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by Monkeysystem

Monkeysystem has been playing advantage blackjack recreationally for many years.  Early in his career he used High-low and AOII, and then simplified things, switching to Knockout a few years ago and getting better results.  He started playing tournaments in 2004 and has cashed in several. In this article he gives a basic strategy for tournaments in which players can replace a card they donít like once in a round.

In recent years weíve seen the advent of a blackjack tournament format which includes a card replacement option known as a "mulligan" or "power chip." In this format, the players are given the opportunity once each round to replace a card they donít like immediately after receiving it. The players can exercise this option on any hand, and in most cases donít have to make the decision whether to use it until after theyíve seen the card they might replace. One exception to this might be if double down cards are dealt face down and the player has to spend his card replacement option just to see it before deciding if he wants to replace it. Neither tournament referred to in this article has that requirement, however.

This format first became well known when it was used in the World Series of Blackjack on GSN. Since then the Las Vegas Hilton, where the World Series was held, has continued to use it, calling it a "mulligan." My favorite tournament, Blackjack Blowout at Kewadin-St. Ignace, Michigan, has also incorporated the "power chip" in the last few years. Weíll probably see this format increasingly used in other venues in the coming years.

At the Hilton you have to purchase the mulligan before the tournament if you want it. One single purchase gets you a mulligan for every round in the tournament. If you play at the Hilton be absolutely sure you purchase a mulligan because it is a huge advantage over players who donít. At the Hilton you can use the mulligan to replace either of your first two cards before getting any more. Or you can replace a hit or double down card immediately after receiving it.

At St. Ignace, everyone gets a power chip automatically. It cannot be used to replace the cards in your starting hand, only double down or hit cards immediately after receiving them. Double down cards are dealt face down, but the owner can peek at his double down card before deciding whether to spend his card replacement option on it. Many St. Ignace players like to peek at their double down cards even if they have no intention of using their card replacement option on that turn. I donít bother with that. If you use your power chip after taking a hit, the replacement card is dealt face down. But you may peek at it and take another hit if you so desire.

Many players donít seem to appreciate the impact this one rule change should have on their tournament strategy. I have heard reports of many players there declining to purchase a mulligan. At St. Ignace Iíve witnessed the power chip forgotten or badly misused many times. Iíve been guilty of that myself, hence my interest in this topic.

The first rule of the card replacement basic strategy is...

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