BlackJack Tournament Bankroll Management

Best Bets in Blackjack Tournaments

Blackjack tournaments are very exciting because you play against other people, not the house, and there is the chance of a big prize if you end up winning. There are many different blackjack tournament formats, but they all have the same basic idea. You pay an entry fee to compete against a group of players for a chance to win a portion of the prize pool if you win or finish near the top. You are still competing against the dealer, but the house edge of table blackjack doesn’t matter here; it’s all about your results in relation to the other players. But since a blackjack tournament only spans a limited number of hands, there is a lot of luck involved in any particular game. It takes some specific blackjack strategies in order to succeed in this unique casino game.

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First, game selection is crucial in order to find a profitable blackjack tournament. Before you register, you should find out if the casino is returning 100% of the fees paid by the players. Casinos will occasionally take a percentage of the buy-in for a “tournament fee.” You even might be able to find a tournament that guarantees a certain prize pool for promotional purposes, regardless of the number of entrants. If you can find tournaments that have an “overlay”—a larger prize pool than the total amount paid by the players—it is an excellent situation for you.

Once you have chosen your game, you need to develop a strategy appropriate to your tournament structure. Most often, there are several blackjack tables of 6-9 players each. Each player is given the same amount of tournament chips and must obey a maximum and minimum bet on each hand. Usually, each table plays a set number of hands, ranging from about 15-30, and then the player or players with the most chips advance to the next round. (1-3 players advancing is common.) The field is whittled down to the final table after a certain number of rounds, and five or more players will usually be paid.

Tournament blackjack has a set of specific strategies that you will need to understand to give yourself the best chance at winning. The most important concept is position. A button or marker rotates from player to player and dictates the order of the betting. Unlike poker, however, the button means that you act first instead of last. Position has no importance in table blackjack since your wins and losses aren’t affected by the other players. In a tournament setting, however, placing your bet after your opponents can be very advantageous.

Say, for example, that a contender in front of you makes a very large bet. You will want to counter with a minimum bet and hope that the dealer wins, because this will give you a great chance to improve your chip standing. On the other hand, if everyone in front you makes very small bets, then it might be an ideal opportunity to take a risk and bet big. In just one hand, you could make up a big chip deficit or build a chip lead in a tight game. Once play approaches the last hand of the round, position becomes even more important. Players acting in late position have the advantage of knowing the maximum their opponents can have at the end of the hand, and will know exactly how much they will have to wager.

Successful blackjack tournament players have know how to manage risk and are able to size their bets optimally based on the size of their chip stack. Most often, you will want to bet conservatively if you have the chip lead, and make one aggressive, large bet at just the right time if you are a small stack. This “catch-up” bet usually entails waiting until you are in late position and no one else has bet big. You then wager an amount just big enough to take the chip lead. Many players hesitate to bet so big, but although you do risk crippling yourself, it is much more unlikely to make up a chip deficit by betting medium sized amounts over a few hands. You must take a stand to have a chance to win.

Blackjack Tournament Smart Bets

Overlay Tournaments – Positive player expectation. Much of the appeal of blackjack tournaments is the lack of a house edge since you are playing against other people. But it can get even better. If you find a tournament with a guaranteed prize pool that the total amount of player entry fees does not reach, then you are in an “overlay” situation. In these situations you have a positive expectation, meaning that on average you will win back more than your entry fee. For a highly skilled player who knows about risk management, your expectation will be even greater. In fact an expert tournament blackjack player can expect solid earnings, just like a good poker tournament or SNG player might expect.

Worst Blackjack Tournament Bets

High Tournament Fees – This is the opposite of overlay situations. Occasionally you will find casinos that take a fee out of each tournament entry. This results in a negative expectation; on average players will lose more than they put in. Of course, the better players will encounter more success, but since a better tournament is right around the corner at another casino, you should avoid these fee tournaments.

Building Your Blackjack Tournament Bankroll

Blackjack tournaments don’t have a house edge, but they do have a large amount of short-term variance. If you plan to regularly play a high volume of tournaments, you should have a bankroll of about 30x the buy-in. You could easily go through a long stretch of tournaments without finishing in the money simply due to back luck, so you need to be able to withstand some swings. If you are a casual player or don’t plan on putting in high volume, you don’t need to adhere to any guidelines but your success will hinge on lady luck.

If you seek out casinos that offer VIP deals and bonuses for blackjack tournaments, you can find even more value from an already good proposition.