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Blackjack tournaments are a great way to jack up the excitement and compete with other players, not just the dealer. Here’s how to play to win.
You’ve been playing online blackjack for a while now but you’re ready to try something a little different; something with more excitement, more pressure, and a chance to win more prizes and bigger money.
Perhaps you’re prepared to play in a blackjack tournament. Rather than facing a virtual or real dealer in an online game, you are playing against other players, as well as the dealer. The action is fast, the stakes can be high, the house edge is lowered, and your chances of winning can dramatically improve if you have the right strategy in place.
This article will delve into several strategies to help you win at blackjack tournaments.
History of Online Blackjack Tournaments
Casino tournaments came into play a long time before online casinos were around. Physical casinos started offering tournaments where players could compete against one another rather than just the house. The idea was to bring new excitement and competitive fever to the game, attracting new players.
Blackjack is a game that lends itself particularly well to this format because it involves both luck and strategy. In fact, it’s almost impossible to win without having the right strategy — and knowing where that strategy diverges from playing just against the house.
Online casino tournaments have become more popular in recent years as casinos try to appeal to younger players who enjoy the social aspects of this competitive play.
How Blackjack Tournaments Are Played
Tournament blackjack is a winners-take-all affair. There are many types of tournaments, but the basics often involve five players sitting with the dealer at a table. One player is eventually crowned a winner and goes on to play other winners from other tables in other elimination matches.
All players start with the same number of chips and bet as they like within set minimums and maximums. To ramp up the pressure, tournaments often have random or set increases of the minimum bet size. The overall goal is for a player to have the most chips in play when the 30-hand threshold is reached at the end of a round.
Because of this, players are not just worried about basic strategy and odds; they also must size up their bets according to what stage they are in the tournament and how big their stack of chips is compared to other players. If you are getting close to the end of play at a table and you have fewer chips than someone else, you might start throwing caution into the wind to make up lost ground. With greater risk comes greater excitement.
Dozens of tables all play at once at a single blackjack tournament, with the winning players from each table progressing to the next stage. The action goes on until a final table of players is left. After the final set of hands is played, the players who’ve put in the best performance (i.e., have the most chips) take a share of the cash.
Here are some of the differences between how blackjack tournaments are played compared with regular online casino play:
- Each gambler plays against other players and the dealer (not just the dealer).
- Winning higher sums of cash (six figures or more) is possible with blackjack tournaments.
- Losses are limited to the fee the player pays to enter the tournament (they are potentially unlimited in regular casino play).
- Tournament players need to know when to diverge from basic blackjack strategy.
Types of Blackjack Tournaments
Online blackjack tournaments aren’t always run by the same format. Some popular types include:
- Traditional elimination tournaments: Players gamble against each other at a table, with winners going to the next round. Sometimes, eliminated players are allowed to re-buy in.
- Non-elimination tournaments: Also called accumulation tournaments, non-elimination tournaments have players competing against other players, trying to win the most chips. Players doing well often have their names displayed on a leaderboard, indicating how much they need to win to beat other players.
- Elimination tournaments: The elimination hands are what differentiate these tournaments. They are usually spread evenly throughout the tournament. When done, the player with the lowest number of chips is eliminated.
- Live money tournaments: While chips at some tournaments have no value, players must buy chips here, which they can exchange for cash at the end of the tournament (if any are left).
- Sit ’n’ go tournaments: These popular tournaments are run continuously once six players are seated at the table.
- Major blackjack tournaments: These tournaments usually have higher entry fees and often take a couple of days to complete. Prize pools can run into the six figures.
Winning Strategies for Online Blackjack Tournaments
With the need to stave off elimination, protect a big pile of chips, or overcome someone with a bigger pile, blackjack tournaments sometimes require different playing strategies than normal online blackjack games. Some popular winning strategies include:
1. Go for Broke When Behind
If the online blackjack tournament plays a set number of hands, the strategy may have to change as play progresses. If you are behind other players with only a few hands left, you may have to bet aggressively and take chances you wouldn’t normally play against a dealer only.
To know if you need to do this, you must keep track of how many hands have been played and how many chips other players have relative to yours. The need to play adventurously becomes even more important if you are at the final table of the tournament and lag behind other players.
2. Protect Your Lead at the End
It’s a good idea to play conservatively if you are near the end of the tournament at the final table, with a shot at prize money. If you have a big lead over other players, let them bet big to scramble after you while you bet small amounts.
3. Play It Safe at First
When first starting to play, it’s a good blackjack tournament strategy to match the bets of other players so your winnings (or losses) are more or less the same. Then, as the game progresses, you can adjust your approach accordingly, playing more aggressively if you are behind or more conservatively if you are ahead.
4. Be a Contrarian
With the contrarian blackjack tournament strategy, you do the opposite of what other players do as far as betting. If they bet high, you bet low. And when they bet low, you do the opposite. By going in a different direction than the rest of the field, you give yourself the chance to break away from the pack.
If you bet high while they bet low and win, you may jump into the lead. Or if you bet low while they bet high and the dealer gets a strong hand, you will lose less than the other players.
5. Go for Short-Term Wins
Each round of a blackjack tournament usually plays a limited number of hands. You must have a short-term plan for winning if you hope to progress to the next round (backed by a bit of luck). While long-term strategies can pay off in regular online casino play, they rarely work in a tournament where you have to win at your table to go to the next round.
6. Know the Rules of the Game
The rules of blackjack tournaments are different from regular online casino blackjack, and the rules of one type of tournament game often differ from others. You need to familiarize yourself with the rules of the specific game you’re playing to give yourself the best chance of winning.
7. Compete Against the Other Players, Not the Dealer
In a regular online casino game playing against the dealer, you can play as long as you want, trying to avoid going bust, getting higher hands than the dealer, or letting the dealer go bust. In a blackjack tournament with a 30-hand limit, however, you don’t have the luxury of unlimited time so you must make every hand count.
If you bet too much and lose, you might be put too far behind to recover; if you bet too little on a winning hand, other players may surpass your chip total. You are constantly calculating your position versus other players, as they do the same with you.
Your Online Source for Blackjack Tournament Play
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