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Best of John G. Brokopp

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New Blackjack Option Turns Tables on Dealers

18 January 2006

A revolutionary new blackjack option called "Casino Surrender", which has been creating a stir in Las Vegas since its debut at the Stardust on The Strip last April, has the potential to become a standard feature of the game everywhere it's played before too long if the early returns are any indication.

Casino Surrender is not to be confused with standard surrender, an option that some casinos offer whereby the player can elect to forfeit half of his bet to the house prior to the hand being played out if his two-card dealt hand is in a statistical position of weakness against the dealer's up-card.

Nor is it to be confused with blackjack carnival, or "gimmick", side bets that pack an inordinate house advantage and are designed to be a constant drain on the bankrolls of players who chase improbable side bonus payouts.

Here, in a nutshell, is how Casino Surrender works: If you are holding a two-card 20 (10-10 or A-9) and the dealer is showing a 10-value up-card and has already confirmed he doesn't have a blackjack (21), you can force the casino to surrender and in return take your original bet back plus collect from the house half its value in winnings.

For example, say you have a $50 bet on the table and you elect to exercise the option. Instead of playing out the hand and risk a "push" (win nothing), or worse yet, watch the dealer pull to 21 (lose everything), you can take your $50 bet back PLUS the dealer will pay you $25. It's a guaranteed win without the gamble.

Casino Surrender is the brain child of Frank Mugnolo, president and CEO of Casino Gaming LLC of Bellwood, Illinois. A former CPA, he founded the company when he realized the blackjack option he came up with and subsequently patented was something both casinos and players would embrace.

"When I first started studying whether or not this would be a viable option, I speculated that players probably win 70 percent of the time when they're holding a 20," Mugnolo said. "Then I had Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) in Lakewood, New Jersey run a test and it revealed players stand to win only 55.46 to 58.53 percent of the time. I looked at my dad and said, 'We've got something here. I think we can make it work'."

Mugnolo put together a marketing kit and sent it to the director of table games at the Stardust Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter came the good news:

"He telephoned me and said, 'Frank, I like this option. There's only one way to find out if it works: Let's try it.' It debuted on April 22 of this year at one table that was open only on weekends. Then it went to two tables, then to a table open all the time. Now it's on over half of the blackjack tables at the Stardust and will eventually be on all of them. They're even planning to have a Casino Surrender blackjack tournament early in 2006."

The beauty of Casino Surrender is that it has appeal to all levels of blackjack players, no matter how much you wager or no matter how skilled you are.

"Every bettor has a price," Mugnolo claims. "There comes a time when, given this option, you decide to take the guaranteed win. I saw a player take it at the Stardust with a $3,000 wager in the betting circle. I also saw a lady take it three times when she had a $2 bet. Why? The reason is this simple: They won."

At the present time the option is licensed in Nevada, Mississippi and Indiana and has been placed on 70 tables in 12 casinos in less than eight months. In the Midwest you can find the option at the Blue Chip Casino & Hotel in Michigan City, Indiana.

The upside for casinos is that since players statistically stand to win on 20 against a dealer 10 more often than they lose, they can get away with paying off 50 percent on the bet instead of even money. Yet GLI ascertained that when an expert player determines the count is plus four or higher, using the strategy will increase the player's return by up to 0.2299 percent while the house edge on the overall blackjack game will decrease to as low as 0.9862 and 0.9889 percent on six and eight deck games, respectively.

But there's value for average players as well. Sure, it's a give-and-take proposition between players and the house, but there's a lot to be said for eliminating the gamble and replacing it with a guaranteed win under the right set of circumstances.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp