Sizing up your opponents

Tournament strategy and your- ikely opponents with stanford wong

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.

If You Are Not BR* in the Early Going

What you should do if you are not BR* depends on how you size up your opponents. For example, often an opponent will bet wildly, get considerably ahead of you, and continue betting wildly. Smile when you have an opponent like that, because generally (but not always) that opponent will continue to bet wildly and finally bust out. You do not have to go get that opponent; just wait and the person will come back to you.

If most of the money being bet in a craps tournament is bet one way, bet the other way. For example, frequently most of your opponents bet the pass line, bet the come, and make place bets; little money is bet on the don’t pass and don’t come.

If such is the case and you are not BR*, bet the don’t pass.

After you are able to identify particular opponents as the people you need to catch, try to bet opposite to the way they are betting. Try to bet opposite the most dollars, not the most bets. For example, with three people ahead of you and one betting $100 on the pass line and the other two betting $10 on the don’t pass, bet the don’t pass. You can make more than minimum bets. If you are not BR*, you can use a fluctuation in your bankroll. You want to win of course, but to take a chance on winning you have to take a chance on losing. For example, you might take or lay odds if you are not BR*.

If you want to play craps during the crap tournament, this is the time to do it. That is, if you want to bet hardways or the field or whatever sometime during the play of the tournament, the only appropriate spot is in the early going when you are not BR*. Try to make bets different from those of the people you are trying to catch, to give yourself a chance to catch them.

When to Make a Major Move toBecome BR*

Many times people advance in a crap tournament without having to make a big bet. This happens more often when your opponents are crapshooters rather than experienced tournament players. Most crapshooters seem to bet “right” -- that is, they bet the pass line and make come bets and take odds. They make place bets and bet the hardways. They bet on 11 and any craps. The reason this helps you in a tournament is if all of your opponents bet the same way, either they all lose or they all win. If the dice are “cold,” all of their bankrolls go down quickly while yours goes down slowly; at the end of the session your opponents either are gone or do not know how to threaten you with the few chips they have left. If the dice are “hot” and your opponents all win, you know how to threaten the leaders with the chips you have left.

As soon as you realize that your present bankroll will not be enough to allow you to advance to the next round, make a big bet in an attempt to get the bankroll position you want. Here are the factors to consider.

Number of Good Tournament Players

If there are more good tournament players at your table than the number of players that will be advancing to the next round, most likely an amount greater than your starting bankroll will be required to advance. In that situation, you can make a major move early in an attempt to become BR*.

Number of Winners Per Table

The fewer winners per table, the earlier you should try to become BR*. If only two people advance to the next round, you probably should start out with a minimum bet but would be none the worse for starting out with a higher bet.

With one winner per table, or on the final table where the winner gets a prize that is considerably larger than second prize, keep yourself in contention for the BR1 spot right from the start. You might even consider going all-in on the first roll of the dice. If someone gets ahead of you, immediately attempt to regain the lead.


Here is an example explaining exactly when I decided to make a major move. In a Reno crap tournament, two people were going to advance to the next round out of ten of us. We each bought in for $500. One player started with $100 on the don’t pass, took full double odds, and won $300 when the first shooter sevened out. Then he dropped to $25 bets. About ten minutes later another player won a series of place bets and ran his bankroll up to about $800, after which he switched to minimum $5 bets. I was BR3 with $545. The other seven players all were betting small and all had $500 plus or minus a little. With two players between $250 and $300 ahead of me and seven other players right behind me and everybody betting small, I decided that $545 would not be enough to advance to the next round. So I made a major move to become BR*.

Low Max Games

A low-max game is one in which the max bet is low compared to the bankrolls. An extreme example is a tournament in which each player starts out with 100,000 in chips but the maximum bet is 10,000. In a low-max game, if there is but one winner per table it is a certainty that your initial bankroll will not win the table. In that situation, make big bets from the start. Many of your opponents will be betting big; some will bet big on the numbers, and others will bet big behind the numbers. If you bet small to start, some of your opponents will be way ahead of you for certain, and it will be very difficult for you to get the BR1 spot. You may find yourself locked out; that is, you may have plenty of chips but no way to bet them that can win the tournament because every bet you consider is already being made by someone with more chips than you.

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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