Before participating in any Blackjack tournament, it is important to know the risks and benefits. If an entry fee is charged, which is usually the case, the higher it is the bigger the prizes, but the stronger the field of competitors will likely be. Look for opportunities you can afford at your level of play. Similarly, you will want to compete only in tournaments where you fully understand the version of Blackjack being played, the rules governing wagering, and how winners are determined and paid.
You will also want to be sure to check the tournament schedule to make sure you have sufficient time available to play all the way through the money round. Some tournaments last only a few hours, while others go on for days. There is nothing worse than qualifying for the final table and not being able to play due to a prior commitment or being disqualified for not taking your seat on time. Assume you will win and set aside the time to do so.
Tournament rules cover who is eligible to play, what the cost of entry is, how many rounds are played, and when play begins and ends. A schedule of payouts will show what prizes are offered and how to qualify to win them. There may be options for re-buying into a tournament after being eliminated. There may also be bonus prizes or “booby” prizes offered. A quick look at the posted rules will tell you all you need to know.
When you sit down to play, special rules will govern how the game proceeds. The dealer will provide you with a fixed number of non-redeemable chips—worth anywhere from $500 to $100,000 in non-negotiable value. Each player will begin with the same bankroll; repurchasing chips is not allowed during play. Your objective will be to end the round as the player with the most chips at the table, so look for the posted minimum/maximum stakes and be sure you know how much you can wager.
As in Poker, players take turns being the first to bet. A “first base button” is used to indicate who leads off, and it is passed to the next player clockwise at the end of each hand. In most tournaments, the cards dealt are visible to all players, as are the piles of chips so that it is possible to know your ranking at any given time.
A round usually consists of a fixed number of deals, usually 25~32. When the round ends, the player with the most chips at each table (and sometimes the runner-up) moves up to the next round. All other players are eliminated. Chips are reissued at the start of the next so that all players begin the new round with the same amount.
The number of tables in play decreases as players are eliminated. In the final round, only one table of players remains, and the participant who ends up with most chips wins the tournament. The prize pool will then be divided between the winners and runners up according to the payout schedule.
Anyone who has played Blackjack knows that there are subtle differences between the rules of the game as applied at one casino or another. Does the dealer hit or stand on soft 17? When can cards be split or re-split? When doubles can be made? The rules impact not only the house advantage but also player strategy, so be sure to study them well before playing.
In much the same way, subtle differences in the rules applied to Blackjack tournaments can have a huge impact on how you play and whether or not you finish in the money. Is there a time limit on making decisions during play? Can a player sit out one or more hands during a round? Are any special rules in effect, such as “knockout” deals that eliminate the player with the fewest chips? Are “secret” bets allowed so that the amount wagered is hidden from view?
The better you understand a Blackjack tournament’s rules before you play, the greater your likelihood of winning it. Don’t be the player who has to be reminded of them by the dealer during play. Set you sights on being the chip leader and use the rules to your full advantage.