Blackjack tournaments require different strategies than regular table blackjack. With the rise in popularity of shows like Celebrity Blackjack, the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, The World Series of Blackjack and King of Vegas, I'm predicting that blackjack tournaments are going to become more popular, and there will be a demand for the tournament strategies and tips offered on these pages.
The first difference between blackjack tournaments and regular blackjack play is that a tournament involved beating the other players. In a normal, casino-style game of blackjack, how the other players do compared to you has no relevance; in a blackjack tournament, it's the only thing that does have relevance. So the chip stacks of the other players has a major effect on your tournament strategy.
Another important difference between tournament blackjack and regular blackjack is the overlay, which simply means a positive expectation situation. Most blackjack tournament entry fees make up the prize money for the tournament, and any money that the casino adds to the prize pool becomes positive expectation for the players in the tournament.
To win in blackjack tournaments, you want to play aggressively and competitively. Some of the best advice about playing in any casino tournaments can be found in Stanford Wong's Casino Tournament Strategy. Some of his advice includes:
Succeed or go bust. You don't win anything if you don't make it to the next round of the tourney, so it's better to go broke trying to get there than to play conservatively with no hope of moving forward.
When you're behind, go for the big swing. When you're losing is the time to start going for a big change in direction. Bet big and catch up fast should be your goal if you're behind.
When you're ahead, go with the flow. It's okay to relax and play more conservatively when you're way ahead of everyone else. You don't want to bet big and lose and give someone else a chance to catch up with you. Let the other players take the risks.
In Kevin Blackwood's book Play Blackjack Like the Pro's, Blackwood explains that one of the strategies Ken Smith used to do so well in so many blackjack tournaments was to bet the opposite of what the other players bet. If the other players were betting big, he'd bet small. And if they were betting small, he'd bet big to try to get ahead. It's a straightforward technique that takes advantage of the fact that you're not going to win a blackjack tournament by getting better hands than your opponents.
Be sure to also read our article about finding free blackjack tournaments online.
Ken Smith runs a site devoted to Blackjack Tournaments that is well worth a visit. You can learn more about tournament blackjack strategy there than I have room for on this humble site.