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Blackjack Tournaments

You might be wondering what a blackjack tournament is, and how they work? Well those are two very good questions. And because of the excitement that’s been generated by big money and celebrity tournaments on TV, this article is devoted to tournament playing strategy. First, let’s quickly review some basics.

When playing in a blackjack tournament there are a few differences then when playing live blackjack. First of all, you do not have to win any money to win a tournament; all you have to do is end up being the player with the most money at your table. So in a blackjack tournament you are in essence competing against the other players, not the house. To start a blackjack tournament everyone has exactly same bankroll and after a specific amount of time or number of hands, the player with the largest bankroll wins. With this type of scoring structure in a blackjack tournament it is possible that you can be the winner at your table and have a smaller bankroll then when you started.

Some tournaments are invitation only, others are free, but usually most will charge an entry fee and be open to all players. Most tournaments that charge an entry fee will have a deal for discounts on rooms, a welcome reception and an awards banquet. Some tournaments even offer free rooms for tournament participants.

You will find that non-negotiable chips are used for most tournaments. These chips cost the player no extra money but at the same time they cannot be exchanged for real money when the tournament ends. You will find some tournaments where players will need to purchase their bankroll and in these tournaments you can cash in your chips for real money.

Most tournaments use a series rounds to determine the winner. Usually the blackjack tournament will start by using a random draw to determine the table and seat assignments for every player. The table winner (and often the runner-up, in the first round) advance to a second round to play the other first-round winners. Players who win the second round advance to the next round. This continues until you end up with six or seven finalists who will play each other for the championship title. As with all tournaments, the winner gets the top cash prize and remaining contenders receive progressively smaller cash prizes.

Because of the format used form most tournaments, even those that have been kicked out or banned from casinos for card counting are welcome to play. Don’t worry about competing against skilled card counters. Because of the format used card counters will not have a big edge over the other players in the tournament. There is just not enough hand being played for the counters edge to factor in.

Some blackjack tournament entry fees can be a little expensive. Some tournaments charge upwards of a $1 000 per entry. Some inventive players are getting “investors” to help fund the entry fee for a percentage of the winnings. Blackjack tournaments that charge this much usually include a free room for the tournament. All in all a bit expensive but considering you could win a lot of money or get your face on national TV should the tournament be covered it’s not such a bad deal.

How do you determine if it is worth putting up $1 000 for a shot at a million dollars in prize money? A basic rule is if you can afford to spend the $1 000 dollars and lose early in the tournament then it’s worth playing that tournament. If you have to make it to the money round because you don’t have the $1 000 then I recommend finding a less expensive tournament. You should know that, making it to the semifinals is no piece of cake. So here are some tips to help you, based on my tournament playing experiences:

In a blackjack tournament, players will either be aggressive from the very first hand in an attempt to take an early lead or they will be conservative and wait to make their move until a later round. Both of these approaches have merit, but playing the conservative approach early on, allows you to assess your bankroll in relation to the other players and decide if I need to bet up.

At some point during the blackjack tournament you may find yourself having to increase your bet just to stay up with the table leader. If you find yourself in this situation, your best option is to make one large bet instead of a series of midsized bets. If the table leader is betting small then you will have to bet big, if they are betting big then you should bet small. If you happen to succeed in becoming the table leader, it is in your best interest to match your bet size of your closest opponent. This way regardless of whether you win or lose the same amount of money for both players will be changing hands. By doing this you will maintain the lead.

The most important rounds in any tournament are the final five hands – especially the final hand. You will see players make some strange plays on the final hand, especially when non-negotiable chips are used For example, I have seen a player, who doubled down on a blackjack hand (that was the only way he could get enough money on the table to beat the leader, which he did. – you will be hard pressed to find a tournament that will allow that play nowadays). I have also seen players doubled down on a hard 13 as part of a last-gasp attempt to catch the leader. What happened to that player? Well they busted with a 10. At another blackjack tournament I witnessed a player split a pair of tens in a desperate attempt to maintain the lead at the table. This player was apparently doomed to failure as they drew two small cards and then proceeded to bust both hands on their second hit. You may be thinking that these players were crazy to attempt those plays, well the point is that you have to be prepared to make some unconventional plays and bet it all if necessary, because it doesn’t matter if you have a large bankroll, if it’s not the biggest, it doesn’t count.

An important skill to learn is to know how much you need to bet on the last few hands. I have witnessed too many tournament leaders make the mistake of betting too little or too much, and this is especially true on the last hand. How much you need to bet depends on whether you are ahead or behind, and by how much. Another factor that will affect your bets is whether you bet before or after your fellow players. Essentially, you must be able to gauge the amount of bankroll your opponents have and then mentally figure out how much to bet so that you end up with more chips, assuming they win their hand. Yes, this can get complicated, but if you are unsure how much to bet, like the old saying goes “let it ride”, that’s right bet it all on the last hand.

If you are not sure how much to bet and decide to bet it all on the last hand, remember to hold back a single red chip. That single red chip might win you the table. I was at a table where everyone but one person bet all they had and were wiped out by the dealer’s blackjack. That player with the single red chip won the table and went onto the next round leaving us to lick our wounds.

Remember “A skillful player can have a huge advantage over the other players if those players are less experienced in tournament strategy.” So you will need to read and practice and you just might find yourself sitting at the championship table trying to win that million dollar prize on national TV.

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