Tournament Blackjack: It’s Not an All-In Card Game

Proper handling of the final hand in a blackjack tournament.

Proper Handling of the Final Hand in a Blackjack TournamentI was recently traveling for a little tournament blackjack foray at one of the larger casinos in my area. It was a promotional event in which the casino sent out a bunch of fliers to its regulars. If you responded in time and per-registered, your evening would begin with a free meal. Yes, please!

When I arrived at the buffet, I found myself joining about 30 or so other blackjack fans who had all taken advantage of the same deal. As it turns out, a few of them actually read my little blog here, and the next thing I knew, we were having a big group discussion, sharing our blackjack tournament stories.

I expected some whoppers, and heard plenty of them, but I had no idea so many players could have the same, or at least similar, experiences to share. One, in particular, had me scratching my head. Which led me to write this today…

Playing the Final Hand in a Blackjack Tournament

The one thing most of these players all had in common was their end-game strategy—if they make it that far into a tournament, that is. When time was just about to run out, when the final hand was surely underway, most of these players would all do the same thing. They would bet every last chip they own on the final hand.

I could see the flaw in this design immediately, but clearly, they did not. I began asking them, individually, why they would risk everything at the final moment. A few said they did it because they felt it was the only way to have enough chips to win. Most, however, said they did it because they saw everyone else doing it.

Does the old adage, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge…” come to mind, or is it just me?

First, I’ll explain the proper way to handle this situation. Then, I’ll give you the most obvious, and not so obvious, reasons why.

Always Keep a Drop in the Tank in Tournament Blackjack

If everyone else is shoving their chip stacks into their final bet, and those stacks happen to be comparable enough to your own, do not—I repeat, do not—bet every chip you have. Reserve one chip by your side. Even if it’s the lowest denomination chip available, make sure to keep one.

The most obvious reason to do this is because if you lose the hand, and have no chips left at all, you’re instantly out of the tournament. Sorry, no chips, you lose! If there’s enough paying positions to go around, then at best, you tie with everyone else who lost everything on that hand. Had you kept just one chip, though, then you would finish ahead of everyone else who bet all their chips on a losing final hand.

The less obvious is the chance of the dealer receiving a blackjack. I was astonished to find that two of the players at this buffet dinner had this exact same experience (not in the same blackjack tournament, I might add). They, and their final opponents, all shoved every chip into the betting circle, only to watch in horror as the dealer turned over blackjack.

Once again, keeping just a single chip in reserve would have resulted in an instant winner. With nothing more than a $1 or $5 chip to your name, you could scoop the 1st place prize. And what a story it would make at the next free pre-game buffet!

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