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Catch-Up Betting In Blackjack Tournaments

Catch up betting is a technique used in blackjack tournament strategy and it is meant for people who are trailing the chip leader. Almost everyone who has played in a tournament will need to catch up to someone at some time or another and that is why it is important to make the correct moves. It is also critical on when you need to make a catch-up bet as timing is crucial as well.

Deciding on how to catch up

Some of the things you need to factor in when making a decision is how far you are behind the chip leader and how aggressive the leader is. In some cases, if the chip leader is betting large, it may be smart just to wait for awhile, especially early in the game. The reason is eventually the competitor in the lead will probably take a hit and lose a bunch of chips anyways. You may be surprised to know that the best way to catch up to someone is to do the opposite of whatever they are doing. This is how many of the experts do it because they all know that in blackjack tournaments, the hand usually ends similarly to everyone else.

For example, if you are doing what your competitor is doing, yet you are behind in chip count, then you will most likely win and lose just as often. With fewer chips than your opponent, you will tend to always trail them. If you do the opposite such as betting small when they are betting big, they would likely lose a lot of money and you would win a small amount of money on the same hand because of similar outcomes, especially when the dealer has a natural blackjack.

When is the best time to implement catch up betting techniques?

The best time to do it is when you are still within a single maximum bet of them. You would want to overtake their lead in one hand instead of making smaller bets and trying to take the lead with multiple small and medium sized bets. You will know when the best time to catch up is. Basically when the leader starts betting small, this is the best opportunity to bet opposite of them and make big large bets. Sometimes it will take a little bit of luck to help catch up when you are behind by several times the maximum bet or your entire bankroll though. Still, this is a great time to use this strategy, especially if they are marginalizing your betting patterns to prevent you from winning.

There is also some strategy involved in timing when to take the lead. It depends on your table position or where the button is on the table. If you would like to read about table positions, we have an in-depth and detailed guide about blackjack table position strategy that you may like to read. The idea is to wait until the button passes you on the table. When this happens, you get to be the last person to bet and you have the benefit of seeing all of your opponent's moves before making your own. This information is invaluable and is key to making a catch up betting run when you are the underdog. You will usually want to do this near the end of the game when it is harder for your competitors to catch up if you do take the lead.

How much money is a good enough value to bet?

If you are betting right after the button passes you, you should bet just enough to take the lead. This is paramount to risk management and you should not bet more than is necessary as this is the correct strategy. Just bet enough to take the lead and not a cent more. It becomes more difficult to figure out how much to bet later on as the button starts moving down the table as you do not has as much information available. The worst position to be in is when the button is right over you and you have to make the first move and everyone else gets to see that move, especially if the chip leader can put margin your own bet.

You may need to figure out what to do if you fall behind and you never get the opportunity for the button to pass by. You will just have to take an educated guess on how much money is good enough to wager. A good technique in this situation is to study how the players bet early in the game. Many times a player will bet the same value every time and you have a good idea what they may bet anyways. It is a major skill in tournaments and you can get a lot of experience just by watching what your players are doing. In fact, this is one of the most important rules in tournament strategy.

Take a look at the situation below for a walkthrough of how to correctly make a catch up bet:

Seating Position Current Bankroll Betting Amount
Seat 1 Bankroll $500 Bet $250
Seat 2 Bankroll $1000 Bet $50
Seat 3 Bankroll $800 Bet $75
Seat 4 Bankroll $200 Bet $100
Seat 5 (You) Bankroll $700 Bet ???

As you can see, the person sitting in seat 2 is in the lead with $1000. You can note right away that the button is on seat 1 and you are in the ideal position of being able to bet last because now you know all the information of what everyone is doing what how much they are betting. The goal here is to catch up to player 2. You have a bankroll of $700 in third place. The betting limits of this table are a minimum bet of $25 and maximum of $1000

The chip leader has $300 more than you. It is tempting to make a wager of $375, which would give you a total of $1075, which would put you ahead of the chip leader who would have a bankroll of $1050 if you both won. This isn't the best strategy though even though this wager would be just enough to take a $25 lead over them. It is likely that if you did win, your opponent would also win as well since the outcome of a hand is generally the same for everyone on the table playing against a single dealer.

There is still a better strategy that can improve your odds. Since the chip leader has wagered such a small bet, you can factor in the possibility that they will get a blackjack or the opportunity to double down. Since the chip leader's bet was so small, you could easily throw in just enough chips to beat them even if they did get a 3:2 payoff on a blackjack. If the chip leader got a blackjack, their bankroll would be $1075 rather than $1050, which would put the both of you in a tie if you only wagered $375.

The idea is to cover a competitor's blackjack or double down. You only want to do this when they are making smaller bets so cover them if you only need to add just a few chips. This ensures that not only could you tie them, you can actually take the lead. The best bet for you is to wager $400 to cover an opponent's blackjack and $425 to cover a double down. If the opponent got a blackjack while doubling down, you would need to bet $575 in order to ensure that you beat your opponent on every possible move as well as catching up to take the lead. If you got a blackjack, that is an extra boon to inflate your own chip count even more.

It is up to you to decide how much you think you will need to cover your competitor. I think a good bet would probably be $400 or $425 as you would still have a decent chip stack left if you did lose rather than losing $575. It is not very likely anyways that an opponent will actually be able to double down and get a blackjack during this one particular power play hand, but this still happens often than you may think.

If you are very close to being on the last hand such as second to last and you did happen to lose the bet above, which would leave you with only a few hundred dollars where the chip leader would still have about a thousand. Therefore it would be best to just go all in and wager the entire $700 bankroll on the second to last hand or so to ensure that you cover every possibility of winning by your opponent, such as doubling down after splitting and getting multiple blackjacks. At the same time, you have more power during the final hand. Otherwise if you did lose and only had $200 of chips left on the final hand, it would be useless anyways. So betting those extra chips can have some major impact during the last hand and it is necessary if you are behind and really need some big moves to catch up.

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