Larger invitational events are also sometimes held for high-roller blackjack players, which are often free to play and can include tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. These can often run over two or three days and often include free lodging as well.
Whether playing online or at a traditional casino, the idea behind blackjack tournaments is very simple. All the normal blackjack rules apply, with each hand playing out exactly like it would at a normal blackjack game. Instead of competing against the house, though, players are battling each other, competing with the other players at the table to see who has the most chips when a designated round is done.
Blackjack Tournament Rules
Rules and structure vary slightly from tournament to tournament, but typically in the early rounds the top two players with the most chips at each table move onto the next round, with 20-30 hands of blackjack dealt each round.
Players all start with the same amount of chips and it’s up to them to determine how much they’ll risk per hand.
Later rounds may switch formats slightly with just one player advancing, so that the final match is heads-up between two players, while others use a structure that ensures a full table at the end for the final match, with the player finishing with the most chips declared the winner.
Tournament Prize Money
Prize money is paid out to top finishers based on the structure of the tournament, with some casinos deducting a fee from each player as the house’s cut for running the tournament. The payout structures vary but they’re often similar to a poker tournament, with the top 10% of the field making the money and the winner getting 20-25% of the total prizepool.
Always be sure to check the rules for any blackjack tournament that you might play, as there’s no real standardized set of rules so each casino runs them slightly different, which may be different than what you’re accustomed to playing in the past.
As far as blackjack strategy goes, you’ll largely stick to standard basic strategy at the beginning of each round, but sometimes towards the end you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have to change things up.
Since you’re competing against other players and not the house, in many cases your strategy will be dictated more by what your opponents bet and how they’re faring. If the other players at your table bet big and all flame out early, you can simply bet the minimum and coast to victory; if one goes for broke and builds up a mountain of chips, your only hope might be to bet big yourself and risk it all.
A Silly Move Can Be Right
Remember that the chips you play with have no value and you don’t keep any chips at the end of the round. Your only goal is to have enough chips to move on to the next round, or to have the most chips if it’s the final round.
This can lead to strange situations where you’ll make plays that fly in the face of good blackjack strategy, such as doubling down on a hard 16 if it’s the last hand of a round and your only hope to move on is to double down and win.
If you’ve already locked up a spot in the next round as things stand, you might avoid doubling down on 11 versus a dealer 6 or even splitting aces – which you’d always do in a normal blackjack game – if losing the extra chips might risk your spot in the next round.
Many blackjack fans enjoy the change of pace that tournaments offer, and it can be an inexpensive way to learn the game as well since you only pay the entry fee and then get to play with plenty of chips and see lots of hands.