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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, May 2004, #52


By LV Tournament Pro

Tournament Pro is the pseudonym of a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over $375k playing in blackjack tournaments.

Does the word mini really mean small and of little significance? Or is it a word that when put in front of "tournament" takes on a whole new meaning? I think the latter which is why I want to address blackjack min-tournaments this month.

I personally believe mini-tournaments are a must for the serious blackjack tournament player. Not playing in mini tournaments would be like a major pro team in football, baseball, or hockey just meeting an hour or two before their first regular season game and then go out and play with no preparation, or training as to what works and what needs to be worked on.

We all know that the better we are prepared, the more successful we will be. Playing in mini-tournaments is like training for success. Never look at a "mini" as being too small to play in and not worth your time. On the contrary you should know the blackjack mini-tournament schedule at your local gaming location and then decide which ones fit into your budget and schedule and play them.

Playing in mini-tournaments not only keeps your mind sharp and your competive juices flowing, it also may be the difference in winning a major tournament because of a situation that you had, or seen played, in a mini. I personally play in at least three mini-tournaments a week in Las Vegas and sometimes in five of them. I believe my success in major tournaments has a lot to do with my playing in miniís because it keeps my game sharp (especially practicing eyeballing and counting my opponents chips accurately, which I believe is a HUGE SKILL in tournament play).

The more you practice counting your opponentís chips accurately, the more precise your bets can be. How many times have you (or other tournament players) lost a tournament by the small amount of $2.50 or $5? Do you think that was a fluke? If you are playing against me, or one of the other top players, we most likely will have your chips counted down to the last dollar. Our bets are precise to hold back enough for the low, or we bet just enough to beat you on the high.

You not only have to accurately determine your opponents bankroll (chip count) but you also must mentally determine how much to bet to cover a potential blackjack or double down assuming you get a straight win. So as you can see, there are many levels of "thinking" to determine the "perfect bet" and playing in min-tournaments is an excellent training ground to master this skill. Also, a playing situation that you might run into in a mini-tournament just might be the same one that could help you win one million dollars in the Las Vegas Hilton tournament. You can practice chip counting at home but there is nothing that will simulate live casino action and time restrictions as youíll find in mini-tournaments.

There are plenty of mini-tournaments in Las Vegas to choose from. Here is a list of some of them that you may want to consider

Monday Morning

Cannery Hotel & Casino

First round 10am, every 45 min ending at 1pm, semis at 1:45pm, and the finals at 2:30pm. Single deck. Entry is $10 and fist place usually pays $599.


Tuesday Morning and Afternoon

Rampart Hotel & Casino in Summerlin

Same times and format as the Cannery

Fiesta Henderson is one of my favorites - single deck, $25 entry, two advance from the first round into the semis, one from the semis goes to the finals. $1,000 1st place is guaranteed. The rest of the prizes can be as low as $50 so usually the players work it out to give the winner somewhere between $500 to $600 and the other finalists in the final round walk away with at least $225 no matter where they finish. The tournament is run by the Shift Manager, Julie, who is a charm (and the dealers are very friendly). A nice place to be on Tuesday evening starting at 6 P.M. 6:45, & 7:30pm. Semis are at 8:10pm and the finals at 9pm.

Wednesday Afternoon

Green Valley Ranch (GVR) was originally played every Wednesday; however it has been changed to every other Wednesday because of attendance problems when a floor person named Sue ran it. She was originally from the Reserve Casino (now Fiesta Henderson), which also had attendance problem. My take is that she lacks in people skills and had her favorites so when there was a decision to be made, she would look to see whom it involved before making her decision. Not a good thing so this was brought to managementís attention and she was removed. Shift Manager, Michelle Richards, has kept an overview of their mini-tournament since and it has run smooth with no favoritism and all her decisions were fair. She has since left GVR and now itís just an OK tournment. Michelleís ability was never recognized by Stations Casino (what a shame). They have been known to overlook the bad and not recognize the good.

Thursday Morning

Rampart Hotel & Casino holds their tournament same times and format as their Tuesday mini-tournament

Thursday Evening

Sunset Station Hotel & Casino holds a mini-tournament with the highest paying first prize of $2,000 guaranteed (it is also the longest running tournament in Las Vegas). The brainstorm of Bob Defroda this tournament just packs them in. It was expanded to 10 tables 3 years ago and it still sells out for the most part. Bobby D, as he is known to his regular Thursday night crowd, has recently turned over the reigns to Joe Lythe and his staff and it still running strong 6 years and one of my top mini-tournament picks in Las Vegas. Joe is doing a great job in filling Bobby D's big shoes.

Friday Morning

Brings us back to the Cannery for the same tournament that they run on Mondays 10am. Entry fee is $99 first prize starting at 10 a.m.

Saturday Morning

Boulder Station Hotel & Casino has a $25 entry starting at 11am, 11:45am, and 12:30pm. Double deck dealt face down, two advance from the first round into semis and one from the semis into finals. First prize is $1,350.

Sunday Evening

Silverton Hotel & Casino only if you must since their staff can be down-right rude and their dealers are for the most part not the friendliest. Donít blame the dealers because they follow the supervisorís treatment of the players. They stopped handing out match play coupons with your entry (which made the entry fee more valuable) after one of the tournaments players called the Gaming Board on them because they paid the player even money on a blackjack. The Gaming Board ruled in the players favor and the casino paid the player the correct amount. He won the battle but lost the war a few weeks later because when he returned to play in the tournament, he was told he could no longer play. Other players have been told they could not play anymore because they play too slow. (The average age of players at the Silverton is over 65 and these folks stopped doing things fast 20 years ago). Find something else to do on Sundays until they learn to treat their customers better.

My Top 3 Las Vegas Blackjack Mini-Tournament Picks are:

  1. Sunset Station, 6 decks, betting range $10-250, 25 hands played, $2,000 first prize and a great staff
  2. Fiesta Henderson, single deck, betting range $25-500, 20 hands played, $1,000 first prize and a player friendly place.
  3. Boulder Station, 2 decks, betting range $10-300, 20 hands played, cards dealt face down, $1,300 first prize

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