At blackjack tables, discretion is the better part of surrender
The blackjack player at third base didn't look like someone who backs down easily.
His eyes, barely visible beneath a ball cap, gave off a “don't-mess-with-me” vibe. His stocky build, stubby fingers and muscular hands hinted at years of hard work.
My image of him switched when he was dealt a two-card 16 and the dealer's up-card was a seven. Without any apparent thought, Third Base gave up. He surrendered. He forfeited half his bet instead of playing out the hand.
Surrender, available in all Pennsylvania casinos, is a handy tool for players who know when to use it. Unfortunately, many people ignore it or use it far too often, like a screwdriver that gets mangled when it doubles as a chisel and pry bar.
One indication that surrender can be a valuable player option is that few casinos outside Pennsylvania offer it routinely — and those that do seldom advertise it. Players usually have to ask whether it's available.
In surrendering, a player gives up half his original bet instead of hitting or standing.
The hand signal, given for the benefit of the surveillance cameras, is to draw an imaginary line with your index finger behind your bet. It's a good idea to announce “I surrender” so a fast dealer doesn't misinterpret your hand movement as a hit sign.
The dealer then takes your chips from the betting circle, counts them and returns half.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board says all casinos in the state must offer surrender after the dealer has checked her hand for a blackjack. This is known as “late surrender;” the “early” version, which allowed players to surrender before the dealer checked for blackjack, is seldom offered any more.
Surrender is available only on your first two cards.
Basic strategy calls for surrender in just four situations: when the player is dealt a 16 and the dealer shows a nine, face card or Ace, and when the player has 15 against a dealer's face card.
Players who find themselves getting dealt one “stiff” — a two-card hand of 12 to 16 — after another might decide, like the man at third base, to surrender more often. They might think it's better to give up half a bet rather than risk losing the whole thing.
That reasoning is wrong. It overlooks how many times you win because of hitting.
In the four cases involving a 15 or 16 against a powerful dealer's card, you'll lose less money in the long run by surrendering than by hitting or standing. If you overuse surrender, your bankroll will get as beat up as the screwdriver used as a chisel.
Let's look at the hand that bedevils blackjack players the most: You hold a Nine-Seven or 10-Six and the dealer shows a face card.
Blackjack author and expert Henry Tamburin, operator of www.bjinsider.com, explains that standing on your 16 will result in losing a little more than 77 percent of your hands, while hitting will result in losing a little less than 77 percent.
Let's look at the results for 100 hands of that scenario, assuming $10 bet on each. Whether you hit or stand, you lose 77 times, or a total $770; you win the other 23 times, getting $230. That gives you a net loss of $540.
If you surrender those hands, you lose $5 each time for a net loss of $500.
However, you play the hand, you're going to lose in the long run. The question is: how much?
Notice that you don't surrender with a pair of eights. The best play is to split them, even against a face card or Ace. In the long run, you'll come out better.
Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or email@example.com.
Gambling in the election
The re-election of President Obama got the headlines Wednesday, but voters in several locales decided gambling issues, as well. Among the results, as reported by the Associated Press:
• Maryland voters approved expanding gambling to include table games. The games could begin early next year at the state's three existing casinos and at two expected to be built later. The measure passed in Prince George's County, opening the way for a casino to be built near the nation's capital.
• Rhode Island voters approved expansion of the Twin River slot parlor in Lincoln into a casino, but local opposition stopped a similar plan at Newport Grand.
• Oregon voters rejected development of the state's first nontribal casino.
• In Kentucky, four state legislators who had backed at least a referendum on expanding gambling were defeated. Three other pro-gambling legislators did not seek re-election.
Areas of Rivers and Meadows casinos are getting new looks.
The entrance to the poker room at Rivers on the North Shore moved this week to the area near Ciao restaurant, the opposite side of its original location. The room has been enclosed in glass to reduce noise from the main floor. An area next to the poker room is being renovated into the new location for high-limit slots.
Meadows in North Strabane plans a $2.5 million upgrade of its high-limit slot area, Adios Lounge and Clubhouse, and replacement of carpeting throughout the casino. Access to the Adios will be through the high-limit slots area. Additions will include butler service, a hot-food station, bar service and personal-valet services, to name a few. The Clubhouse project will include a new bar. The carpet replacement work is to start Dec. 3, with a break from Dec. 21 to Jan. 2. The job is to be completed by Feb. 1.
Slot players lost $44.3 million in Pennsylvania's 11 casinos during the week ended Nov. 4, the Gaming Control Board reported. That's down from $47.1 in the comparable week last year, which was before Valley Forge Resort Casino opened. Much of the state was still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The statewide slot-payout rate since the fiscal year started in July is 89.94 percent; for each $100 bet, the machines return an average of $89.94. Rates in Western Pennsylvania casinos:
Rivers: 89.98 percent
Meadows: 89.81 percent
Presque Isle in Erie: 89.94 percent
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches career points
- Fatal crash closes Flight 93 chapel in Somerset County
- Steelers’ backups Archer, Harris ready to run
- Amusement parks fight off home entertainment threat
- Families welcome new members on Adoption Day in Westmoreland County
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Declining confidence in OPEC muddies oil’s outlook
- Pitt plays best game of the season; routs Kansas State
- Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation donates $12,000 to revamping middle school library
- Surge in small drones making airline pilots nervous
- Pregnant woman struck by van in North Side dies; doctors save baby