Playing in a blackjack tournament is another great way to have fun and know exactly how much you are risking. For a one time, usually small buy-in, you can take a chance at winning a large percentage of the prize pool created from all player buy-ins. And just like video poker and slot tournaments, you're playing more against the other players in the tournament than you are against the house.
There are man different rule variations from casino to casino when playing in blackjack tournaments. Below will be highlighted using some of the most common rules you will come across and some strategies to help you win.
Every blackjack tournament will have a hand limit. That is that usually applies to land-based tournaments. This limit most commonly will be anywhere from 11 hands to 21 hands. The reason it's a limit is because if you bust out prior to the end of the tournament, you are out of the tournament. This could even be the first hand in some tournaments that allow you to bet your full starting chip amount at any time.
Every blackjack tournament will also have a starting chip amount. This will generally be between $1,000 and $5,000 in tournament chips. Every player will start with this amount of chips.
Every blackjack tournament will have some sort of bet spread. You might be allowed to bet from $5 to $100 per hand. Maybe $10 - $500. Maybe even as high as $25 - $1,000 per hand if the starting chip amount is higher than normal. All original bets must be between the allowed bet spread. If doubling down and/or splitting is allowed, you can then make an additional bet within the bet spread, but you do not add the two bets together to stay within the spread.
Most tournaments pay you for a blackjack (first two cards equaling 21) at a 2 to 1 rate. In regular blackjack play you'll find 3 to 2 and 6 to 5 payouts on blackjacks. Tournaments are usually 2 to 1 so that smaller chip or coin amounts like 50 cent pieces don't have to be used.
Almost all tournaments will use a dealer button. The dealer button starting point is usually decided by drawing cards prior to the start of the tournament and the highest card gets the button. Whoever has the button bets last and acts last for that deal. All players have to bet in order starting from the left of the button from the players view. Once each player has bet in order, then the dealer will deal the cards and start the action in the same order as the bets were placed. After all, hands have been played out and chips either paid or taken, the dealer will move the button, one player, to the dealers right (left from players view) and now that player places their bet last for the upcoming hand. This continues for the entire tournament.
And finally, most blackjack tournaments, unless they are very small, will have the first or first and second place winners at each table advance to the next round. Some tournaments are just single table tournaments where the winner of the table takes the whole tables prize pool.
But anything bigger than a single table tournament will have players advancing to the next round. It could also be that the first place finisher on each table automatically advances and then the highest chip totals of the remaining players, regardless of which table they played at, advance to the next round.
Probably the most important thing to do when playing in blackjack tournaments is to play perfect basic strategy. Not knowing the statistically be a thing to do in every situation will hurt you in the long run.
Sure you can win a tournament just by the luck of cards coming out at the right time, even on unsound decisions, but that kind of play won't hold up over the long haul and you'll lose way more times than needed if you want to be profitable playing in tournaments. Learn basic strategy and you're already a step ahead of many players.
One fairly common strategy among players that play blackjack tournaments fairly regularly is to play it safe during the first three-fourths of the tournament and then get very aggressive during the last fourth.
This will possibly allow other aggressive players to bust out before you start risking your entire chip stack toward the end. One problem with this strategy is if the dealer happens to bust a lot during the time you are playing very safe, you could be in a big or too big of a hole when it's time to become aggressive. Sometimes you have to adjust your strategy during a play based on how the action is unfolding.
Another common strategy is to just watch what other players are betting and never allow yourself to get out of one max bet range. The goal of this strategy is just to be leading when it gets to the last few hands. Any lead is a good lead when it comes to the last couple of hands of a blackjack tournament.
This puts the pressure on other players to wager more than they would normally want to and also lets you know that no matter how much someone bets, you can stay ahead with an equal bet. And if you are forced to bet before players within striking range, you can force them into a decision of betting all of their chips or the table maximum to keep up with you should you win the last hand.
As you can see, both the strategies mentioned rely heavily on the last hands of the tournament. That's usually the nature of blackjack tournaments. Perfect basic strategy play and good chip management, especially at the end will win you a lot of tournaments. It just takes some practice to get comfortable with it all.