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BlackjackInfo News: Issue 21B - February 10, 2004

This Issue includes:

The Stardust Tournament format

Today was the first day of play in the Stardust tournament. One of the main reasons I'm in Las Vegas this week was a report that the Stardust event was short quite a few players, and might provide a big overlay as a result. That is, the prize money might be much higher than the total entry fees.

Well, it's true that the Stardust was having trouble filling up this event, and as a result they changed the format a little, and dropped the prize pool from $135K to $100K. However, the event is now full at a revised limit of 200 players. The first place prize stayed the same as the advertised $75K, but all the other prizes were reduced. Second place in the tournament pays $10K.

This tournament has an entry fee of $375, which is not too bad for a shot at winning $75K. However, there's another factor that can make this an expensive play. Each round is played with live money, and each player must buy-in for $600 in cash for each round. Whatever chips you win are yours to keep, but likewise whatever you lose is real money.

The initial round has 6 players at each table. Each round is 30 hands, dealt face down from two decks. Betting limits for each hand are $5 to $300 and the two highest chip totals advance to round two. Players who don't advance can buy a reentry if available, for $175. There were apparently supposed to be guaranteed reentries available, but that didn't happen. Some players were unable to reenter, while at least one player played three times. That's happened before at the Stardust, and it's been a complaint of many players. It looks like they still haven't resolved this issue.

My tournament starts with a win

My initial round was scheduled for noon, so I was able to sleep in and arrive rested. I switched hotels this morning, moving from the Casino Royale to the Stardust for the next two nights. I sat down at my tournament round with my $600 buy-in receipt and looked around. I didn't recognize any of my opponents, which was actually surprising but reassuring.

The tournament round turned out to be exactly the kind of table I like. The dealer was hot as a firecracker, drawing to 20 and 21 hand after hand. I was making mostly minimum bets, and although the table as a whole was pretty conservative, I took an early lead. I made only one bet of more than the minimum in the early hands, betting $50 and catching a blackjack.

Of the initial 6 players, we were down to only 3 by the last hand. I had middle button position, betting and acting on my hand second. Unfortunately over the last several hands I had lost the lead, and now had second-high chip count. I'll get right into the specifics. Here's the situation, in button order:

Opponent A$450.00$225
Opponent B$585.00$30

Notice that I've already put in the bet for Opponent B, the chip leader. He bet out of turn, which gave me a huge advantage over him.

Sizing my bet was actually pretty easy. In a three-player race for two spots, the strongest bet is usually one that gives you the best chance of finishing in the middle. One quick way of making a good bet here would be to hold back a chip more than Opponent A has unbet, and bet the rest. Since he held back $225, I could hold back $230 and bet the rest of my bankroll. That's not what I did, though my decision yielded almost the same answer.

First, I figured what I would need to win to guarantee a second-high chip finish if I won the hand. I'd like to also hold back more unbet chips than Opponent A. I looked at the out-of-order bet by Opponent B and thought like this... Since Opponent B made a relatively small bet, I can cover lots of potential problems. If he gets lucky and gets a split hand and doubles twice, he could win $30 X 4 = $120, putting him at a total of $ 705. I want to bet enough to pass that total if I win. That requires a bet by me of at least $ 190. I actually placed a bet of $195, leaving me an unbet chip total of $ 322.50, well ahead of Opponent A's unbet $225.

Opponent A is likely planning to double almost any hand, since he split his bankroll. I don't mind that at all. I don't need to beat his potential $900 finish, because two players advance.

The cards are dealt and the dealer has a 3 upcard.

Opponent A$450.00$225Draws (Ten,3) and doubles catching an Ace for 14.
Me$517.50$195I have (5,7).
Opponent B$585.00$30Draws (9,2) and doubles (again out of turn).

Consider my situation. I was fortunate to be able to see Opponent A's final hand in this face down game, because potentially busting doubles are dealt face up. That was a big help. Once he drew a stiff, I'm a lock. If I stand with my 12 against a dealer 3, there are two choices. If the dealer makes a hand, I lose my bet, but so does Opponent A. I finish with second high chip total. If the dealer busts, I win my bet and again finish with second high chip total, beating Opponent B. I'm a lock, as long as I don't follow basic strategy by hitting the 12v3. (If I busted and the dealer busted, I'd fail to advance.) I waved off my 12, and relaxed. One round down.

My relaxation was only briefly interrupted as the dealer once again drew out to 21, costing me the $195 I had bet. It would have been nice to finish the round with a profit instead, but I cashed out only $322.50 of my $600 buy-in. But, it's a win, and I'll take it.

Tomorrow, there will be 3 additional rounds including the finals. I'll have to win once more to guarantee at least $200 of semifinal prize money. If I win twice more, I'll be at the final table. But, round 2 is going to be very tough. I'm not certain, but word is that round two will be a 1 of 7 players advance format. I play at 10:30 AM.

Two blackjack sessions, one up, one down

Keeping you up to date on trip results, I had two sessions of blackjack at the Stardust, with opposite results. My first session was an hour long, and netted a $465 profit. The second session wasn't nearly as much fun, when I lost $800 in an hour and forty-five minutes.

Thanks to all the subscribers who emailed wishes of good luck. It must have helped! More tomorrow, -Ken-