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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, Jan. 2004, #48

HI. MY NAME IS TOURNAMENT PRO

By Tournament Pro

(Editors note: Tournament Pro is the pseudonym of a skilled advantage blackjack player and also an experienced tournament player who has won over $375K playing in blackjack tournaments).

My name is Tournament Pro and Iíd like to introduce myself to the readers of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter (BJI). I would also like to thank Henry Tamburin for inviting me to write articles about playing and making money in blackjack tournaments.

I was born and raised east of the Mississippi. In 2000 I moved to Las Vegas to pursue my interests in blackjack tournaments and to better my skills at the intriguing game of blackjack, which as we all know is not a game of chance. I intend to share my thoughts and knowledge with you on how to play skillfully in blackjack tournaments in this and in future articles for BJI.

I played in my first blackjack tournament in 1987 at Resorts International Casino in Atlantic City. I knew nothing about playing tournaments. I only knew that I had to have the most chips to be successful. I played in about 8 tournaments from 1987 Ė 1990. My playing experience was slim and my tournament knowledge was even slimmer. Even with that lack of playing experience I still managed a second place finish at an Atlantic City casino for $10,000. The blackjack tournament bug now bit me.

I started playing tournaments full time in 1997. Since then I have won over $375,000 in major tournaments. (A major blackjack tournament has a first place prize of $10,000 or more). My biggest tournament win was $110,000.

I was one of only 192 players to qualify to play in the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament in April 2003. Over 1,600 players tried to qualify for the 192 seats that were available. We all know who won the million bucks and since it wasnít me you can eliminate Mr. Rhoades as the author of this article.

I also qualified for the May 2004 Finals where Iíll be competing with another 192 players for the second million dollar first place prize. Over 2,000 players would have tried to qualify this year for the finals. So you see the blackjack tournament world is alive! In fact last Aprilís million dollar final round was taped and shown on national TV (Travel Channel) giving tournament blackjack a lot of exposure. There will be a lot of money to be won this year from the many blackjack tournaments that will be offered. Are you ready and prepared to step up to the plate and take your swing at all this money?

In my early days of playing I now know I made a lot of bad bets and bad playing decisions. Donít be discouraged if this happens to you since we all learn from our mistakes. Start asking other players "who are the best tournament players?" Then watch them play their round. Pay special attention to their bets and how they play their hands. You may even see them do things that you may be able to use when you play your next round. I did this when I first started and it improved my play tremendously. I would hear the good players talking about the "Low" or needing a win/loss, I didnít know what these terms meant, but I wanted to learn. As I said I had the tournament bug including learning all I could to be a smart player. So keep your eyes wide open and your ears to the ground because there is a lot you can learn just by observing the better, experienced players.

When I hear a new player saying "there is no skill involved in playing tournaments that itís all luck", I just smile and know thatís one player that I will most likely be able to out play in the last 5 hands. Heís the one leaving it all up to luck. With that kind of thinking he or she will never get better. Donít fall into this trap. There is a lot of skill needed (yes and a little luck) to be successful in tournament play. But when you see the same players making most of the final tables and taking home the cash thatís not a fluke and itís just not luck.

If you want to be part of this you need to have a plan. Most people have hobbies and this could be yours. In fact it could be the only hobby that does not cost you money and instead, you have the opportunity to make money. If you happen to live in Las Vegas (or near any gaming locations) there are many mini-tournaments where you can work on your strategies and practice counting chips as the latter will become a major skill factor in helping you to make the perfect bet. Thereís should be no luck involved in making your bet; it should be precise. But there is a lot of skill in making the right bet and then playing the hand precisely. The only time you need lady luck on your side is when you have to deviate from basic strategy. The players who think that itís all luck now have to get lucky and make the right bet. That means they have to luck out and know how many chips they have, what they will have if they win or lose the hand (including the possibility of doubling or pair splitting), and then play the hand right if he is lucky! If you ask me these players are leaving it all up to luck. You, on the other hand, might not need to depend solely on luck. You will be combining your skill (with a little luck) to be successful.

The entry fees for mini-tournaments in Las Vegas range from a $10 to $25. Itís an inexpensive night out that could turn into a very profitable return on such a small investment. When I won $110,000, my investment was a $325 entry fee so as you can see, the return on your investment is rather large. But even mini-tournaments offer good returns. For example, the mini at Sunset Station in Las Vegas pays $2,000 for first place with only a $25 entry fee. The min-tournaments are where you should start until you are ready for the major tournaments (trust me you will see the difference in the competion from the mini to the major tournaments).

My advice is to play in as many tournaments as you can afford and have time for. Itís also a social event that you can bring your partner to. You never know, you may be playing against each other at the final table which will make for an interesting ride home. Think about it. Where else can you go out, meet new friends, keep your mind sharp and come home with a few thousand more than you left with. Trust me I have done that many times and itís a great feeling. So make a 2004 resolution that you will keep reading the Blackjack Insider Newsletter and in particular my column to become a better tournament player. Who knows, perhaps we will meet at the final table.

Happy New Year!

Tournament Pro

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