John Grochowski, Casino Answer Man

Q. I was checking out some online discussions, and someone had posted that they'd found an internet casino that offered "early surrender" in blackjack. From the follow-up posts, I gathered that was a good thing. Can you explain early surrender and the strategy for it?

A. I don't remember the last time I saw early surrender offered in a bricks-and-mortar casino, and I can't vouch for its existence online, where I don't play. "Surrender" means that after seeing his first two cards and the dealer up card, the player may give up half his bet instead of playing out the hand. The "early" part means the player can surrender before the dealer checks to see if he has blackjack. In "late surrender," players can't surrender if the dealer has a blackjack.

Late surrender, uncommon in itself, is a small gain for the player, subtracting 0.07 percent from the house edge. Early surrender is a much bigger deal, subtracting 0.24 percent from the house edge if permitted when the dealer shows a 10, and 0.39 percent if also allowed when the dealer shows an ace. In a game where the house edge against a basic strategy player is measured in tenths of a percent, that's enormous.

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Early surrender is so rare you won't find it on most basic strategy charts. To meet your request, I plugged it into the free basic strategy engine at, and set the other rules at six decks, dealer hits soft 17s, player may double down after splitting pairs.

In that game, you'd surrender against a dealer's ace whenever you have hard 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and with pairs of 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s and 8s. You'd surrender to a 10 with hard 14, 15 or 16, and with pairs of 7s. And you'd surrender to a 9 with hard 16.

That's a lot more often than you'd use late surrender. In a game that was otherwise the same as that above, you'd late surrender 15 vs. 10 or ace, 16 - including 8-8 - vs. 9, 10 or ace, and 17 vs. an ace.

Q. This always happens to me on three-reel games. When I play one coin at a time, I win, but as soon as I start betting maximum coins, I lose. Should I stick with one coin at a time?

A. The random number generator that determines what you see on the reels receives no input from other programs about the size of your bet. It doesn't know how many coins you've played.

One thing that's common among traditional slots with three mechanical reels is that there are many more losing spins than winners. Video slots, with five video reels and multiple paylines, have changed that. Some video slots pay at least something on more than 50 percent of spins. Many of those payoffs will be for less money than the bet, but there is something coming back. On three-reel slots, payoffs on 20 percent of plays is a really high hit frequency, and many games are closer to 11 or 12 percent.

What that means is that losing streaks on three-reel slots are very, very common. The most likely outcome is a loss, regardless of the number of coins wagered. But players who have had a little winning streak with one-coin wagers who then lose at maximum coins perceive a change. All that's really happening is normal probability.

While anything can happen in a short period, over the long haul the results you see with one coin wagered will be no better and no worse than when betting maximum coins. Your bet size makes no difference to the RNG. It just keeps generating random numbers.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (; Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at Casino Answer Man runs every week.

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