Tournament blackjack specific playing strategies
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.
The information below is correct whether you’re playing in a tournament in an actual casino such as in Las Vegas, or in an online tournament.
Blackjack Playing Strategies
Of course you should not double down if you can afford to lose a single bet but not a doubled bet. And you should not double down if you do not need to win that much money to win the table and you might want to take a fourth card. There are other instances when you should deviate from normal (non-tournament) play.
Push Is as Bad as Loss
If a push is as bad as a loss, you should deviate from basic strategy in the following ways: Stand on twelve against 2 or 3, stand on sixteen against 8 or 9, stand on fifteen or more against 10, and hit soft eighteen against 8 and against ace.
No Doubling or Splitting
If you do not double or split, because you have bet all the rest of your bankroll or do not want to risk the extra money, then you are worse off compared to using basic strategy. Refusing to double or split costs you about 2% in a one-deck game, and about 1.8% in a six-deck game.
Probabilities For One Hand of Blackjack
With no doubling or splitting, the probabilities for one hand of basic strategy are as follows:
both win .30
either or both win .58
A wins and B pushes .02
A wins and B loses .12
both push .01
A pushes and B loses .05
both lose .31
all win .23
two win; other loses or pushes .19
one wins; others lose or push .25
none win; all lose or push .34
all lose .22
two lose; other pushes or wins .27
one loses; others push or win .25
none lose; all win or push .27
all win .19
three win; other loses or pushes .13
two win; others lose or push .18
one wins; others lose or push .21
none win; all lose or push .29
all lose .17
three lose; other pushes or wins .21
two lose; others push or win .22
one loses; others push or win .18
none lose; all win or push .22
Win Both Ways
If it is the last hand, you are BR1, and you win the table if BR2 and you have the same outcome, then you should deviate from normal hit/stand strategy in certain situations. If you do not know what BR2 has for cards, you should: stand on twelve against 3, stand on sixteen against 9, and stand on fifteen or sixteen against 10.
Insure If Lose Both Ways
If your opponent has you in the uncomfortable position where you lose the table if you both win your bets and you lose the table if you both lose your bets, then take a little bit of insurance if the dealer has an ace up. This gives your opponent the opportunity to make a mistake. Your opponent’s correct play is to match your insurance bet, but the person may not realize it. For example, suppose you have 600 of which you have bet 300, and your opponent who plays after you has 650 and also bets 300. If the dealer shows an ace, you should take at least 30 of insurance. (You win 2:1 on your insurance bet if the dealer has a natural, and you are behind by 50. That means you need to insure for more than 25.)
Sometimes you want to double your bet no matter what you get. The pairs you should split are different from normal basic strategy because many pair splits end up with a loser and a winner for a push overall. If the reason you are doubling your bet is you need to win both bets, you do not want a push. When you do split a pair, you should stand on any stiff because your best chance of winning both bets is by the dealer busting.
Here are the pairs you should split when you need a double win and a push is not good enough. Always split ace-ace, 2-2, 3-3, 8-8, 9-9, and 10-10. Split 6-6 and 7-7 against 2-6. Split 7-7 against 10. If one deck is used, split 7-7 against 9. With any other pair, for example with 7-7 against 7, double down rather than split.
With this strategy, your probability of winning is .33, your probability of pushing is .08, and your probability of losing is .59.
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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