THE ETIQUETTE OF TOURNAMENT BLACKJACK
By Kenny Einiger
Ken Einiger is an expert blackjack tournament player and the World Champion of Blackjack. In 2004-2005, Ken made the finals in 7 different tournaments and won 4 of them including the $250,000 first place prize in the World Series of Blackjack. Ken has written a new book, Play to Win, that covers his successes on the BJ tournament trail and it also teaches players how to get involved in tournaments. His book is scheduled to be released the end of August and we will add it to our BJI online store. Ken's site iswww.worldblackjackchampion.com.
When you sit down at a tournament blackjack table for the first time, it is a good idea to know exactly what to do and what you may encounter. Here are some pointers to help you.
Look around the table. Do you know any of these people? Do you know any of their playing habits? Do they bet a lot at the beginning of the round or are they a more conservative player? Is there anyone at the table you really have to watch out for? Always know the players at your table.
When I sit down at the table, the first thing I do is acknowledge the dealer and the other players. Then I proceed to count my chips to make certain I have the correct chip count. I also glance around the table to make sure none of the other players have any extra chips. I have experienced situations where I was either one chip under or one chip over. (Yes, I did give the chip back to the dealer.) But you really must verify that you have the correct amount of chips that you are supposed to have. This is your responsibility and an important one.
The property that is holding the blackjack tournament makes the determination as to which seat will receive the tile and be the first player to place their bet. In some tournaments the dealer will either roll a die and the number that comes up goes first; in other tournaments they deal a poker hand of five cards to each player and the player with the best hand goes first; or they may simply begin with the person in the first seat.
The important thing here --- and I canít stress this enough --- is that you must figure out when you will be betting at the time the last hand is dealt. Of course, this can change as players lose their bankroll and are eliminated from the round. First, make the assumption that all the players at the table will still be there when the final hand in the round is dealt. When and if any players are knocked out of the game, you will have to refigure in your head where you will be when the final hand comes up. The point is that if you are the first to bet on the last hand, the advantage goes to all the other players and you are at a disadvantage. What you really want is for your opponent on your left to wind up with the tile when you play your last hand so that you will be the last player to bet. Thatís when you will have the advantage over your opponents on the last hand, namely you get to act bet last and play your hand last.
You should be able to figure out the math in seconds in your head regarding your position play in on the last hand. Regardless of the number of people at the table, the math is basically the same. For example, if there are six people at the table playing 30 hands and the guy to your left has the tile and is betting first, you go around and mentally figure out that you will be betting 6th; 12th; 18th; 24tth; and 30th. This means you will be betting last on the final hand --- again, a big advantage for you!
There are some very obvious acts of etiquette that each player should know and practice when playing in a tournament.
In casino gambling, someone might get a bad card and throw the cards at the dealer, or start jumping up and down cursing, or just act disrespectful in general. In tournament play, have respect for the people around you. Watch your language and donít come to the table intoxicated. (Some casinos will let you smoke and drink at the table, but most will not.) Some tournaments may allow you to talk with fellow players; others prefer no communication between the players at all. Donít try to change the rules; the rules are there for tournament action. You will be playing anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour, so show respect for the rules of the tournament and especially for the dealer, otherwise you may be ejected from the tournament and the casino.
The official language of all blackjack tournaments (at least in the United States) is English. ANY communication between players and spectators, whether by signaling or speaking in a foreign language, can be considered cheating and therefore, cause for ejection.
You are not allowed to cover up your chips. Other players must be able to see your chips at all times. Mixing chips and colors is not permitted and this is one of the most important things to remember. You may not create different piles with all different colors. This is known as a "dirty pile," meaning you cannot slip a purple chip in between a pile of green chips. However, if you have a large number of chips, you are allowed to make different piles of the same colored chips.
In a tournament where talking among players is allowed, an important element to watch for is comments or questions you may get from another player. For instance, say someone bets $450 and the guy next to you says, "Iím not sure what that person just bet? What do you think?" DO NOT HELP HIM. If a guy looks at me and says, "Iíve got $3,400 chips, how many do you have?" Just respond with something like, "Iím new at this. I donít know how to count." If anyone is stupid enough to tell you how much he has, just turn to him and politely say, "Thank you." You donít want to volunteer information especially to your opponents.
If youíre down to hardly any chips and youíve got no shot at winning, do not help the guy next to you even if he is a friend of yours. No helping other players at the table, at all.
In Tournament Blackjack, the dealer is not supposed to speak to the players. If a dealer does say something, you are within your rights to let one of the tournament directors know that the dealer is communicating with the players. The director will see to it that it doesnít happen again. Tournament Blackjack dealers are not like the friendly ones you may run into at the casino tables. They are usually expressionless, mute and all business.
If you follow the above guidelines, you will enjoy your tournament experience a whole lot more. Good luck in your next tournament!
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