Casino Blackjack Tournament Rules

Current Online Blackjack Tournaments

Online casino tournaments data supplied by CasinoListings.com.

Blackjack Tournament Basics The basics of blackjack tournaments are quite straightforward. The game is still played in essentially the same way, with players trying to beat the dealer on each hand to win chips, but the players are also competing against each other. Listing of upcoming casino tournament events, blackjack tournaments, craps tournaments, baccarat tournaments, 3-card poker tournaments. Get a free blackjack strategy chart for any rules! Play our free blackjack strategy trainer game, learn card counting, or dive deep in our knowledge base. Blackjack offers the best chance of leaving the casino as a winner. And, when you become an expert at the game, you can turn the tables on the casino, and get a real advantage on the game.

About Blackjack Tournaments

  • How to Play Blackjack Tournaments. Similar to any other casino game, you will have to learn the rules of the game if you want to maximize your chances of winning. Taking part in blackjack tournaments can be lots of fun, especially for players who enjoy playing blackjack. Here are some steps on how to play blackjack tournaments.
  • Face cards are worth 10 points each, and an ace are valued as either 1 or 11. A “Blackjack” hand is an ace paired with any ten-value card. The dealer draws cards, too. If you come closer to 21 than the dealer, you win. Ask your dealer about different ways to wager in Blackjack, including splitting pairs.

In the last decade, poker has gone through a tremendous boom thanks to the rising popularity of poker tournaments. In fact, for many people, high stakes tournaments might be the first thing they think of when they think of poker. On the other hand, blackjack is mostly known as a table game played in the casino, not a competitive endeavor where you compete against fellow players. Blackjack heathrow vacancies.

But blackjack has a tournament scene too, and it’s one that’s just as exciting and competitive as the world of tournament poker. In a blackjack tournament, the goal isn’t just to beat the dealer – though you probably will have to do that more than a few times to win. Instead, you’re competing against the other players at your table to see who can amass the most chips in a certain number of hands.

Typically, a blackjack tournament will consist of elimination rounds (though single table blackjack tournaments do exist), in which the top one or two finishers out of a table of about five to six players will advance to the next round. At the beginning of each round, each player starts with the same number of chips. Typically, a round will last somewhere between 20-30 hands, after which the players are ranked by the number of chips they hold.

Immediately when sitting down and playing in a blackjack tournament, you’ll notice that some things are different from your typical blackjack game. For instance, the dealer doesn’t always start dealing from the “first base” position (the player to the dealer’s left). Instead, the first position changes from hand to hand, with a button moving around the table, much like the dealer button in poker. This helps keep the competition on a more equal footing; players who act last are at a significant advantage, since they can see how much their opponents have bet, and see how their hands are doing before they need to make any decisions of their own. This is an especially critical advantage on the final hand.

Blackjack Tournament Strategy

Not surprisingly, blackjack tournaments require very different strategies than when you’re just playing blackjack against the casino. Since your goal is to accumulate more chips than your opponents, it is sometimes wise to do things which you would never do when simply playing blackjack at a regular table.

One of the key strategic concepts in blackjack tournaments is that players will tend to have very similar results in terms of winning or losing hands. While it is far from a guarantee, hands where a few of the players win against the dealer and a few lose are less common than hands where the whole table beats a busted dealer, or the dealer defeats all (or nearly all) of the players. This means that when you gain chips, you can expect the other players to be generally gaining chips as well; and when the dealer is running over you, chances are that the other players at your table won’t be faring much better.

This concept led to the discovery that one very effective strategy in blackjack tournaments was simply to do the opposite of what the rest of the table was doing. For instance, if the rest of the table is making small, conservative wagers, this strategy suggests that you should make large wagers instead. This works because, in general, the players making bets of similar sizes will end up with a similar number of chips. Meanwhile, you – as the only player at the table trying something different – will likely find yourself with a very different amount of chips. This might put you in first place, or it might put you in last, depending on how the dealer treats you. But having a 50/50 shot at first at a table of five or six players is a pretty good deal.

These days, blackjack tournament strategy has evolved to the point where these easily exploitable tables are less common, which means more advanced strategy is required. Most good players will generally bet small, but look for some good spots to make larger bets, especially when they can act last and see what their opponents are doing first. When in the lead, players often switch to bets of moderate size (especially when acting early), so that their opponents can’t get the full benefit of playing in an “opposite” manner. As round progresses, it also becomes important to calculate just how much you’ll need to bet to get yourself into a position to advance, without risking so much that you won’t have later opportunities should you lose a given hand.

Blackjack tournament strategy eventually comes down to a balancing act: you must take enough risks to win, but only when the rewards are big enough to justify taking those risks. Advanced blackjack tournament strategy goes even further, taking steps to optimize bet sizing, pointing out when to ignore basic strategy because you need to take bigger risks (or need to play extra conservatively), and much more.

