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Springing the Surrender Trap

By Kenneth R. Smith

Ken Smith hosts the popular website as well as the online tournament community at  Considered one of the best tournament players in the country, he has appeared on TV in GSN's World Series of Blackjack 2004 and 2005, the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Championship II finals, and is also featured in the upcoming Ultimate Blackjack Tour.  You can subscribe to his free email newsletter at

On Monday nights on cable network GSN, you can tune in to the third season of World Series of Blackjack. In week two of this season's shows, expert tournament player Kami Lis played a great round including a picture-perfect application of a strategy called the Surrender Trap. This move is among the most brutally effective plays in the game. It's been discussed and used for years by many players, but there has been little mention of it in print until quite recently. A few months back, James Grosjean and Previn Mankodi published an in-depth technical article on the topic at their website For years, I had been putting off publication of an article on this topic, because the move was so valuable in my own play that I didn't want to jeopardize its effectiveness. Now that James and Previn have opened the floodwaters, the time has come. When Kami's show aired, I decided my next BJI article would cover the details of the surrender trap.

Most tournaments don't allow surrender, and that's a shame because it really adds an extra dimension to the strategy of the game. Fortunately, GSN laid the groundwork for surrender in TV tournaments by including the rule in every season so far of the WSOB. The upcoming Ultimate Blackjack Tour allows surrender as well. It does seem to be showing up in more events these days, so I hope this is a trend that will continue.

To understand Kami's use of the play in WSOB III, you'll also need to know about a new addition to the rules of WSOB this year. When a special "Knock-Out card" appears in the game, the next hand is declared a knock-out hand. After the knock-out hand is complete, the player with the lowest bankroll in the game is eliminated. It's sort of like having a final hand in the middle of the game. In the knock-out round, your tournament survival hinges on not finishing dead last.

Here's the breakdown of the situation that occurred in the knock out round that we're interested in from WSOB II.

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