A blackjack tournament is an interesting twist on your classic blackjack game and it has become increasingly popular in the past couple of years. The basic principle is that you are competing against other players for a shared prize pool. There are a couple of different ways that you will find with online blackjack tournaments.
The first type of tournament usually involves 7 players at a table with several tables in the tournament. After a certain number of hands (usually 10), the player with the lowest total will be eliminated. This will continue until there is a winner.
The second type of blackjack tournament that you will find online involves just you playing against the dealer and you are trying to get on to the leaderboard for highest total. This either is accomplished by giving you a certain number of hands to play (like 50) or you will have a certain time limit to get the highest score. This time limit can be short, like 30 minutes, or you have until the tournament is over to post the highest score.
Current Blackjack Tournaments
Here is an updated list of casinos that offer online blackjack tournaments for real money.
NEW! Miami Club Casino - WGS Technology Software - US Players Accepted
Miami Club Casino is a relatively new online casino (launched October 2012) that is already making a name for itself as one of the only online casinos to have regular blackjack tournaments.
I'll have more of a review coming soon, but in the meantime you should check them out for yourself.
5Dimes - US Players Accepted
5Dimes is my new favorite place to play blackjack tournaments. The tournaments held here are the multi-table blackjack tournaments that I referenced above. These tournaments are held daily. If you would like to see 5dimes current blackjack schedule including time and entry fees, click here.
Here is the way these tournaments work. Each player will have to bet between the minimum and maximum allowed per hand and try to win the most chips. The tournament will consist of a set number of hands, a specific number of decks and up to 8 players can sit at a table.
Take a look at this 5Dimes Blackjack Tournament Review for more information.
I must confess that I haven’t been in a lot of tournaments recently. Because of this, I am going to tell you what I have learned, then link you to Ken Smith’s website for graduate work. In the tournaments I have played in, I have been competitive. I went into them having read two books:
#1 Playing to Win by Ken Einiger
#2 Casino Tournament Strategy by Stanford Wong
I also read Ken Smith’s advice from his website, blackjackinfo.com, and went through simulations on Wong’s software, Playing Tournament Blackjack. Lastly, I had watched the first World Series of Blackjack on GSN.
If you are considering playing in a tournament, the above resources are currently the best information out there. In a recent email from Ken Smith, he said he was working on a tournament book. When it is published, I will let you know.
You will want to start your tournament career in what is called a mini- tournament. It is recommended to get several of these under your belt before taking on the big boys and girls. You can learn a lot in the mini’s and you will find some very experienced players there. Your entry fee will be somewhere around $20 to $30 for these. The prize money will be perhaps $500 split among the top five players with most going to the winner. They are usually held regularly at a casino near you or sometimes they can be found at an online casino. They aren’t a money maker for the casino; actually more of a service. They bring in blackjack players who will, they hope, play for real money as well as the tournament. They are often during the week since the tables would probably be empty anyway. So, it’s a win-win for them and the players.
Get there early to register. If, after a couple of times, you find yourself waiting around you can adjust your arrival time. You will be directed where to go to register. It could be the cage or at a special table. Pay your entry fee then relax. You could dine or get in some play time. When it about time to play, go to your assigned table and hang out. When everything is ready, they will allow you to take your seat. You will be given your tournament chips and the play will begin.
If you have read what the pros write, you will have a plan. However, if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself at a table with very aggressive players who play differently from the text books. You don’t have to be aggressive although you will be tempted to. You do have to consider adjusting your bet to stay within striking distance, but remember, they may not be at the final table because they bet high and lost, tried to play catch-up and lost even more. With very little at stake and another tournament next week, these players have very little to lose.
You on the other hand, want to play by the book, and you should. Your initial plan should be to bet the minimum or close to it, for most of the game. I have seen many times when, if the players had bet the minimum they would be leading most of the game. If there are 25 hands to be played, you should bet a minimum bet for the first 20. Then you have five hands to get aggressive and take the lead. Timing is everything, so, if you are close to your opponents, you may wait until the 22nd hand to raise your bet. If you are around hand 20 and you are last to bet, the timing is right to push out a big bet and try to win big when your opponents are betting small. If your opponents have made large wagers prior, you could “take the low” and keep your minimum bet. The hope is they lose big while if you lose, you lose a negligible amount and overtake them. Just like sex, positioning is everything.
Your opponents’ wild play might work, but more than likely, unless they have abnormally good luck, they will go down in a blaze of glory. You will at least have a chance because your conservative play has kept you in the game. If you are still playing, there is always a chance you can win. In the early rounds, the top two players from the table might advance. Later, only one will advance. You must know the format so you know whether you are safe or must be aggressive. You want to keep a pretty good idea whether you are ahead, even or behind. So, count your chips and count your opponents’ chips also. That is especially true of the table leader. Knowing where you stand is extremely important in the last quarter of the game. At around five hands to play, there will be a count, and you will learn exactly how many chips your opponents have. If you have been watching their chip stacks, there should be no surprises.
Should you get knocked out in the first round, you will have a chance to try again by paying for “re-entry”. If you plan on this, and you don’t need it, that’s great. But if you plan for it from the beginning, you won’t be disappointed. Re-entry fees may be half of the initial fee.
Below are some tips I have put together for you which will be helpful as you start your tournament career.
1. You can’t win if you aren’t there for the final hand. You can’t come in second either. Fully half of the aggressive players will be gone before the final hand. You must be within striking distance at the end, but you can quadruple your chips in two hands, so don’t risk not being there.
