HOW TO BE COMPETITIVE IN YOUR FIRST BLACKJACK TOURNAMENT
by Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the comprehensiveUltimate Guide to Blackjack (http://www.888casino.com/blog/casino-guides/blackjack.) He is also the editor of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter and hosts www.smartgaming.com.
So, you are about ready to play in your first blackjack tournament. Here are some tips that will help you avoid any embarrassing (and costly) gaffes, and help you be competitive.
1. Read the tournament rules.
When you arrive at the tournament and get your seat assignment, ask for a copy of the tournament playing rules. Carefully read them before the tournament begins. Be sure that that you understand before the round begins the following:
2. Always slide all of your chips at once into the betting spot.
In tournaments, you are not allowed to take a stack of chips in your hand and drop them inside the betting spot (this is known as a "string bet"). If a player does this, the first chip to hit the felt inside the betting spot will be the player's wager. To avoid string bets, always stack the chips that you want to bet outside of the betting spot (with highest denomination chip on the bottom and lowest on top), and then slide your stack of chips inside the betting spot.
3. Do not converse with spectators.
In many tournaments, you are not allowed to talk to spectators, or communicate with them in any manner, or you can be disqualified (and yes, I have observed players being disqualified from tournaments for doing this). In some tournaments, you are not even allowed to converse with your fellow players especially during the final round. You also cannot bring strategy cards or cheat sheets with you when you play, nor ask the dealer for advice on how to play your hand or how much to bet. You are on your own in tournaments.
4. Determine your betting position on the last hand.
The first-base position rotates from one player to the next in tournaments. Depending on where the marker is on the first hand (indicating which player is betting first), mentally determine your betting position on the last round. For example, suppose there are six players, you are in seat #2, 30 hands are played in the tournament round, and the player in seat #4 bets first on the first hand. This means on hand #30, the marker will be in front of player #3, who will be the first to bet, and you (in seat #2) will be the last to bet and the last to act. However, keep in mind that the order of betting on the last hand may change if a player busts out (i.e., losses all his chips). If the latter occurs, you need to recalculate where you will be betting on the last hand.
As a general rule, if you are going to be "on the button" on the last hand (i.e., betting and acting first), you need to bet more aggressively during the round so that you try to get the lead prior to the last hand (even if it means you must go all in on the next-to-the-last hand). On the other hand, if you are betting last on the last hand, you have a big advantage over your opponents and you can bet more conservatively (at the minimum, you don't want to be more than one max bet behind the leader going into the last hand).
5. Wait your turn to bet.
Do not bet out of turn even if you see other players do it. If you do so, you give away the advantage you have by seeing what your opponents bet before you have to bet.
6. Bet opposite the leader.
In the early rounds, if you are behind in chip count, bet opposite the leader. If he bets small, bet big, and vice versa.
7. If you want to make a catch-up bet, do it by...
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