Blackjack tournament play -- final article
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 is the final article devoted exclusively to tournament blackjack.
You Are Ahead By More Than a Max Bet But You Do
Not Have a Lock
This section assumes that either you are betting first or your opponent has made a secret bet. Obviously if you are betting and playing second and your opponent has not made a secret bet, you have a lock if you mimic your opponent’s bet and play.
Bet enough to win if your opponent doubles down.
Example: With 1200 to 650, bet at least 105. With 1800 to 1200 bet at least 405. An easy rule of thumb that gets a good bet is you bet the max or half of the amount of your opponent’s bankroll, whichever is less.
You Are Ahead By At Least a Half Bet
Bet a chip less than the amount of your lead. Thus if you lose and your opponent passes, you win the match. Your opponent probably has thought of passing or betting the minimum and doubling down on a foolish total, hoping you will double down and bust. So if your opponent doubles down, and you know that your opponent knows it was a bad play, just hit instead of doubling.
In other words, play your opponent for having bet so small that if you double down and lose you will pass him or her going backwards.
You Are Ahead By Less Than Half a Max Bet
Bet an amount large enough to beat a max-bet win by your opponent. Do that even if your opponent has been making small bets the whole way; assume your opponent is willing to make a big bet when a big bet is appropriate.
Bet an amount equal to your opponent’s bankroll less 2/3 of your lead plus a chip. (This is the minimum you must bet to defeat a natural.) If that is too complicated to figure under pressure, bet an amount equal to BR2’s bankroll less your lead plus a chip (though this will not beat a natural by your opponent). Follow your opponent’s lead on play of the hand. Most likely, you have a lock. For example, if you have 540 and your opponent has 470 going into the last hand, bet 425. If the player hand wins, you win no matter what your opponent has bet. If the player hand loses, you win if your opponent has bet big (360 or more for this example).
Experience shows that on a secret bet on the last hand, generally BR2 will bet big. In theory, you should use a mixed strategy of maybe betting small, maybe betting big, and maybe betting someplace in the middle. If your opponent is a tournament expert, you might consider using a mixed strategy.
If your opponent’s bankroll is less than the maximum bet, do not double down or split on the last hand.
An opponent who has bet as big as you expect should not have enough chips left to split. Even if your opponent has a few chips left and so can double for less, you should have bet enough to win without doubling down yourself.
If you play first you should hope your opponent does double down, because then you can stand on your three-card hand no matter what it is, and be certain that you are matching your opponent’s play of the cards. For example, using the numbers of the above example, suppose you have 540, your opponent has 470, you make a secret bet of 425, and your opponent makes a secret bet. Now suppose the player hand gets nine and the dealer shows a 5. Suppose you hit, and your opponent doubles down. The next card is a 2, so now the player hand is eleven. What play do you make? You should stand, of course. In doubling down, your opponent most likely has gone all in; and by standing on the same cards your opponent stands on, you have a lock. If you were to hit the eleven, you could lose or push while your opponent wins. (Your hit card would be the dealer’s hit card for your opponent.)
Another example — and this really happened to me. I had a lead of 700 to 400 going into the last hand. My opponent and I both made secret bets; my secret bet was 210. The player hand was eighteen, and the dealer showed 10. My opponent doubled down! On hard eighteen! What was my best play? If I stood on the hard eighteen, I could have lost or pushed the hand while my opponent won, and this could cost me the match if my opponent bet big enough. If I doubled down on hard eighteen and lost, I could lose the match if my opponent bet small enough. If I took the same number of cards that my opponent took, I defeated him no matter whether the player hand won or lost. Thus my best play was to hit the hard eighteen. (The hit card was a 3, and the dealer had 8 in the hole. Thus doubling down on hard eighteen won, while standing would have pushed. My opponent had bet the minimum.)
You Are Behind
You do not want to be behind going into the final bet; but if you are behind, make a secret bet if they are offered. Use a mixed strategy of maybe the minimum, maybe the maximum, and maybe something in the middle. An opponent who has managed to match your bet has a lock, but do not worry about it because no matter what you bet, there is a range of bets your opponent could make that would effectively match your bet.
If you play second and you are behind, and the playing decision is reasonably close, stand if your opponent hits and hit if your opponent stands.
This article is part of a series, that will now turn to other casino games commonly offered in tournament form…