Major Blackjack Tournaments

In recent years, several blackjack events have gained considerable notoriety. Perhaps the most well-known to television audiences was the World Series of Blackjack, a competition televised on the Game Show Network. This mostly closed tournament does allow players to enter through satellites, and the top prize – which started at $100,000 in the show’s first season – rose to $500,000 over subsequent seasons, the last of which was aired in 2007. GSN also briefly aired a series known as the World Blackjack Tour, and UltimateBet ran the Ultimate Blackjack Tour for two seasons.

However, unlike with poker, most major blackjack tournaments are not televised. Still, blackjack tournaments are commonly held in major casinos around the world, often with large prize pools that can range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Blackjack tournaments are also spread regularly at many online casinos, meaning you can play in an exciting tournament from the convenience of your own home!

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  • Appendices
  • Miscellaneous
  • External Links

On This Page

Rules

I overhear a lot of bad gambling advice in the casinos. Perhaps the most frequent is this one, 'The object of blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible, without going over.' No! The object of blackjack is to beat the dealer. To beat the dealer the player must first not bust (go over 21) and second either outscore the dealer or have the dealer bust. Here are the full rules of the game.

  1. Blackjack may be played with one to eight decks of 52-card decks.
  2. Aces may be counted as 1 or 11 points, 2 to 9 according to pip value, and tens and face cards count as ten points.
  3. The value of a hand is the sum of the point values of the individual cards. Except, a 'blackjack' is the highest hand, consisting of an ace and any 10-point card, and it outranks all other 21-point hands.
  4. After the players have bet, the dealer will give two cards to each player and two cards to himself. One of the dealer cards is dealt face up. The facedown card is called the 'hole card.'
  5. If the dealer has an ace showing, he will offer a side bet called 'insurance.' This side wager pays 2 to 1 if the dealer's hole card is any 10-point card. Insurance wagers are optional and may not exceed half the original wager.
  6. If the dealer has a ten or an ace showing (after offering insurance with an ace showing), then he will peek at his facedown card to see if he has a blackjack. If he does, then he will turn it over immediately.
  7. If the dealer does have a blackjack, then all wagers (except insurance) will lose, unless the player also has a blackjack, which will result in a push. The dealer will resolve insurance wagers at this time.
  8. Play begins with the player to the dealer's left. The following are the choices available to the player:
    • Stand: Player stands pat with his cards.
    • Hit: Player draws another card (and more if he wishes). If this card causes the player's total points to exceed 21 (known as 'breaking' or 'busting') then he loses.
    • Double: Player doubles his bet and gets one, and only one, more card.
    • Split: If the player has a pair, or any two 10-point cards, then he may double his bet and separate his cards into two individual hands. The dealer will automatically give each card a second card. Then, the player may hit, stand, or double normally. However, when splitting aces, each ace gets only one card. Sometimes doubling after splitting is not allowed. If the player gets a ten and ace after splitting, then it counts as 21 points, not a blackjack. Usually the player may keep re-splitting up to a total of four hands. Sometimes re-splitting aces is not allowed.
    • Surrender: The player forfeits half his wager, keeping the other half, and does not play out his hand. This option is only available on the initial two cards, and depending on casino rules, sometimes it is not allowed at all.
  9. After each player has had his turn, the dealer will turn over his hole card. If the dealer has 16 or less, then he will draw another card. A special situation is when the dealer has an ace and any number of cards totaling six points (known as a 'soft 17'). At some tables, the dealer will also hit a soft 17.
  10. If the dealer goes over 21 points, then any player who didn't already bust will win.
  11. If the dealer does not bust, then the higher point total between the player and dealer will win.
  12. Winning wagers pay even money, except a winning player blackjack usually pays 3 to 2. Some casinos have been short-paying blackjacks, which is a rule strongly in the casino's favor.

Wizard's Simple Strategy

I've been preaching for years that to play blackjack properly requires memorizing the basic strategy. However, after pitching the basic strategy for 20 years, I've learned that few people have the will to memorize it. In my book, Gambling 102, I presented a 'Simple Strategy,' which is seven simple rules to playing blackjack. The cost due to incorrect plays with the Simple Strategy is 0.53%, under liberal Vegas Strip rules.

Ever since my book was published it has bothered me that the cost in errors to my Simple Strategy was too high. So in September 2009 I developed the following 'Wizard's Strategy.' The cost due to imperfect plays is 0.14% only, relative to liberal Vegas Strip rules. That is the cost of one hand for about every 12 hours of play. Compared to the 250 cells in the Basic Strategy, the Wizard's Strategy has only 21, as follows.

