Guide to Blackjack Tournaments at Online Casinos
Blackjack tournaments have grown in popularity in recent years, giving players the chance to show off their blackjack skills by playing against other players as opposed to the banker. These tournaments first appeared in land based casinos in the late 1970’s and have become a regular feature at online casinos in recent years.
In this piece I take a look at many aspects of blackjack tournaments. I start with an explanation of the format of these events and how players are eliminated. Next up I look at how you’ll buy in to a tournament and how the payouts work. I finish with some strategy you could employ to be successful in the tournaments.
How Blackjack Tournaments Work
At the start of a tournament you will be seated at a table alongside a number of other players (this will generally be a table of six but can vary). All of the players will play for either a set number of hands or a certain amount of time, and at the end of this time the player or players with the most amount of money will proceed to the next round of the tournament. Generally you’ll find that either just the table winner will proceed, but in some tournaments both the table winner and the runner up will proceed. All other players will be eliminated at this point.
The tournament will take place over a number of rounds, with players eliminated at each stage, until the tournament reaches the point where there is one final table left. The winner of this final table will be declared the tournament winner.
Tournament Fees and Prize Funds
When entering a blackjack tournament you’ll pay an entry fee (unless of course it is a free tournament). Usually, the tournament fee will come in two parts. The first part will go directly into the tournament prize fund and the second will be a fee to the house. For example, you might pay $11 to enter a tournament along with 999 other players. $10 is allocated to the prize fund, meaning the 1,000 players will play for a prize fund of $10,000. The other $1 goes directly to the casino, as their commission for running the tournament.
The distribution of the prize fund will vary, but in a standard tournament, the winner will usually receive in the region of 20%-30% of the total prize pool, with prizes decreasing the lower your finishing position in the tournament. You’ll be able to see the buy-in and prize details before you sign up for a tournament.
Blackjack Tournament Strategy
When playing tournament blackjack there are many ways of approaching the game. Some players like to take an aggressive approach, meaning they can build up a lead early. Others like to take a more conservative approach, waiting to see how others playing are performing and taking a more aggressive approach if needed at the end of the round. Whichever approach you take, you have to keep a close eye on the chips amounts of all your opponents and the bets they are making, and give yourself the best chance to progress.
The most important betting round is the final one. Having position is vital at this stage – meaning the later you get to bet, the more advantage you have. This is most important if you are the chip leader. Consider that if you are winning and last to act, you can simply match the bets of your nearest rivals. If you all win, or all lose (this happens a lot at Blackjack) then you’ll still be in the lead. If you are last to act and you are behind, you’ll know exactly how aggressive you need to be to stand a chance of progressing (if you do indeed still have a chance).
If not last to act, you have to consider how the people behind you might react. You might be the chip leader and want to act conservatively, but if you do, a player behind might be aggressive and give themselves a chance of overtaking you. Here you’ll have to be aggressive yourself to stop giving this player the opportunity. If behind, you’re generally going to have to be aggressive at this stage anyway, so position isn’t quite so important.
There are many online casino sites where you’ll be able to play tournament blackjack. Tournaments come in all shapes and sizes, so if playing for the first time, it would be a good idea to start with smaller stakes, perhaps even free tournaments. Having gained a feel for the tournaments and become adept at them, it might be time for you to aim for the bigger prizes.