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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Telling the Gems from the Junk in Blackjack Options

11 November 2005

Recently, I was playing blackjack at a large out-of-town casino that offered the surrender option as well as a side bet called "Royal Match". Several miles away was another casino that also offered surrender and a different side bet called "Super Sevens".

What surprised and disappointed me was that most of the players at both casinos consistently put money down on the side bets, but almost none of them ever surrendered their hands.

What about you? What do you think of blackjack side bets in general, and what do you think of the surrender option? Let me explain what each of these options are.

With Royal Match, you can make a side bet, totally separate from the bet on your hand that your first two cards will be of the same suit. If they are, you'll get paid 2.5-to-1 on the amount of that side bet – unless your hand happens to be a suited K/Q. Then you'll get paid 25-to-1. All this happens regardless of whether you win or lose with your actual hand.

With Super Sevens, you make a separate side bet that your first card will be a 7. If it is, your side bet gets paid 3-to-1 odds. But if you're dealt a pair of 7s, then you get 50-to-1. And if that pair of 7s happens to be suited, you get 100-to-1. Better yet, if you're dealt a pair of 7s against a dealer's 7 up, you get paid 500-to-1. And finally, if all three 7s are the same suit, you get 5000-to-1.

The Surrender option is a play you can make with your regular blackjack hand. If you think you've got such a lousy hand that it has very little chance to win, you can announce "Surrender". The dealer will then take just half your bet and you're out of the hand.

Now, blackjack side bets, such as Royal Match and Super Sevens are popping up all over the place. They're usually invented by outside entrepreneurs who lease or sell them to the casino and receive royalties on their profits. Before a casino will take in one of these side bets, it must first be convinced that it will make a net profit for the house – which of course comes from you, the player.

The surrender option on the contrary, is an old rule from decades gone by that is an integral part of playing your blackjack hand. If played correctly, just as with splitting or doubling down, surrender actually helps the players' bottom line!

The Royal Match side bet at this particular casino carried a house edge of 6.6% -- no small disadvantage to the player. The Super Sevens side bet at the other casino had a whopping 12% house edge. Now, it may be fun to try to get paid some nice odds on a cute little side bet of your blackjack hand, but over time these bets will drain you!

That's why I found it disturbing that players would rush to make these catchy side bets, but wouldn't surrender their most terrible hands. When surrender is available, it's proper to surrender between four and seven hands depending upon the exact rules of the game. Doing so will improve your results by .07% to .10%.

You see, anytime you have less than one chance in four to win your hand, surrendering averages out cheaper than playing the hand. If the dealer must stand on soft 17, you have less than a 25% chance to win with 15 against a 10 and with 16 against a 9, 10 or Ace. So when you have one of these hands, surrender it if the rules allow it. Saving money is no disgrace.

When the dealer hits on soft 17, then you should also surrender against a dealer's Ace if you have 15, 17 or a pair of 8s. All these hands will win less than one fourth of the time if you play them out.

As for those catchy blackjack side bets? Let somebody else pay the freight.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey