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How to play in a blackjack tournament

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Difference between blackjack tournaments and regular blackjack

The biggest difference is, I suppose, that one is not playing for “real” $$$ in a tournament. Those types of tournaments do exist, but my local tournament is played with special chips that have no real value; $2000 in play-money to be exact. Consequently, you’ll see a lot of big bets in a game like this, because the chips are only a way of keeping score and the players really don’t care if they lose. Another big difference is that the object of the game isn’t to beat the dealer, but to beat the other players. In a tournament match you can find yourself hoping that the dealer has a “blackjack” or natural so that your opponents lose. I have to tell you that it’s a weird feeling to be rooting for the dealer, but it does happen.

I never depend upon “luck” to win at regular Blackjack, but luck plays a very big part in tournaments. The matches in the tournament I play locally are only 25 hands in length and, as we all know, almost anything can happen in 25 hands. This is not to say that skill plays no part at all, because I will play 100 hands in the course of an entire tournament, if I make it to the final table. But it’s not like playing ‘regular’ Blackjack where skill will win out over luck in the “long run.” The long run in tournament games comes only from entering a lot of tournaments and it may take quite a few of them for the skillful player’s edge to show. My training is geared toward reducing the “luck” factor as much as possible, but it can never be completely eliminated, darn it.

The potential

As always, I like to figure what anything like this is worth in terms of time and $$$. For my play in the local casino’s tournaments, I believe my time will, in the course of a number of tournaments, be compensated at something around $200 an hour. Here’s how I arrived at that figure. Each tournament takes about 6 hours to complete, although actual time “on the table” is much less than that. But, when you figure in time to register, breaks in between matches, etc., a full Saturday afternoon is pretty well chewed up. The entry fee is $200 and the average prize is in the neighborhood of $2950, if all 84 entries are sold. In the most recent tournament, the prizes were a bit smaller, so I’ve used an average of $2750 for the prize. Since 7 people out of 84 end up “in the money”, just luck alone should see me at that point once every 12 attempts, so at a cost of $200 each, I’d be spending $2400 to win $2750 for a net profit of $350 in 72 hours of play (12 times 6 hours). That’s about $5 an hour from relying only upon luck and luck alone doesn’t cut it.

Of course, these are just averages, because I could win $10,000 in the next tournament and show an $800/hour win rate after two tournaments, or I might not win the anything in the next 8, then hit a whopping $500 prize for 7th place on tournament # 9. With the entry fees, I’d still be a net loser and that’s no fun. So, like I said earlier, I have to lower luck’s effect as much as possible. My training will do that, but what, then, are my realistic possibilities? If I were to play 1000 tournaments, any skill I have would show in the results, but that’s almost 85 years of play and I’m not going to be around that long. Let’s use one year and see if this makes any sense. As I demonstrated earlier, luck alone should put me at the final table in one tournament and I honestly believe that skill will get me to three more. If we base everything on the averages, that means I’ll earn 4 x $2750 = $11,000 in prizes over the next 12 tournaments. If the $200 per tournament fee is subtracted, I’ll be left with about $8600 and if each takes 6 hours of my time, that works out to about $120 an hour. But (and it’s admittedly a big “but”), if I can win first prize at just one of them, second at one, fifth at one and sixth at one, my hourly rate will go to nearly $200 an hour. As you can see, that’s an “extra” $15,000 a year. Hey, it’ll buy a few lunches.

That’s what I intend to do and it’s not just a pipe dream (no lack of confidence here, eh?). As I mentioned earlier, I have already played at two of the brick-and-mortar tournaments, the most recent being just a week ago. I had trained quite a bit for this one and, while I didn’t end up at the final table, I did pretty well and view my $200 entry fee as an investment rather than a loss. I did make it to the quarter-finals by placing second in the 1st round (two players from each table move forward) and I was first at the 2nd table. In the quarter-finals, each table has 6 players and three move to the final table. I needed to win a $500 bet on the last hand to qualify, but I lost it, so that ended the day. They do a random drawing for the 7th position, but I wasn’t chosen for that. (See what I mean about not counting on luck?) Anyway, I learned a lot and, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: ” I’ll be back.” installment. I’m already convinced.

(Source: GameMaster)

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