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Blackjack Tournaments: Rules, strategy, and where to find them

Profile Picture: Simon Young

May 22nd, 2020

In regular blackjack, other players at the table are by your side with a common goal – to win money from the dealer (or the house). It’s a convivial game, often with friendly chat and mutual encouragement.

But when it comes to blackjack tournaments, all of that bonhomie goes out of the window. Although you are all still trying to beat the dealer each hand, all players are now in sworn competition. And you need to defeat them all to win.

What are blackjack tournaments?

Blackjack tournaments are tremendous fun and popular in bricks and mortar and some online casinos. You pay an entrance fee to take part and must collect as many chips as possible in a given time, or outlast all your opponents via a series of knockouts.

But don’t worry, while they are ultra-competitive, blackjack tournaments are entertaining, and come with minimal risk because you only stand to lose your entry fee. Sometimes you can find free tournaments, too, but the bigger prize pools come when many players, perhaps hundreds or even thousands, pay the fee.

Whoever has the most chips at the end, or eliminates all others, walks away with the prize pool, or the majority of it.

Make sure you study the blackjack tournament rules before you pay to enter, as the structure and nature of one tournament will vary from another, as will the blackjack rules (i.e. whether you can surrender, or if the dealer must stand on soft 17).

How do blackjack tournaments work?

There are two key types of blackjack tournaments online.

  1. Elimination Tournament

Players at each table start with the same number of chips and play for a set amount of time. The player who ends with the most chips progresses to the next round to play the winners of the other tables. This continues until one table is left. The player with most chips at the end wins.

  1. Accumulation Tournament

In these blackjack tournaments, you need not worry about coming top of a table – just collect as many chips as you can and hope you’re at the top of the leaderboard at the end.

Good blackjack tournament strategy

Your key blackjack tournament strategy won’t differ hugely from your primary blackjack strategy. That is, you must evaluate the strength of your hand against the perceived strength of the dealer’s (based on only seeing one of his cards).

Using your solid understanding of the probability of how a hand will play out will stand you reasonably well in blackjack tournaments. However, aside from some folks who are playing for fun, there will be many others playing a solid strategy like you.

How to win blackjack tournaments, therefore, requires a little more thought. Remember, the name of the game is to build your chips as fast as you can. That doesn’t mean taking too many risks and extra cards when you should be standing. Instead, it means getting more chips on the table in each hand, thereby maximizing your winnings.

You must widen your opening double down range so that you stand to win twice as much. Similarly, look to split some pairs when you might not otherwise have done so. For example, solid strategy dictates standing on two tens – why split and risk losing double when you have more than likely already won the hand? But blackjack tournament strategy suggests you should split here and play two hands, both starting with a ten, in the hope of winning twice over.

Blackjack tournament tips

This list is not exhaustive, but these top tips will undoubtedly improve your starting chances.

  • Watch the time – be aware of how long each elimination round lasts, or how long until the end of the accumulation tournament. If you need more chips towards the end, stake more
  • Widen your range at critical times – if you know you need a surge in chips to make it, double down on more unlikely starting cards and split any two cards
  • If you’re lucky enough to be near the top of the leaderboard, keep an eye on opponents and simply manage your risk to try and maintain a lead. Don’t risk everything by being reckless at this stage
  • Above all, have fun – this is entertainment, after all. If you don’t make any money in your first blackjack tournament, there will be another one soon to enjoy

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