One of the more modern additions to most casinos is the introduction of tournament play for players looking to risk a certain amount but still enjoy the rush of playing casino games. The great thing about playing in a blackjack tournament versus at the tables is that you'll always know what you stand to lose since the buy-ins are fixed and you won't be risking more than you set out to at the start. On this page we've outlined how blackjack tournaments work and what you can generally expect when playing.
*The goal of a blackjack tournament is to accumulate the most chips in the allotted tournament time!
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How To Play Blackjack Tournaments
- Buy-In - The first step to any blackjack tournament is to pay the buy-in which will secure your place in the tournament. Since you are going to receive a fixed amount of chips according to the tournament rules you will simply pay a buy-in fee that goes towards the prize pool. An example buy-in would be $100+$20 where $100 goes towards your entry and $20 from each buy-in goes to the casino.
- Structure - There are basically two types of structures when it comes to blackjack tournaments, straight up tournaments with a prize pool based on the number of entrants and a guaranteed prize pool tournament with a fixed amount of money guaranteed. With the first option, all buy-ins go towards the prize so if there was 50 buy-ins at $100 each the total prize pool would be $5,000. With the second options, sometimes casinos will guarantee a prize pool regardless of entrants so for example a tournament might be $20,000 guaranteed whether there are 5 participants or 5,000 players.
- The Tournament - Once you have bought into the tournament you will take a seat at your table along with other participants and will be given your tournament stack, let's say $5,000 for the sake of explaining. Once the tournament begins you are free to bet whatever you want in the table limits and the tournament timeframe which is usually 1 hour from start to finish. You goal is to amass the largest chip stack by the end of the tournament without going bust and while having more than everyone else.
- Payouts - Once the allotted time has finished the tournament directors will tally up the chip totals and the winners will be paid out according to the payout schedule. Some common payouts include the 3 player system whereby 1st receives 50%, 2nd receives 30% and 3rd receives 20% of the prize pool. In a $20,000 guaranteed tournament the payouts would be $10,000, $6,000, and $4,000 respectively.
- Tournament Strategy - There is actually a lot of strategy involved in playing blackjack tourneys since you always need to be aware of what other players stacks are throughout the tournament. With this information you will be able to decide when to make huge bets and when to be conservative to keep your chip count amongst the top contenders. A good but high variance strategy is to bet your whole stack on the first few hands since if you win you'll bet at huge lead however this obviously comes with its risks. The safer strategy is to bet conservatively until you can make educated betting decisions.
- Player Sabotage - One other funny and competitive aspect of blackjack tournaments is that you can use your decision making power to try and stifle your opponents. Say for example you bet $100 of your tournament stack on a hand and your opponent had a $3,000 bet. You get 14 and he gets 15 with a dealer 6 card showing. Basic strategy says to stay on both hands in this case however you may want to consider hitting the hand in order to try & take the bust card away so your opponent loses the hand. This obviously isn't the most courteous thing to do in a tournament but hey you in it to win it right!