People read about poker tournaments all the time, but you might not know about blackjack tournaments. These exist and are growing in popularity. In fact, mass twenty-one events are now offered by online casinos. A handful of great international sites now offer blackjack tournament leagues to players residing in countries where online gambling is legal (online casinos are unfortunately banned in Australia as of September 2017), complete with a leader board and special prizes for the top winners.
In this article, we’ll discuss a little about the blackjack tournament niche in both online and offline settings. We’ll also provide a few recommendations for our overseas readers as to where you might find these games, while offering tips and strategies for those wanting to enter such an event. The trick to blackjack events isn’t how much you win, but how much you win relative to the other players in the competition. For Australians, this page is purely informational in nature only, and we recommend sticking with legal land-based casinos for 21 tournaments.
Best casino sites for online blackjack tournaments
For dedicated and officially recognised online blackjack tournaments, these are our recommended casino websites for real money players looking for competitive play.
All five of these reputable sites offer a variety of blackjack variants in official multiplayer tournaments against other real players – with wagers in cash (no practice play available). If playing on multiple platforms is your thing, you’ll be glad to know all sites offer their games as playable on computer, laptop, mobile and tablets.
How 21 tournaments work
The tournament plays out much like a Texas Hold’em event would, with one or two deviations. Like in the famous poker events, the field begins on separate tables. The field narrows as players either lose all their chips or the lowest chip stacks are eliminated (after a certain number of hands). As this occurs, the number of tables decrease.
Eventually, a final table is formed and a winner declared, either when only one player has chips or a gambler has the highest chip stack at the appointed time. Like the Texas holdem tournaments, a certain percentage of players in the field receive winnings for their finishes. Those who finish in the money have beat the odds, but they do so with a certain amount of strategy.
Online blackjack tournaments
Twenty-one events have become popular enough that casinos offer these online to lure in new players and promote their site. The online blackjack tournament works similarly to the land-based events, though they come with greater frequency. In fact, when you look at an event list, you’ll see that it looks a lot like the poker event list at a card room (though with fewer events).
The same basic strategies apply on the Internet, though card counting has no effect in most virtual games, since the deck is reshuffled each hand. Another departure from the live game is the fact that linked games allow a multitude of players to face the same dealer cards, or even to have the same hole cards themselves. Most of the time, the online game simulates what you expect from the offline tourneys.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t win the first few times you play. You’ll need to play many events to get a sense of when you should bet high and low. Like a poker event, these games include a great amount of skill, but also a healthy dose of luck. Even the best players have the odds of winning (or finishing high) against them. It’s you against the field, so probability says you’re much more likely to bust out then win. Keep after it, continue to improve your basic strategy, play optimally, and you’ll enjoy the blackjack tournaments you enter.
Blackjack tournament strategy
Proper strategy is determined by the size of the field, how many players are set to finish in the money, and the aggression of the punters involved. The size of you bet is everything in the twenty-one event, because this is how you set yourself apart from the field. If you’re too aggressive, you’re likely to bust out at the first streak of bad luck. If you are too cautious, then you won’t have the chip stack to compete against the top players in the field.
Conventional tourney tips
The conventional strategy is to start the tourney with conservative bets and gauge how aggressive your opponents are. As you see what the target number is, you need to increase the size of your bets to compete with the chip stack of your opponents. If you get lucky and you build a large chip stack, then it’s in your best interest to play a more conservative style. Remember, unlike poker, you won’t be able to go head-to-head with an opponent, pushing them out of pots or forcing them to go all-in.
Those with the big chip stack in Texas Hold’em can use that stack to gain an insurmountable lead. In a game of twenty-one, your fellow competitors will try to catch up to you, but you can do little to affect whether their gambles work or not. In this situation, you can keep betting high, hoping the cards hit and you increase your lead. That strategy means you could lose and your opponent catches up twice as quickly, by winning while you lose. In many cases, the top leader plays a conservative role, hoping most opponents lose (as the odds suggest they should). Both options have risks, because a table full of players is likely to produce one other person who gets the cards to make an aggressive strategy work.
A matter of priorities
A player has to set their strategy for the event, then follow those priorities. Do you want to win the event? Would you be satisfied with making the final table? Is your major motivation simply to survive long enough that you finish in the money? By answering these questions, you decide which strategy to pursue.
If it’s about beating everyone and standing out from the crowd, then it’d be in your best interest to make aggressive bets and hope you get the cards to be near the top of the leader board. If you prefer the more limited ambition of winning back your money and a bit of a profit, then we suggest using tactics to assure survival. In this circumstance, the longer you survive into the late stages of the tournament, the closer you come to your goal. In this case, a more conservative betting pattern is what you want.
Basic blackjack strategy
As always with the 21 games, knowing and using basic strategy for that set of rules is key. Basic strategy is a set of recommended plays for each and every possibility in a type of twenty-one. These suggested moves have been tested over the decades using computers to simulate millions, even billions, of hands. The computer spit out probability patterns which suggest the best move in every eventuality.
These are printed onto basic strategy charts which are then studied and memorized by players. If you want to be a competitive player, learn basic strategy or you don’t have much chance. Depending on the rules of the tournament, maintaining a card count also provides an advantage. This lets you make bigger bets when the count is to your advantage, increasing your expected return into the 100% range.