, splitting or doubling down.

It's that last provision that caught the attention of Joe, a reader intrigued by the possibility of surrendering if a double down goes awry. He wondered, "Is it ever OK to surrender after doubling down against 4, 5 or 6?"

I know the feeling. You're sitting there with a $5 bet and you're dealt an 11. The dealer shows a 4. You double down . . . and the next card comes up a 5. That sticks you with $10 riding on a 16, and the only way you can win the hand is if the dealer busts.

No wonder Joe is tempted to surrender, take $5 back and just forfeit $5. That's something you can't do in regular blackjack. Once you've made that double-down bet, it stays on the table until the hand is finished and there's a decision.

Tempted, yes, but if he's going to get the most out of the game, he doesn't actually surrender.

If you play out the hand, you don't lose anywhere near often enough to justify giving up half your wager. With a 4 up, the dealer will bust 40% of the time. If you're stuck with a $5 bet and a $5 double against a dealer's 4, in 100 trials your expectation would be to win $10 on 40 hands and lose $10 on 60 hands. That's $400 in wins and $600 in losses, for a net loss of $200. If instead you just surrender the $5 double on every hand, you give up $5 100 times, for a $500 loss. You're far better off playing the hand.

Basic strategy for surrendering on Super Fun after three cards in a six-deck game is to surrender with hard 15 or 17 if the dealer has an ace, or hard 16 if the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace. Do not surrender to any dealer up cards lower than a 9.

Surrender after any number of cards is a handy option to have. If double down leaves you with a 16, or you've strung out five cards such as 5-4-3-2-A for a 15 and the dealer shows an ace, then getting out with half your bet intact makes for a nice exit. But as with any player option, it only helps if you know when to use it.

** * ** * **

I mentioned to a blackjack-playing friend that I was writing about Super Fun, and he asked how close the 2-1 payoff on diamond blackjacks coupled with the rule that all player blackjacks win comes to offsetting the drop to even-money payoffs on other blackjacks.

It doesn't come at all close. Blackjacks occur roughly once per 21 hands, with some minor differences that come with the number of decks used — blackjacks occur slightly more frequently with fewer decks. You'll get blackjack once per 21 hands, the dealer will get a blackjack once per 21 hands, and you'll get blackjacks together roughly once per 441 hands.

What that comes down to is that on one of 21 of your blackjacks, you'll wind up with a push.

In an average run of 336 blackjacks — that's 21 times 16, to take into account both the frequency of pushes and that of all-diamond blackjacks — a player at a regular table betting $10 a hand will get 320 payoffs of $15 each, or $4,800, and push 16 times. The Super Fun player will get 315 payoffs of $10, and 21 of $20 for a total of $3,570.

Despite the Super Fun positives, there remains a huge difference in the blackjack payoffs. That's why all the other options had to added to make a viable game.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski