Blackjack tournament match play


Casino games tournaments are fun, and they can be profitable too. In upcoming articles, we will continue to publish a series of excerpts from Stanford Wong’s book, Casino Tournament Strategy.

This article applies to match-play blackjack, which is you against one other person, playing the same cards at the same actual or online table, with only one of you advancing in the tournament. The information is accurate whether you are playing in an online tournament or in a land-based casino, such as in Kansas City.

The format is interesting. Each player makes a bet. One player hand is dealt, and each player plays it in turn, using buttons to indicate hit, stand, double, split, or surrender. Though each player plays the same cards, the outcomes can be different due to different bets and different actions on the cards. The players bet and play in order, with the order switching from hand to hand.

You have a huge edge if you are BR1 going into the last hand, so part of your strategy is maneuvering to be BR1 at that time. What you do on that last hand also is critical.

Seat Selection

Playing last on the final hand is an advantage. If you can figure out which seat acts second on the final hand, and if you get to choose your seat, try to get the one that gives you the edge.

In the Early Going

Bet the minimum and play basic strategy. If you can count cards, bet in accordance with the count and use the appropriate playing strategy. Hopefully, your opponent’s mistakes will give you a lead.

If your opponent is betting wildly, do not worry about falling behind. But if your opponent bets big, gets a lead, and then bets small, you have to go after him or her.

You Are BR1 And You Bet First

If your opponent is not a skillful tournament player, you can afford to ignore him or her. But if you recognize your opponent as being a skillful tournament player, try to keep the lead. Bet an amount less than your lead. You can bet more than the minimum if doing so will make it more difficult for your opponent to make a bet that will catch you. If your opponent is a card counter, and the count is good, and your lead is small, you might bet an amount equal to a chip greater than your lead.

You Are BR1 And You Bet Second

The important thing is to keep the lead. Approximately match your opponent’s bet. Bet an amount such that if the player hand wins you keep your lead, and if the player hand loses you still keep your lead.

You Are BR2 And You Bet First

Your best bet is the minimum. If you are counting cards, bet in accordance with the count.

You Are BR2 And You Bet Second

You would like to get a swing, but you do not have to get it all in one hand. If BR1 bets more than the minimum, you probably should bet the minimum. If BR1 bets the minimum and you are counting cards and the count is high enough to give you an edge, bet more than the minimum.

If you can play the hand differently than BR1 plays it without making a bad play, do it.

This article is part of a series, to be continued…

Excerpted with permission from Casino Tournament Strategy by Stanford Wong, edited for this format.


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