Tournament Betting with Five Hands to Go
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.
Last Five Hands and You Are Not BR*
BR* is a bankroll that advances to the next round of the tournament. BRN means the minimum bankroll position that advances to the next round. For example, if the top three winners per table advance to the next round, then BRN means BR3, and BR* means BR1, BR2, or BR3.
If in the last five hands you are not BR*, generally it will be for either of two reasons. If you are not BR* because your opponent or opponents have a big lead over you and the max bet is small in relation to your bankroll, you already should be making max bets hand after hand.
Keep doing it, and in addition double down more frequently hoping to get a fortunate break.
This information is useful whether you are playing in a brick-and-mortar casino such as in Las Vegas, or in an online tournament.
If you are not BR* in the last five hands because an opponent has just moved ahead of you, immediately bet contrary by enough to have a chance to retake the BR* position.
If an opponent wins a large bet and as a result you find that you no longer are BR* and must make a large catch-up bet, then bet either 1/7 or 1/3 or all of your bankroll, whichever will allow you to regain the BR* spot.
Betting 1/2 of your bankroll as a catch-up bet generally is unwise, because losing it would leave you in a virtually hopeless position; if betting 1/3 of your bankroll will do the job, then bet 1/3; and if 1/3 would not do the job, then bet the max (or the minimum, if it is contrary to your opponent’s bet).
Betting on the Next-to-Last Hand
You Are BR*
If you are BR* on the next-to-last hand, your bet size depends on your lead. If you are ahead by more than what your most serious competitor can bet, then bet the minimum. If you are ahead by less than what your most serious competitor can bet, hold a chip more than that player has and bet the balance of your bankroll.
You Are Not BR*
If you are not BR* going into the next-to-last hand, bet big enough to try to be BR*, with one exception. The exception is that you can settle for being one position worse than BRN on the last hand if two conditions hold.
The conditions are that you must bet after BR* on the last hand, and you must be within half a bet of that BR*. Half a bet means half of the maximum you can bet. If you have more chips than the maximum bet allowed, then half a bet is half of the maximum bet allowed. If you have fewer chips than the maximum bet allowed, then half a bet is half of your bankroll.
For example, suppose it is time to make a bet on the next-to-last hand, your table will have one winner, and you have 450. If you will be betting after BR1 on the last hand, and you are BR2, and BR1 has less than 675, then bet the minimum on the next-to-last hand. If you will have to bet ahead of BR1 on the last hand, bet the max on the next-to-last hand. If your 450 makes you BR3 or worse, bet the max on the next-to-last hand. If BR1 has 675 or more, bet the max on the next-to-last hand (because you are more than half a bet behind).
The reason for the exception is if you are BR2 and within half a bet of BR1, no matter what BR1 bets on the last hand you will have a good chance to win the table, and that chance is better with a big bet on the last hand than a big bet on the second-last hand. Commonly, BR1 will bet small on the last hand, and you can win the table if you win a max bet. Winning the table with a last-hand max bet means your probability of winning the table is .44. If you go up with your max bet on the second-last hand, your probability of winning that hand will be the same .44, but it will not assure you of winning the table because your opponent might pass you on the last hand. A .44 probability of winning is superior to a .44 chance of maybe winning, maybe losing.
If you make a big bet on the second-last hand in an attempt to be BR* for the last hand, play as if a push is as bad as a loss.
Focus on BR*
The advice to bet 1/3 of your bankroll is not completely rigid for the second-last hand. The important thing is to give yourself a chance to win the table if you win the bet, and still have a chance to win the table if you lose that bet. Betting 1/3 of your bankroll does this automatically. But other numbers might also do. For example, suppose you have 800 and BR* has 840 and now you must bet on the second-last hand. You could bet 265, because that is 1/3 of your bankroll. But any bet between 50 and 370 would give you a chance to become BR* if you win it, and still leave you a chance to win on the last hand.
Future articles will explain what you should bet on the final hand.
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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