Casino games tournaments are fun, and often profitable, too. In upcoming articles, we will continue a series of excerpts from Stanford Wong’s book, Casino Tournament Strategy.
If you get to make a secret blackjack bet in a tournament, save it for the last hand. Even if you bet last on the last hand and thus first on the hand before it, still keep your secret bet for the last hand. If you bet last your opponents cannot use your bet size to determine how much to bet, but they might be able to use your bet size to decide how to play their hands. The information in this article is valid in online tournaments or in a brick-and-mortar casino, such as in Las Vegas or other casino towns like Tunica.
In theory, you should be worse off when your opponents make secret bets because you have less information to use. However, that is the case only if your opponents play their secret bets perfectly. The truth is you probably are better off with secret bets than without them. Most of your opponents will be “civilians” and therefore not as knowledgeable as you are.
One reason is you know more about what your opponents have written down for their secret bets than what they know about your secret bet. Another reason is many of your opponents do not use their secret bets at all, or use them earlier than the last hand. Some people stupidly use their secret bets on the very first hand!
When there is one winner per table, everyone who makes a secret bet tends to make a big bet. They may not bet the max, but they make bets they think of as being big. Therefore, when your opponents make secret bets, act as if you are betting after them and you know what their bets are. Occasionally you are wrong about the size of a person’s secret bet, but you are right so frequently that your gains when you are right vastly outweigh your losses from being wrong.
You should do several things differently when you can make a secret bet on your last hand. You should still try to be BR1, except that you should be willing to be BR2 in a two-person game.
Secret Last Bet If You Are BR1
If it is a two-person game, bet the max minus half your lead plus a chip. If more than two people are in the fight for the top spot, either bet max minus half your lead over BR2 plus a chip, or bet the max.
The reason for making a big bet is BR2 probably will make a big bet, and you are approximately matching the bet you expect BR2 to make. You cover a BR2 who bets the max, and you cover a BR2 who bets slightly less than the max.
If BR2 doubles down or splits without busting, or if you think BR2 will double the bet (except if you think BR2 will split 10-10 against the dealer’s 7 through 10 or ace), then if you can double your bet without busting you should do it. For example if you have 10-10, and BR2 has eleven and plays after you, split and do not bust. If you have 3-2 and BR2 has eleven, double down. You are not trying to beat the dealer; you are trying to beat BR2. Your initial bet puts you in the situation where you win the table if both hands win, and you win the table if both hands lose. If BR2 doubles down and you do not double your bet, then if both hands win BR2 wins the table. By doubling your own bet you preserve your win-if-both-lose, win-if-both-win position.
Here is an alternative play for a two-person game:
Bet small and bluff. For example, with a lead of $800 to $700 and betting limits of $10 to $300, generally you should make a secret bet of $255. But if you think there is at least one chance in three that BR2 has made a secret bet of $10, then make a secret bet of $10. Then if you get a good hand, act happy. If BR2 has bet the minimum, you win the table regardless of the outcomes of the hands. But a BR2 who in fact has bet big maybe will reduce the chance of beating you by making a foolish double down or foolish pair split.
Secret Last Bet If You Are BR2
You should expect BR1 to bet big. So make a bet that allows you to win the table if both bets lose, and win the table if you win a doubled bet. Bet half of the max plus half of BR1’s lead plus a chip. For example, with 1100 to 1150 and a 500 max, bet 280.
If BR1 does not bust, or if BR1 plays after you, double your bet if you can do so without busting. You should even split 10-10. Also double down on hard twelve and hard thirteen.
If you are pressed for time or bothered by the pressure or simply cannot remember the correct play, bet big. On the final hand, betting big is more likely to be correct than betting small.
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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