If you’re a serious online blackjack player, it probably has crossed your mind at one point or another to try playing in online blackjack tournaments. This is a natural extension of playing successfully against the house: if you’re a winning blackjack player, why not test your skills against others who can beat the odds like you? There’s a lot of prize money available, and if you’re a good card counter, or have basic strategy ingrained on your memory, the thought of winning an online blackjack tournament could be particularly alluring.

First, a little history about Black tournaments in general. The following notes are paraphrased from Pagat.com’s “Rules of Card Games: Tournament Blackjack - Click Here“.

  • The first Las Vegas blackjack tournaments were held at the Sahara hotel beginning in 1978.
  • Tournament entry fee was $250 with a $500 buy in, although this figure changed from time to time.
  • The first tournaments had roughly 2000 players.
  • Each round lasted about 55 minutes.
  • Single deck blackjack was the name of the game, with liberal splitting and double down rules.

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As with most gambling innovations, Las Vegas blackjack tournaments died off after a while, only to be revived in 2002 by the Las Vegas Hilton offering a “Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament”. Likewise, interest was piqued for online play, so naturally, casinos began organizing the first online blackjack tournaments.

Tournament Play

1. Multi-Table, Multi Round Tournaments - This is the usual format of most online (and offline) blackjack tournaments. Players begin with a set number of chips and play a predetermined number of hands or length of time. At the end of each round, the player with the most chips advances. Sometimes, the second place player is allowed to move forward as well. The final winner is the player with the most chips won during the final round of play.

2. Single Table Tournaments - This is the simplest form of a blackjack tournament. Competitors play for a set number of hands or length of time at one table. When game play has ended, the player with the most chips wins. This style of tournament is popular with informal blackjack games.

The Luck Element

It could be argued that there is a strong element of luck in some blackjack tournament formats, especially if different hands of cards are dealt to each player. In theory, someone could be dealt blackjack three times in a row, for example, and could advance to the next round with little or no effort.

To counter free-loaders and “lucky” players, some blackjack tournaments are formatted in a such a manner that each player gets dealt the same hand. In essence, this lowers the luck element and tends to reward skill, since the way in which the hand is played is indicative of card counting abilities and basic strategy knowledge. The emphasis in these types of tournaments is on betting decisions, not what card comes out of the shoe next. As a result, this style of tournament is preferred among serious blackjack players.

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Online Blackjack Tournaments

Just as the popularity of Poker blossomed with the WSOP, tournament blackjack has experienced a boom in recent years. Online casinos are cashing in on this trend by holding regular tournaments, in various formats, to attract a wider player base. In some cases, it may be actually easier to win money playing in a tournament opposed to playing normally against the house, since the outcome of the tournament is in part determined by the amount of human error made by other players.

Additionally, blackjack tournaments are especially popular at online sportsbook sites that also offer a full online casino. Many sports bettors are avid blackjack players, so sportsbooks capitalize on this interest by setting up tournaments. This is actually an easier way for the sportsbook to make money, especially given the risk management involved with sports betting in general. Casino games have fixed odds, and because of this, the house can generally figure a certain amount of profit will be earned per hand of blackjack dealt (also known as the house edge).

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Finally, a few online casinos blackjack tournament tournament notes and summary:

  1. Always check your online casinos’s player promotion page for information about upcoming tournaments. In some cases, you may have to qualify via satellite rounds, so make sure you get on the tournament entry list right away.
  2. If you’re a sports bettor and frequent online sportsbooks, visit the casino section of the website to learn more about blackjack tournaments. Sportsbooks/casinos tend to offer less frequent tournaments with higher prize money amounts, opposed to online casinos that offer a “weekly” tournament rotation.
  3. Brush up on your basic strategy by visiting our Online Blackjack Guide - Click here. You’ll find a chart that tells you how to play your hand based on the cards that have been dealt to you and the dealer. The chart is particularly helpful for multi-deck blackjack play. If your tournament is single deck, use a search engine to find a single deck blackjack basic strategy chart.
  4. It’s not cheating if you have a strategy chart in front of you while you play blackjack online. In fact, some land based casinos allow players to consult strategy charts as long as they are not involved in more serious attempts to rip off the casino. Take advantage of all the info available on the internet to win your tournament.
  5. Don’t bet everything you have on the first hand in an attempt to “get ahead” right away. Instead, focus on simply surviving and qualifying for the next round. Without a doubt, there will be a few players that bet their entire chip stack each hand. Although this might seem like an “aggressive” strategy it’s actually rather foolish. As rounds progress and players get eliminated, the math will eventually catch up with these players and they will lose.
  6. Don’t rule out joining an online sportsbook just to play casino games/tournaments. In most cases, online casino players at online sportsbooks can take advantage of re-deposit bonus promotions to increase their bankroll. To be safe, however, always consult the sportsbook’s house rules and regulations, just in case there are special rules that apply to playing in the casino.

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