Blackjack Tournament Strategy
Strategy used in blackjack tournaments is a whole different ball game than the strategy used in regular table games at the casino. The main difference between the games is the fact that you are not only playing against the dealer to win chips, but also against other players and competitors in the tourney. The central objective of the tournament is to finish the game with the most chips. Knowing some of the basics of tournament strategy will greatly increase your chances of winning or at least breaking even to prevent losing any money.
A few central themes of the strategy is to keep track of your competitors chip count, wagering efficiency and risk management. All of these ideas tie together to help ensure maximum odds in your favor. Throughout the game, the goal is to get the highest value for every bet you make. Be conservative and only wager just enough to get you to where you want to be. Doing this will limit unnecessary risks and will ensure better management of your bankroll. This is only one part of the game that you should be thinking about when playing in competition.
Starting with one of the main characteristics of tournament strategy: All players at the table are playing against the same dealer. This means if the dealer has a strong hand, then everyone must face that same hand. For example, it is likely that everyone on the table will lose when the dealer draws a blackjack. If one of the player gets a 21 hand, it would likely result in a push and that player would not have to deal with the same loss as everyone else. Keeping this in mind, you can use this as an advantage to jump ahead of other players.
Even though you are competing against other players, memorizing basic strategy is a boon in blackjack. You still need to beat the dealer in order to accumulate the most chips. Although that is not the biggest factor in the strategy. Your success could actually be a result of another player failing and making the wrong moves. That's why it is important to only bet as much as you need in order to limit your risk. Usually the best strategy is to make small bets on the majority of your hands. In some cases, you may never need to make a large bet if everyone else loses on big bets.
Competitor Elimination Round Strategies
There are two types of strategies used in tournaments: Bet small or bet big. One style tends to be better in the long run though. It is wise to make smaller bets in elimination rounds rather than going all out. One major reason for being conservative is the fact that you can only get one entry into the tournament. If you lose all your chips in a single bet, then you lose and drop out of the round and the tournament ends. A lot of the good players also tend to make smaller bets until the end. This ensures that many of the riskier players and big bettors get weeded out while at the same time ensuring that you have a decent bankroll. In fact, more times than not, players who are conservative tend to make it to the final hands of the round and outlast most competitors. There is a time though when it is necessary to bet big and usually the best strategy is to wait until the end or when it is essential to catch up with players who are getting too big of a lead. Another scenario, not too unusual either, is actually winning the game by not even playing! It is possible that loose players who make giant wagers may go bust and lose their entire bankroll competing against each other when the dealer gets a natural blackjack. By default, you could possibly be declared the winner of a round just by playing it safe, staying under the radar and not betting so much at the beginning. Making large bets and winning can certainly almost guarantee that a player will win in a particular round, but statistics show that these players do not win as often and tend to lose more frequently in tournaments.
The strategy above is somewhat obvious and tends to work well against inexperienced players but it has been duplicated and has become popular. It doesn't work so well against the experienced players. You need to come up with a new strategy when everyone at the table starts betting small in order to get the edge over other players. In this case, a player with an early lead will tend to have better odds. To do this, a player should make a larger wager than possible early in the game and then revert to the previous strategy for the remaining bulk of the round. Don't stray from the conservative strategy when other players start making huge wagers though as most of the time these players will eventually take a hit.
The best strategy is to use a combination of the two main ideas of conservative and aggressive betting along with risk management. This ensures that you can be good against a table of high stakes bettors and players making tiny bets. You still want to limit your large bets unless an opportunity presents itself. You also need to factor in where the button is in order to figure out when the best times to make large bets are. After the button passes your seated position, you will have the advantage of watching what everyone else does before making your own wager. The button position is of strategic importance and ties in directly with management of risk and efficiency. You will then be able to bet only the maximum sized amount without risking more than you need. If you are forced to be the first person to bet, you can't see what everyone else is betting and you just have to make an ambiguous bet without any other information about what the other players will do. That is another reason why it is good to make small safe bets when the button is in this position and make larger bets when the button first passes your spot.
There are a few alternatives you may have to implement if you are in last place and the rest of the players have a huge lead. Then you may be forced to become more aggressive in your betting tactics. If you happen to be in first place as the chip leader, it is always best to stay just slightly ahead of them but not to make the minimum bets. In fact, it is best to make bets in similar size to your opponents. Since outcome of the hand is very similar, you will likely win and lose just as often, but this will still ensure a small lead over them. Making the minimum bet allows many chances for your competitors to take the lead. If this happens, they could start taking advantage of similar bet sizes to your own and always staying ahead.
The next part of the strategy includes what sized bets you should be placing. There are generally three main types of bets: small, medium and large. First you need to understand that you will likely win just as many times as you lose, but losses will happen slightly more often. So if you make medium sized bets all the time, you will likely not get that far and will usually lose. The best betting strategy is combining mostly small bets with large ones. It is good to make many small bets in case you lose and then make very large bets at the best opportunities. Medium sized bets are usually reserved for players in the lead and they are used as a margin against similarly sized bets from your competitor in order to keep that minimum lead without risking any more money that is necessary.
A last note of advice is when doing very large bets. When making a large bet, keep track of how many chips you would have left if you did happen to lose the bet. If the remaining chips is not enough to actually make a comeback, then it is better to just bet everything. This only applies when you have an extremely small fraction of your bankroll left. $25 in a table with $1000 minimum bets is not going to do much good so it is just best to go all-in to maximize your winnings if you do win. Following all of these pieces of advice will greatly improve your performance in blackjack tournaments. Usually though, it takes experience to know when to apply each strategy but many times, the game depends on some luck and knowing just the basics of the game.