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How Blackjack Tournaments work
When playing a blackjack tournament, you play against other players, not against the casino. The same holds true in roulette tournaments. All players start with the same amount of chips and play the same number of hands. The player who has the most chips at the end of the round wins and then plays against the other table winners. Sometimes more than one player can advance to the next round.
Blackjack tournaments can be played with many players. By playing multiple rounds – each consisting of a set number of hands – this number is eventually reduced to six or seven players at the final table. They play a final round to determine the tournament champion. The winner receives the biggest share of the prizes, with the other finalists receiving a smaller fraction.
The most important thing to keep in mind when playing blackjack tournaments is: Your goal is to have more chips than your opponents at the end of a round.
While blackjack against the casino is a game with only a small skill component, knowing how to play, how much to bet and how to react to your opponent’s chip counts is of utmost importance.
Key facts for blackjack tournaments
» In Blackjack tournaments, you play against other players, not the house.
» All tournament players start with the same number of chips.
» After playing a set number of hands, the player (or players) with the most chips advances and competes against other table winners.
» The winner of the final round gets the lion's share of the prizes.
» There are several different tournament formats with elimination tournaments being the most popular.
» While playing you should always know how many chips you have compared to the other players so that you can bet accordingly.
» You gain an advantage by knowing how to play better than your opponents.
Skills you need to master to win blackjack tournaments
» Always keep an eye on the chip count of the other players. You need to know your opponent’s counts to know how much to bet yourself.
» You need to know when it is best to bet big, i.e., bet so much that you have the most chips when everyone wins.
» You need to know when to bet small, i.e., keep enough chips behind so that you have the most chips when everyone loses.
» You need to know when to correlate, i.e., bet the same amount as your opponents.
» You need to know when to raise the bet, when to bet the opposite amount of your opponents, or when to just bet the minimum amount.
» You need to be able to determine the possible outcomes of a player's bet and calculate their game balance depending on the outcome of the hand.
» You need to be aware of the importance of betting positions. For example, betting first on an elimination hand or on the final hand puts you at a distinct disadvantage compared to betting last.
» Of course, you also need to know the basic blackjack strategy and you need to know when and how to deviate from the basic strategy.
Useful tips for winning blackjack tournaments
Blackjack tournaments are games of skill and there are many factors you must consider when betting and when deciding whether you want to hit, stand, split or double down. In most cases, the standard blackjack strategy is still valid, but there are many special situations where you want to deviate from the regular strategy. The biggest factor is knowing how much to bet in each situation. Below we give you some valuable hints for playing blackjack tournaments.
Position in blackjack tournaments
The position of the person who bets first in each hand rotates around the table. Similar to poker games, a button is placed on the table. Here the player who bets first receives the button. After the round of play, the dealer moves the button one position to the left.
The player who bets first on the first hand is determined at random – either with dice or via high carding. Once it has been determined who bets first, you should immediately work out what your betting position will be on the final hand. The final hand is by far the most important hand in blackjack tournaments and if it is your turn to bet first on the all-important last hand, you should bet more aggressively in the earlier hand to try and have the lead on the last hand.
The reason why the player who bets first on the last hand is at a disadvantage compared to the other players is that he does not know how much his opponents bet.
It is also important to remember that if a player busts during the game, the position of the button in the last hand changes.
How much to bet when you are behind
If you are behind a leading player, it is best to make one or two large bets to catch up rather than placing a series of small or medium-sized bets. Wait until the button has passed you before placing your catch-up bet. That way your opponent cannot react to your big bet.
It is important to pay attention to the maximum betting limits. You should try to never be more than one maximum betting distance away from the player with the most chips in the last rounds of the game. Otherwise, you will not be able to bet enough to catch up. You should also always have enough chips to double down or split pairs if needed.
How much to bet when you are the chip leader
If you are the chip leader it is best to match the bet of the closest competitor to prevent them from overtaking you. Meaning: if possible, bet so little, that even when you lose the bet your opponent cannot overtake you even if he wins.
One popular and decent way to catch up to the leading player is to bet the opposite of what they bet. If they bet a small amount, you bet a large amount and vice versa.
But if you are more than a maximum bet behind the chip leader and the tournament is already half over, you should always place big bets to catch up or get closer to the chip leader.
When in doubt, go big
If you are playing the last hand and do not know how much you should bet (maybe because you’re first to act and are not the chip leader), there is a simple rule of thumb in tournament play: "When in doubt, give it all you've got", which means: bet the maximum amount.
The single token chip
One thing that happens rather frequently in blackjack tournaments is that most, sometimes even all players are all-in in the last hand. If this happens, and you intend to do the same, then hold back a single chip. Should the dealer beat everyone at the table, you may be able to advance because you have held back a chip while your opponents have bet everything.
If you must make a big bet in one of the last, important hands, you should bet only half your chips. This gives you the option to split a pair if necessary. Unlike doubling down, you cannot bet a smaller amount when splitting pairs, so bet half your game balance and keep the other half for splitting pairs or to double down.
Sometimes it happens that you need to bet more than you have on the last hand to overtake the chip leader. If this is the case, you need to double down no matter what hand you have. It might sound wrong to double down on a 17, 18, 19 or 20 (because when playing regular blackjack, it most certainly is) – but in a blackjack tournament there are situations where this move is the only option to give you a chance to win the round.