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PAF´s Thrilled About The Festival Series Blackjack Tournament
The Festival Series Bratislava is around the corner at Banco Casino located in the heart of the Slovakian capital of Bratislava from Oct. 10-16.
Not only can you participate in poker tournaments, including a whopping €500,000 guaranteed Main Event for a €550 buy-in, but also Blackjack, Roulette, Slots, and Sports Wagering. The poker manager at Paf, Ola Brandborn, is very enthusiastic and has good memories about Blackjack tournaments in particular and recently sat down with PokerListings Sweden to share some of his thoughts.
Ola’s Love for Blackjack Events Begins on a Boat
I currently work as a poker manager at Paf, the gaming company located on the island of Åland, halfway between Sweden and Finland. “But the first time I came into contact with Paf was actually as a player - 20 years ago, at a Blackjack competition organized by Paf on board the cruise ships between Sweden and Finland! The background to the story is my friend Marja, who worked as a writer for Silja Line's customer magazine. Through that job, she had seen the advertisement for a year-long blackjack competition, which sounded very interesting from a player's perspective. From memory - it was 20 years ago, so details can certainly be wrong - so every Tuesday there was a weekly selection on board the boats, where five players each week progressed to a monthly final on the last weekend of the same month. It all ended with an annual final, with three guaranteed prizes: €10,000, €3,000, and €2,000.
Who then goes on the boats on Tuesdays? Pensioners and truck drivers. Here you should be able to find a real edge as an intelligent player, thought me and my friends Tomas and Patrick. But then there was that thing about taking a vacation to go boating in the middle of the week.
However, a closer look at the program showed that on some Tuesdays during the year the game was moved to other days. I think it was during Easter, among other things, that the weekly selection was moved to Saturday, and the monthly final on the same Sunday! Perfect, couldn't be better.
Armed with a thick wad of bills, we then entered the boat on Saturday night and looked for the blackjack table. It turned out that seven players would advance to the monthly finals, and eight players appeared in total: A Swedish young guy who saw the same commercial as us three friends, and four random Finnish pensioners. Coming in the top seven among eight players, especially when you show that you have "the big wallet with you" and are prepared to do a lot of rebuys was not immediately a problem.
After that, there was a lot of buzz in the bar when we drew up the guidelines for the monthly final, which was to be played on the return journey to Stockholm. Five players would advance from the monthly finals to the annual finals. It was about getting at least one, preferably two, players there. If all three came along, it would be a bonus, but not something we really counted on.
A Man with a Plan
When the final was to be played, we wondered if we had gone wrong - it was me, Tomas, and Patrick, as well as the young Swedish guy from yesterday's weekly selection who showed up. No other players! The explanation was simple - how many people are actually interested in going on a boat several times, in order to qualify for an annual final? We knew that it would be good value in the campaign, but not that it would be this extremely good value! Well, getting top five in a four-man starting field is something that even you Franke would succeed in, so we congratulated each other on the final place, and quickly sat down at the bar.
Before the big final of the year, we had read the rules carefully: €50 in purchases which gave 1000 chips to play for, and unlimited rebuys as soon as you had less than 1000 chips (at any time in your hand). Max bet was 1,000 per hand. 21 donors would be played, then a break with a stop on the rebuy, and then another 21 donors.
The first part of our plan was to show the opponents that we had a lot of money with us so that they would see that they had no chance on the rebuy front. So, we all had a thick wad of €50 bills constantly flashing at the opponents. I imagine 15-20 players showed up, far from the 60 players Paf had planned for!
As I said, we had read the rules carefully. The first hand we all bet the mini-amount of 10 per hand, and "pulled ourselves (deliberately) fat". The opponents must have wondered what I was doing, insisting that I have another card when I had two tens! Bust! But they quickly understood - with 990 in the chip stack, we could do a rebuy - up with the thick stack of bills and suddenly we all had 1990 to play for.
Now we played 1000, and I got exactly the gold position we were hoping for - a seven and a four for 11, against the dealer's six. Perfect dubbing mode! But I only had 990 in front of me - according to the rules, I now had the right to make a rebuy in the middle of my hand, which I did. 1000 new healthy chips, the double was made, I got a good card but it didn't matter, the valley busted. After that hand, I, therefore, had 4,990 in chips!
Before the competition started, we exchanged percentages with each other, and during the break, we went through the standings and drew up new plans (and did some more percentage swaps). I led the race by a large margin. Tomas was in a comfortable second place. Patrick was third, but it was very tight for places 4-7. The rest were probably disconnected (players who didn't make any rebuys).
Here it was important for us to play smart. First place should be secured, the only one who could really catch up was Tomas, but "it would stay within the family" in that case. Note that the first prize was so extremely much more than the second and third prizes, €10,000 against €3,000 and €2,000. The plan was that I would guard my "safe lead", that Tomas would act as a "brake" if any of the others approached, and Patrick would follow the others and play just like them. In this way, other players would primarily want to get "in the money" by getting past Patrick, and not cast their eyes on first or second place.
Our plan worked perfectly. I cruised to an easy win, Tomas just as easily to a comfortable second place, while everyone jostled with Patrick for third place. On the last hand Patrick somehow managed to push when all his opponents lost, whether it was blackjack vs blackjack or 20 vs 20 I can't remember, but he just made it to third place down a few chips to his credit! So big slam to our team from Stockholm.
Tips from Ola
Those of you who have read this story will now have a big advantage when you play the €250 Blackjack competition in Bratislava. Even if The Festival Series has different rules in the design of the competition (Paf's competition was 20 years ago, with perhaps slightly wrong-headed rules), take the following with you from my anecdote:
- Carefully read the rules! There is guaranteed to be something in the rules that you can take advantage of, that your opponents are not thinking about!
- If it is one person who advances, play aggressively - win or lose. Coming second has no value. However, if more people move on from each table, just try to move on, no point in coming first.
- Black Jack competitions are a competition of Money Management, not of getting good cards. You don't play against the dealer, you play against your opponents!
The Festival Series and Pokerlistings are incredibly grateful to Ola and Paf for this wonderful story and amazing tips. Paf qualifies players for the festival every Sunday with purchases for the €500,000 guaranteed Main Event AND the €250 Blackjack tournament as well as accommodation and fun activities for two people included.