Unlike normal casino blackjack play, in a blackjack tournament you are competing against your fellow players. While each of the players still wins or loses against the dealer, your real goal is to finish with more chips than the other players at the table.
A typical blackjack tournament consists of several short rounds of play, with tables of 6 or so players competing against each other in each round. The format is usually an elimination format, where only 1 or 2 players at each table will advance to the next round of play.
Each round consists of a set number of hands and players begin the round with a equal amount of chips. At the end of the round, the player or players with the highest bankroll advances to the next round. A typical round is anywhere from 15 to 30 hands in duration. Some tournaments use live money chips while others are played with non-negotiable tournament chips with no cash value.
Rather than the dealer always starting to deal at the first seat, a button is placed on the table in front of a player indicating that player is “first base” for this hand. The button then moves consecutively around the table with each passing hand. This is an important point because the betting and playing order rotates with the button, and players who must bet and act early on a given hand are at a disadvantage.
Most tournaments consist of 3 to 5 elimination rounds. A typical format might have 2 players from each table of 6 advancing from the first round, 1 player from each table of 6 advancing from the second round, and then the final table. This format with 6 players at the final table would allow for 108 entries at 18 first round tables. Often in smaller tournaments, the first round will be split up into several qualifying rounds, so that if you do not advance, you can re-enter for another first round seat.
The prize pool for a tournament is usually 100% of the entry fees paid by the players. This means that the casino has no advantage over the players in the tournament. Indeed, the skillful player can have a huge advantage over the other players if those players are less experienced in tournament strategy. Many casinos will guarantee the prize money even if the tournament does not fill up with entries. In these cases, the casino is literally paying the players to play the tournament! From the casino’s viewpoint, it is a good marketing play, since they are drawing new players to the tables between the tournament rounds.
Since the larger tournaments often include special room rates and free food, you can save some money on your vacation to Vegas by booking it around a tournament. If you’re headed to a casino destination anyway, scheduling your trip to coincide with a tournament can save you some money and give you a chance to play for a big prize with minimal risk.
The prize money varies widely as you may expect. Smaller tournaments might have an entry fee of $10, and pay $500 or $1000 for first place. Most tournaments pay at least 6 places. Larger tournaments might have an entry fee of $300-$500, with a correspondingly larger payout. The largest events have entry fees of $1000 or more and sometimes feature prize pools of over a million dollars.
Visit our sister site BlackjackTournaments.com where the free calendar of upcoming blackjack tournament events includes literally thousands of events all around the country.