2. Making minimum bets generally will get you to the final five hands with enough chips to become the winner. There will be that rare game when your opponents could be too far ahead to catch up, but not often.
3. To stay up with the chip leaders, you may have to match their bet, chip for chip as you near the end. This is called correlating your bet with that of your opponent. If you do this, the chip spread will generally stay the same. The players tend to get the same outcome from their hands. Either they all win or they all lose. This is a generalization, but you will see this time and again. By betting the same as your opponents, you stand a good chance of keeping the spread between your two hands the same.
4. When you are last to bet, take a chance, especially late in the game, by going high or low. This is when you can have the biggest swings with your opponents. This can backfire on you, but that’s Blackjack. You have a chance, though, of making a big jump on them and they are helpless to stop you because you bet after them. When it works, it’s a beautiful thing.
5. Don’t wait too late to make your move. If you need to double up twice to take the lead, don’t wait until hand 24. What if you push? Or, what if you win your hands, but your opponent got a blackjack or double down? I waited too late once and it cost me a seat at the final table. My opponent had more than twice as many chips as I on the last hand. He simply bet the minimum and walked to the final table. Close didn’t count.
6. Get good at counting chip stacks. You can practice by using red, green and black poker chips (the 11.5 gram ones) and sit about six feet away. This will be irrelevant early in the game, and critical late in the game. By knowing your opponents’ chips amount, you will know whether you are safe, need to strike early, should correlate your bets, or if you are just a double up from victory.
7. Know the rules. For instance, the surrender option, if available, can help you tremendously. Know that a blackjack may pay differently in a tournament than at the tables. The rules are either there or posted on the casino’s website.
8. Be prepared to make unconventional plays. If you must double down to win, then you double down on whatever hand you get. If you get a pair and the only way to win is to split them, then you must split them. Even tens may have to be split to get more money on the table. You have to do whatever it takes to win, so sometimes you have to throw out basic strategy. If you are going to get second place if you play the basic strategy play, but you have a chance for first, take that chance. What have you got to lose?
9. Try to calculate where the button will be on the last hand. It can change if players are put out, but you have to recalculate then. Knowing if you will be last to bet or later than the chip leader gives you a little edge. If you are going to be betting early on the last hand and you are behind, you may have to make your big move early. It might be a moot point, or it could be critical. Betting last when your opponents bet the max before you may give you the chance to take the low. They were probably expecting you would max bet, so they figured they would be correlating with you. There are a lot of scenarios, but it helps to bet last, whether it’s you or your opponents.
10. When it gets down to the wire, you must think of all scenarios that could happen. All you need is one chip more than your opponent to win. If they bet all but $800, you bet all but $805. If they could beat you with a blackjack, bet enough to cover that contingency. Your bet could force them to make a high risk unconventional play to beat you. If they get lucky, so be it.
11. It’s better to be lucky than good, but luck comes and goes while good stays with you.
12. I would be amiss if I left this one out: When in doubt, put it out. That’s especially true when you can’t decide what to do on the last hand. If you put it out, most likely your opponent will also.
That ends my discussion. Now, go from here to the following website and read what Ken Smith has to say. He’s the best even though he hasn’t won the World Series of Blackjack. It’s just a matter of time!
As opposed to the multi-player blackjack tournaments, where multiple blackjack players are competing against each other around a blackjack table, the single player blackjack tournaments are very different.
In a single player blackjack tournament, you are still competing against other blackjack players for a cash prize. However, you will each be in your own separate table. The goal of this style of blackjack tournaments is to earn the largest balance by the end of the tournament.
This type of tournament will either have a time limit, such as an hour, or the tournament will end at a particular time. These tournaments typically allow players to rebuy and get another try to get to the top of the leaderboard. You will receive a starting balance and you will have to play a certain amount of hands before you can qualify to win a prize.
Liberty Slots Blackjack Tournaments
Liberty Slots has a daily tournament called Table21 that involves US Blackjack rules. This daily tournament starts at 7PM (EST) and ends at Midnight. There is a $50 prize pool for this freeroll tournament.
There is also a weekly blackjack tournament called the Blackjack Classic that involves the US Blackjack game. This tournament begins on Friday and ends on Thursday. There is a $2.00 Buy In and the Prize Pool is divided amongst the top 5 players.
You will start with $200 in balance and have the entire week to try to build the biggest balance by the end of the week. You can Rebuy for $2.00, which you are allowed to do when you balance is $5.00 or less. This will give you an additional $200 in balance.
BetUS Casino Blackjack Tournaments
BetUS has similar single player blackjack tournaments as Liberty Slots. However, these blackjack tournaments are all Daily and they all have a minimum of $5 buy-in. Here is the schedule:
Monday – $1,000 Prize Pool/$10 buy-in/$10 rebuy
Tuesday – $900 Prize Pool/$10 buy-in/$10 rebuy
Wednesday – $500 Prize Pool/$5 buy-in/$5 rebuy
Thursday – $600 Prize Pool/$5 buy-in/$5 rebuy
Friday – $1,000 Prize Pool/$10 buy-in/$10 rebuy
Saturday – $500 Prize Pool/$5 buy-in/$5 rebuy
Sunday – $1,300 Prize Pool/$15 buy-in/$10 rebuy
Maximum of 10 Rebuys per tournament. he players who finish with the most chips as of 11:59:59pm ET will be credited their Tournament prizes within 24 hours. You are required to complete 50 hands.