Winning Blackjack Tournament Strategy
Learning to play in Blackjack tournaments and win is not as difficult as you may think. If you're considering playing in a Blackjack tournament you've probably already got some experience in playing the game and if you've ever taken part in any kind of casino tournament you'll have a little insight into how things work.
Regardless of whether you've played in a tournament format or not, you'll need to learn some advanced tournament specific strategy in order to earn a seat at the final table and have a shot at taking home the first place prize money.
The majority of tournaments consist of two or three rounds with the winner from each table advancing to the next round. By the semi-final there will usually be about six or seven tables comprised of the winners from previous rounds and the leaders from each of these then advances to the final. While most finals offer a cash prize for each player who makes it, this may differ from one tournament to the next so always make sure that you are aware of all the rules and payouts before you play.
If you're playing in an online blackjack tournament the rules are generally easy to find and familiarise yourself with. If however you're playing in a brick and mortar blackjack tournament you may need to ask the dealer for a rule sheet or questions like how many players advance through each round, what the betting requirements are, how many hands each round is comprised of, what payout rate blackjack gives and whether or not insurance is offered.
Most of the rules are generally self-explanatory, but it is important to keep in mind that blackjack tournaments have specialised rules, for example blackjack paying 2:1 or players betting in a specific order.
While there are exceptions to the rule, in general the chips used in tournaments have no cash value and you have to make it to the final table in order to cashout, so you'll have to aim to win each round in order to advance and do so. Thus in the initial stages of any tournament it is advisable to keep your early bet values relatively low so that you can stay in long enough to advance. For example, if at the commencement of the tournament you start with $1000 in chips and there are twenty hands per round, your initial bets should range between $50 and $100. You should then raise your bet slightly after every win and lower it if the dealer is winning. By doing this you will be exercising solid bankroll management in order to keep yourself in the game. Play in this manner until hand 17, when it will be time to change things up.
If you luck is on your side and you've played well enough to build up a significant lead, then your best bet in taking the game is to get to hand 20 while placing wagers that are more than that of the closest player. This would mean that if the maximum bet is $500, you would need $505 more than the next closest player. If you have built up this kind of a lead, then keep your final bet low enough that even if the players behind you place higher wagers, they will not be able to catch up. There is not point building up a lead only to bet big in the final hand and lose it all.
Final Four Hands in the Early Rounds of the Tournament
By the seventeenth hand of a round you will need to decide on your next betting value based on the number of chips your opponents have. If you are close to their totals, continue to bet similar to the other players. If you are significantly behind you will need to be aggressive to stay in the game going forward, so change your strategy and bet half your stack. If you win, compare yourself to your opponents once again in order to ascertain whether or not you should raise your wager by half your stack again. If you lose your seventeenth hand you'll have to wager the maximum on the subsequent hand, even if it's everything you've got.
If you win the 18th hand, observe your opponents betting in order to determine if you can wager just enough to stay ahead with half or less than half of your total chip stack. If you can't, then bet the maximum. By the 20th hand, if you are in the lead, see if you can bet the amount you need to keep you a maximum bet ahead of everyone else. This will allow you to win the round if nobody gets blackjack or the opportunity to split or double down.
If at this stage you are not the leader, observe the other wagers and see if there is an amount that you can bet in order to win and take first place. If there is not, you'll probably want to just bet the maximum and hope for the best but bear in mind that if all of the players bet all or most of their chips, you may actually be able to win by keeping yours in reserve if everyone ends up losing. So learn to gauge the types of players you're playing against early in the round.
Final Round Blackjack Strategy
Of course in the final of any Blackjack tournament, first place pays considerably more than coming sixth or seventh. So the primary rule in your strategy should be to avoid busting early. This means that you'll need to be conservative in your initial wagering and observe how your opponents are betting in the first few hands before going all out. In this round if you begin the game with $1000 in chips, your initial bet should be $100. If you lose, reduce your wager by $50 and see what happens. If you win, either bet $100 again or raise your bet to $150 and keep raising every time you win a hand.
In most finals a few players will bet big and bust early, this will improve your chances of winning the bigger prizes so don't feel pressured to match their play early on. It is a difficult strategy to keep going through 20 hands. That said though, unlike in earlier rounds where you have to get to the last hand of the game to advance, in this round you may want to risk more chips earlier if a player seems to be on a lucky streak and is pulling ahead significantly. If this happens, by the tenth hand you will have to adjust your wagering upwards and bet as close to what they are making.
The Tenth Hand
If by the tenth hand you are in the lead or have it in sight, maintain your wagers at values close to what your opponents are betting. If you have a significant least, keep playing as you have and re-assess the situation on the seventeenth hand. If everyone has similar numbers of chips then keep betting the same as you have been until the seventeenth hand.
Final Table Hands 17 to 20
Hand 17: If you are in the lead at this stage, keep the pressure on your opponents by continuing to make the same wagers as you have been making. If you are close to the other players in chip values, raise your bet by up to one third of your chips and if you are trailing, bet half your stack.
Hand 18: If you are in the lead, stay your course and keep betting as you have been. If your chips are on par with your opponents, bet half of them and if you are trailing bet the maximum even if it's more than half of your stack.
Hand 19: Should you be leading by more than a maximum wager, adjust your betting so that you can achieve a total equivalent to being two wagers ahead plus $5 if possible. If you are leading by a small margin, observe the other players closely and try to obtain an advantage by the value of the maximum bet plus $5. If you find yourself in any other position on the Leaderboard, bet up to half your stack in an attempt to advance. The higher prize money for the higher rankings will justify busting out at this stage.
Hand 20: No matter your position at this stage you want to be the chip leader at the end of this hand so adjust your wager accordingly. If the majority of your opponents are close to you and you are able to guarantee a second place finish on a specific wager, this should be taken into account. If not, bet the maximum. As mentioned earlier though, if all players lost the final hand, it will come down to who has the most chips to take the first place. If all of the players are still vying for the top spots and betting the maximum in order to clinch them, you may stand a better chance of coming out on top by placing a small bet and keeping the majority of your chips in reserve in the hope that the dealer wins and it comes down to who has the most chips when all is said and done. This strategy is something you should consider if there is absolutely no chance of obtaining a place in the top 3 spots.
It is important to remember that on the last few hands you may want to double down on a hard hand if it is the only way for you to come out on top. If you have chips valued at $1000 and a few other players have $2000, then you're fighting for fourth place and smaller prize money. At this stage even with a maximum bet of $500 you will not be able to close the gap unless you split or double down and get lucky. You may want to play it safe on the 19th hand but on the 20th you've got nothing to lose so this is one of your only options.
While online blackjack tournaments do not require you to monitor the final payouts, land based games do and you should always observe the counting of the chips as mistakes can and do happen. And if you're playing in a land based game, once you've been paid, don't forget to tip the dealer.