The more you understand about the rules and guidelines of blackjack tournaments, the more likely you are to win. A good piece of advice is to only participate in tournaments where you are very familiar with all the rules, and you ensure your schedule allows you to play all the way through the round.
In the traditional game of blackjack, it is the player vs. the house, with the dealer as the house representative, or messenger if you will. Even though you may sit at a table full of other players, you win or lose based on your hand beating the dealer’s hand without busting, or going over 21.
Before starting a tournament you should understand how many rounds of play are involved, what time the rounds begin and end, the schedule of payouts, what prizes are being offered, and if there are any bonus prizes. You should also use this knowledge to come up with a blackjack strategy that guides you during the tournament.
Blackjack tournaments can run over the course of many days or just a few hours, and there is usually a penalty and possible disqualification for those who do not arrive at their seats on time.
The rules of tournament blackjack are the same; you still have to beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. However, when playing in a tournament the winner is determined to be the player with the most chips—or all of the chips—at the end of the game.
Ins & Outs of Tournament Blackjack
There is usually a fee to enter a blackjack tournament, and prizes are usually not paid in cash, but with promo chips. Usually the higher the entry fee, the bigger the prizes; however, this also means more competitive players will be involved, and a more advanced strategy will be required to win.
Many players prefer to only play in tournaments that pay out in cash. The best strategy for tournaments often differs from non-tournament strategy, as there is an added layer complexity when choosing how much to bet.
The good news is that in tournament blackjack you minimize your losses. During a tournament, you can only lose your entry fee, and nothing more.
Most blackjack tournament rounds consist of a specific number of predetermined deals, which are usually around 25-32. At the end of each round, the players with the highest number of chips progress to the next round, while all other players are limited. The objective is focused on beating the other players a the table vs. beating the house.
Blackjack Tournament rules should be posted for you to view at the table and should be easy to understand. Most will allow players to gain a full knowledge of the guidelines in a short amount of time. Players who have to be reminded the rules during the tournament are frowned upon.
Blackjack Tournament Game Flow
In tournament blackjack, all players start with an equal number of chips, and the goal is to finish with the highest number of chips. Tournaments can be played with one or two players who qualify from each table (based on a set number of deals to meet qualifiers).
During the tournament, all cards and chips dealt are visible to all players, giving everyone the ability to see his/her rank at any time. You are not allowed to repurchase chips during your play. The winning strategy is to aim to be the player at the end of the round with the highest number of chips at the table.
After each round, all chips are reissued and the number of tables and players decreases until you have the winner. The winners and runners-up will be issued their prizes based on the set payout schedule.
Chips are not carried over from one round to the next, so there is no real incentive or reason to acquire a lot of chips. The only strategy is to be one of the top two players at each table for each round. A typical tournament will have three rounds of play, and around 54 players.
During the first few rounds of each hand, a player can identify those who play well and distinguish them early on as threats, vs. those who play poorly. A good player will use this knowledge to form a strategy for the rest of the blackjack tournament. The final hand determines the winner, and you will almost always see some frantic and crazy attempts to get as many chips as possible.
During early rounds, small cash prizes may be issued to the winner of each table; however, any large sums of money are paid out to the winner and runners up of the entire blackjack tournament. Most have up to four rounds of qualification.
Players win or lose the same way as you would in any game of blackjack. Blackjack players each utilize their own strategy—watching other player’s wagers and positioning themselves to finish with the most chips at the end of the blackjack tournament.
Types of Tournament Blackjack
There are two types of blackjack tournaments, multi and single table. In a multi table tournament, there will be a set number of rounds and a predetermined number of hands that will be played during that round.
There is a starting player at each table who begins play by making the first wager. After each hand, the starter player button will move one place to the left. There are set minimums and maximum bets for each round. At the end of a round, the player at the table with the most chips moves on to the next round. In the next round, each player will again start with the same number of chips and this will continue until there is ultimately one winner. You can learn about the Elimination blackjack format of tournament play here.
The same rules apply with a single table tournament except only one round is played and the player with the most chips at the end of that round is the winner.
Rotating Deal – After each hand is completed, the dealer will deal to a new player.
Rotating Starter – In order to eliminate any position advantage, the first player to bet is rotated clockwise by one place after each hand is completed.
Secret Bet – In some tournaments, the last bet of every round is secret, and only revealed as each player finishes their play.
Two Players Per Round – After each round, this rule allows for two players to move to the next round instead of just one player.
Two Players One Round – Same as above but it is limited to two players moving forward in the first round only.
Re-Entry – Some blackjack tournaments allow for one re-entry by paying the entry fee again.