Let me be perfectly clear that this strategy is not right 100% of the time. I continue to get Emails saying that when this strategy was used with my practice game, the player was corrected for following it. For example, my simple strategy says to stand on 12 against a 2, when it is mathematically better to hit. If you want to learn a strategy that is correct all the time you should use the appropriate basic strategy for the set of rules you are playing.

Here are some comments of clarification.

  • A 'hard' hand is one that either has no aces, or has aces that are forced to count as point, lest the hand bust. A 'soft' hand is one with at least one ace, which may still count as one or eleven points.
  • With a hard 10 or 11, double if you have more points than the dealer, treating a dealer ace as 11 points. Specifically, double with 10 against a 2 to 9, and with 11 against 2 to 10.
  • If the strategy says to double, but you have three or more cards, or table rules don't allow soft doubling, then hit, except stand with a soft 18.
  • If the strategy says to surrender (16 vs. 10), but you can't for whatever reason, then hit.
  • If the strategy says to 'not split,' then treat the hand has a hard total of 8, 10, or 20, according to the pair in question.

A reader named Jeff provided another table of my simple strategy, with exceptions in small print. Details about the Wizard's Simple Strategy can be found in my Blackjack appendix 21.

Basic Strategy

For the appropriate basic strategy for just about any set of rules, please visit my basic strategy calculator. I still have my traditional charts too:

House Edge


Play my custom-made blackjack game. A special feature is that it tells you when you make a mistake in basic strategy. Choose from various numbers of decks and rule variations.

See my Blackjack House Edge Calculator to determine the house edge under 6,912 possible rule combinations.

Rule Surveys

Las Vegas: I'm proud to feature up date blackjack rules for every casino in Las Vegas. The list is updated monthly, based on Stanford Wong's Current Blackjack Newsletter. Effective November 2009 the survey has been moved to my companion site, WizardOfVegas.com.

Rule Variations

Following is a list of some common rule variations and the effect on the player's expected return compared to standard U.S. rules (8 decks, dealer stands on soft 17, double after split allowed).

Rule Variations

RuleEffect
Single deck0.48%
Early surrender against ten0.24%
Player may double on any number of cards0.23%
Double deck0.19%
Player may draw to split aces0.19%
Six-card Charlie0.16%
Player may resplit aces0.08%
Late surrender0.08%
Four decks0.06%
Five decks0.03%
Six decks0.02%
Split to only 3 hands-0.01%
Player may double on 9-11 only-0.09%
Split to only 2 hands-0.10%
European no hole card-0.11%
Player may not double after splitting-0.14%
Player may double on 10,11 only-0.18%
Dealer hits on soft 17-0.22%
Blackjack pays 7-5-0.45%
Blackjack pays 6-5-1.39%
Blackjacks pay 1 to 1-2.27%
I also have a longer list of rule variations.

Beware Short Pays on a Blackjack

More and more tables are showing up that pay less than the full 3 to 2 on a blackjack. Most of these tables pay 6 to 5, but some even money and 7 to 5 tables are known to exist. I would estimate that 10% of '21' tables in Las Vegas now pay less than 3 to 2. In my opinion, only games that pay 3 to 2 deserve to be called 'blackjack,' the rest fall under '21' games, including Super Fun 21 and Spanish 21. Regardless of the other rules, you should demand nothing less than 3 to 2 blackjack. You should always check the felt to be sure, and if the felt doesn't say, look for a sign. If nothing says the win on a blackjack, then ask.

Articles about 6-5 Blackjack:
  • Taking a hit: New blackjack odds further tilt advantage toward the house, Las Vegas Sun, Nov. 13, 2003.
  • Tighter blackjack rules would hurt players' bankroll, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Feb. 4, 2011.

Bad Strategies

Three popular bad strategies encountered at the blackjack table are: never bust, mimic the dealer, and always assume the dealer has a ten in the hole. All three are very bad strategies. Following are my specific comments on each of them, including the house edge under Atlantic City rules (dealer stands on soft 17, split up to 4 hands, double after split, double any two cards) of 0.43%.

Never bust: For my analysis of this strategy I assumed the player would never hit a hard 12 or more. All other decisions were according to correct basic strategy. This 'never bust' strategy results in a house edge of 3.91%.

Casino Blackjack Tournament Rules Regulations

Mimic the dealer: For my analysis of this strategy I assumed the player would always hit 16 or less and stand on17 or more, including a soft 17. The player never doubled or split, since the dealer is not allowed to do so. This 'mimic the dealer' strategy results in a house edge of 5.48%.

Casino Blackjack Tournament Rules

Assume a ten in the hole: For this strategy I first figured out the optimal basic strategy under this assumption. If the dealer had an ace up, then I reverted to proper basic strategy, because the dealer would have peeked for blackjack, making a 10 impossible. This 'assume a ten' strategy results in a house edge of 10.03%.

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Written by: Michael Shackleford