On the face of it blackjack tournaments are very simple. You buy-in, you take your seat and you play blackjack for a set amount of hands, trying to make sure that by the end of it you have more chips than your opponents. The truth is that blackjack tournament strategy is just as complicated as poker tournament strategy, and everything you do, from the seat you choose to the amount you bet, can be optimised to ensure that math, probability and luck is on your side.
This article will cover a range of tips that you can use to help you in blackjack tournaments.
Where to Sit
Where you sit can have huge impact on where you finish in the tournament. Many tournaments assign seats randomly, but this is not the case for all of them. If you find yourself in a tournament that lets you pick your own set then you can give yourself an extra advantage before the tournament even starts.
The first thing to consider is the betting button. It is this that defines who begins and who goes next, with the person holding the button the first to go, and everyone to his or her left going after. Obviously you don’t want to act first as that will put you at a big disadvantage throughout the tournament. Remember that you are competing with these players on the leaderboard and need to better them in order to climb up that leaderboard, if you bet big then they can adjust their bets accordingly, and the same applies if you bet small.
The trick, however, is not to make sure that you are last or even towards the end, but to make sure that you act last on the last hand. This allows you to survey all that has gone on before you, to check who is leading, who is above you and how much they have bet on the final hand. So, find out where the dealer button is, calculate how many hands are being played and that will tell you where the dealer button will be on the final hand. When you have that knowledge you can choose the seat furthest away, which is to the right of the dealer button. Some casinos assign the position of the button randomly, but many do not.
There are other things to consider when calculating the best poison overall, including players getting knocked out, but this is generally the easiest way to figure out the best possible position before the tournament begins.
How you bet matters more than anything else. If you have more chips than anyone else than you win, if you have enough chis to make it to the end, and if the tournament is fairly small, then you may also be given a piece of the prize pool.
One trick that many use is to Double Down for Less. This means that you can Double Down, but lower the fee. So, with a $100 bet you can double for an extra $50 instead of $100. This can be a great technique to steal the lead or to steal a place, without risking too much of your chips and dropping down further in the leaderboard. For instance. let’s imagine that it is the final hand and you are second, close behind the leader who is acting after you. You bet $100 and he then bets the same. You get 12 or 13 and your opponent stands on a high score, looking like he will win. You know that a split is out of the question, and as you can’t increase your bet or get blackjack, there is no way you can win more than your opponent. You also know that if you double you can take the lead, but as doubling is never advised at this stage you know there is a great chance of losing, and with a lose you may drop down to second or third. In this instance you Double Down for Less, risking as much as you can without dropping further in the leaderboard, and making sure that if you hit the right card and win, then you will take the lead and win the whole tournament.
You should always consider the leaderboard to be the aim of the game, and not the game of blackjack itself. Play your opponent, play the board, don’t play the game. Make sure you keep a close eye on all of the moves that they make, and make sure that if they get away from you, you can catch them up. You should also never risk all of your chips on the first two or three hands, let the tournament play out, get a feel for the leaderboard and for your opponents, and then you can decide whether you need to risk it all on a few hands or if you should take it easy.
Card Counting will not work in blackjack tournaments as there are never enough hands, but if you do decide to try it out then bear in mind that your opponents will probably be doing the same thing, so you don’t have that much of an advantage. Generally though, if you stick with basic strategy, and if you play the tournament and not the game, then you can give yourself a slight edge that can help you to tournament success.
Glossary/Terms and Tips
There are many ways that players can increase their advantage and decrease the advantage of the other players. These go by many names and you will come across many of them during a blackjack tournament. These have been detailed below:
Take the High: To take the high means that the player places a bet that is larger than the bets of all the other players. This means that regardless of what happens — if all of the players win, if the dealer goes bust, etc — the player that “took the high” will be in the lead. This can be used in the first hand or in the final hand, to both take the lead early on and to sure that the leader stays in the lead late on.
Take the Low: To take the low means that the player leaves some chips in from of them when others don’t. So that if the dealer manages to beat all of the other players, that player is still remaining and can therefore climb up the leaderboard. The player will not pass the leader, but they will pass all the other players at the table.
Free Hit: A free hit is a situation where a player’s hand is not going to be any worse off by taking another card, and where going bust is not worse than standing. The extra card, in this instance, is the “free hit”
Playing the Swing: This refers to the moment that a player plays their hand so that they will increase their chance of winning the bet, whilst the opponent(s) loses theirs. This can be done in a number of ways and is a vital move to make in any blackjack tournament as it ensures that the player climbs up the leaderboard.