Blackjack Tournament Strategy

Blackjack Tournament Strategy

05 May 2009 | 10:59 Author:

Winning a blackjack tournament requires a different strategy than just winning at blackjack. This is because the specific structure of a tournament forces you to compete against the other players for the most chips.

In a normal blackjack game, you play against the dealer and the number of chips held by other players doesn't matter.

Here, you play for a collective prize pool, much like in a poker tournament, and the top finishers win a share of the money.

Elimination Blackjack Tournaments

The key in (elimination) blackjack tournaments is the elimination hands.

During a typical tourney these hands are spread out evenly. For example, hands 8, 16 and 25 out of a total 30 are a common tournament structure.

However, regardless of when they occur during the match, the challenge associated with each elimination hand remains the same. It's a simple formula: the player(s) with the lowest amount of chips when the hand is completed is eliminated.

Also, any player who does not have enough chips to make the minimum bet on a hand will be eliminated.

Another challenge that is unique to the online elimination-blackjack tournament's format is the introduction of time limits when you're called upon to make critical decisions. In a typical tournament, you'll have 25 seconds to make a decision during a normal hand.

However, during a critical elimination hand, the time limit drops to a cruelly brief 10 seconds.

Is that a drop of sweat I see on your brow?

Playing Over the Short Term

The goal of a blackjack tournament is to end the round with more chips than the other players.

Because each round has a predetermined number of hands, that means you have to develop a short-term strategy for success (as well as hope for a bit of luck).

While the basic Blackjack strategy is the best way to play in regular Blackjack games, this strategy rarely wins you any tournaments. This is because aggressive playing has the potential to net bigger short-term returns.

And in tournament play, short-term returns are all that matter.

Remember, you won't win anything if you can't advance to the next round. To use a corporate cliché: Go big or go home.

Basic Blackjack Tournament Strategy

At the start of each tournament round, you may want to at least match the bets of the other players at the table. This will ensure that your winnings (or losses) keep pace with the others.

As the game progresses, you will need to adjust your strategy based on how your chip count stacks up against the competition.

If you are behind in chips and the round is winding down, then you will need to increase your aggressiveness in the hopes of catching up and passing the leader or at least not getting eliminated.

In contrast, if you are the chip leader, then you may want to play more conservatively to diminish your losses.

The Contrarian Blackjack Tournament Strategy

Some of the best tournament blackjack players swear by a simple strategy known as the contrarian strategy.

In this strategy, the player bets opposite the opponents.

For example, if other players are continually betting high, then the contrarian bet low (and vice versa). The reasoning for this strategy is that better hands don't necessarily mean a particular player is going to win.

Essentially, this strategy allows you to go in a different direction than the rest of the field. If you bet high while the others are betting low you give yourself the chance of taking the lead. Say that the dealer busts, you’ll win more than your opponents.

On the other hand, if the other players, or at least the key opponents, are betting high, you can bet low and lose less if the dealer gets a good hand.

The contrarian player cares more about bet sizing than what the cards on the table are (even though a sound tournament strategy takes both into consideration.)

Is Tournament Blackjack Something for You?

Obviously, one of the primary purposes of the online elimination blackjack tournament format is to ratchet up the levels of pressure each player must deal with in order to survive.

Consequently, this format is not ideally suited to all players. Those who prefer a mellower and sedate playing experience are well advised to avoid elimination blackjack and stick to playing regular blackjack.

However, for those of you who want to take your game to the next level, this is the perfect next step. And remember, if you’re more skilled than your opponents, you actually play blackjack with an advantage.

So what are you waiting for? 

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