Blackjack Tournament Basics
In a regular Blackjack game, you are only playing against the dealer. However, in a tournament, you are competing with other players. All players start with the same sized bankroll and they will play the same number of hands. At the end of a round, the player with the most chips progresses to the next round and faces the winners from other tables. Depending on the size of the tournament, there may be more than one player advancing from each table.
Eventually there will just be six or seven players remaining, and they will play a final round to determine the tournament winner. Usually, the winner receives the majority of the prize pool; while there will be runner up prizes for the other players on the final table.
It is not necessary to win a huge number of hands to advance in a Blackjack tournament. The important thing is to finish a round with more chips than your opponents have. This means that in addition to keeping to basic blackjack strategy to try to beat the dealer, you also have to keep an eye on your opponents’ bankrolls so that you can assess how you are doing. As a result, there will be occasions when it is beneficial to you for the dealer to win.
Generally, you pay an entry fee for a tournament and this is all that it will cost to participate. In some tournaments, you will have the option to buy back in if you are knocked out in the first or second rounds.
Different Blackjack Tournament Formats
While nearly all Blackjack tournaments work in the same way, you should be aware of a few different formats.
This is the most common format. In these tournaments, you compete with the players on your table, the tables’ winners advance to the next round and the other players are eliminated.
Also known as Accumulation Tournaments, in these, players compete against all the other players in the tournament and aim to accumulate the most chips over the course of several rounds. There is usually a leaderboard displayed so that players can monitor their progress.
Tournaments with Elimination
The Ultimate Blackjack Tournaments that were shown on TV made this format popular. In these tournaments, the player with the fewest chips after 8, 16, 25 and 30 hands are eliminated.
Live Money Tournaments
In most Blackjack tournaments, participants pay a buy-in and the chips they play with have no value. In a Live Money tournament, players need to purchase real chips, which can then be exchanged for cash after the tournament. This means, that players tend to be a bit more careful with their bets, as they are putting their own money at risk.
These are small tournaments held on a regular basis by land and online casinos. They are usually very cheap to enter and are completed in just a few hours. Naturally, these tournaments have smaller prize pools than larger ones.
These tournaments have large entry fees and are played over a few days. Often, they will have prize pools running to six figures and participating players will be offered a few benefits by the casino running it, such as a free meal or hotel room.
Sit ‘n’ Go
These are tournaments that take place as soon as six players have signed up. They are hugely popular online.
Blackjack Tournament Tips and Tricks
Examine the Tournament Prize Structure
The best kind of Blackjack tournaments are those that put all the entry fees into the prize pool. There are even some tournaments where the casino will boost the prize pool, and these are even better as there are usually some huge prizes on offer. Conversely, the worst kind of tournaments are those where the total prizes on offer are less than the entry fees. However, on occasion additional factors may come into play, such as if the casino offers free rooms for players or free meals, which means that even if the prizes are smaller, it may still be a good value tournament.
Study the Tournament Rules
If you enter a tournament, make sure to study the rules carefully, as they tend to be slightly different in every tournament. In a land casino, you should request a copy of the rules when signing up, while online they should be made obviously available. It is important to study the betting limits and to make sure you know things such as how many hands are played in a round, whether or not bankrolls are reviewed prior to the last hand, the rules for advancing, the exact Blackjack rules variants used, and so on. Make sure that you are completely comfortable with them and fully understand them before starting to play.
Remember These Essential Rules
There are a couple of things that are essential to remember and not doing so could see you losing, or worse, being disqualified from the tournament. The first thing to avoid is placing a string bet. This is when you hold a number of chips in your hand and then let them drop one at a time on to the betting area. In Blackjack tournaments, you need to place all of the chips on the table at once. If you try to add to them afterwards, then the secondary chips will be returned. Obviously, this is only relevant in land-based tournaments, but it is vital to remember.
Similarly, you should not talk to the observers during the final round. In the vast majority of tournaments, this is explicitly forbidden. Furthermore, players cannot talk to their opponents in the final round, so overall, it is best to remain silent until the round is over.
Blackjack Tournament Skills and Strategies
You need to develop a few skills in order to improve your chances of success in Blackjack tournaments:
- Learn how to keep track of other players’ chip stacks so that you can calculate how much you need to bet.
- Understand when it is advantageous to go for the high, which means betting enough so that if everyone wins you have the most chips, or go for the low, which means betting the fewest chips so that if everyone loses you have the most chips.
- Understand when you should match your opponents’ bets, increase your bet, bet the minimum, or the opposite of your opponent
- Practise working out what a player’s bankroll will be if they win, lose or push their current bet.
- Learn how to lock an opponent out the game so that you will advance regardless of the outcome of the hand
- Learn when it is appropriate to deviate from basic Blackjack strategy
Some of the above skills are simpler than others are; however, here are some ways of developing them.
Understand Betting Position
The person who bets first changes with each hand, it goes from left to right around the table. Once you know who the first to bet will be, you need to calculate your betting position in the final hand. If you will be the first to bet, then you need to be more aggressive throughout the tournament to try to build a lead as players who bet first are always at a disadvantage. Remember, that if a person loses all their chips during the round, then the person betting first on the last hand will change.
Knowing How to Catch Up
If you find yourself falling behind, then sometimes, it is best to try to catch up with a couple of big bets rather than a number of small bets. Wait until a round when you are one of the last to bet before doing so, and also be aware of maximum bets. Going into the final few hands, you do not want to be more than one maximum bet behind the leader; otherwise, you will not be able to place a large enough bet to catch up. You should also ensure you have enough chips to double down or split.
Understand Opposite Betting
Another technique for catching up is to bet opposite the leader. This means that if the leader bets big then you bet small, and vice versa. However, if you have fallen more than one maximum bet behind and the tournament is more than half-complete, it may be best to place large bets.
When You Are Leading
When leading a table, it is best to match the bets of your nearest competitor to prevent try to prevent them from catching up.
When You Are Low on Chips
If you find yourself without enough chips to catch the leader, then you should hold back one more chip than the dealer, bet the rest, and hope that the dealer beats the entire table.
If Everyone Is All In
If a number of players have gone all in or you think that they are about to, then if you do the same be sure to hold a chip back. If the dealer then defeats the table, you may find yourself advancing.
When to Bet Half Your Bankroll
If you need to make a big bet towards the end of a round, betting half of your bankroll may be a good move. It will still allow you to split if necessary, as well as double down.
Know When to Adjust Your Strategy for the Last Hand
If you need to place a huge bet on the last hand to try to overtake the leader, then you may find that you have to double down, no matter what cards are in your hand.
If You Don’t Know How Much to Bet
In the final hand of a round, if you are not sure what to bet, then betting big is probably a good idea.