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Blackjack tournaments are becoming very popular at many casinos (including Internet casinos). The reason they are popular is that it is possible for an average player to win a sizable sum of money for a relatively modest entry fee. Some tournaments are one day affairs (called minitournaments) while the bigger tournaments usually last 2-3 days. Several have been televised (Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament and the World Series of Blackjack) and another major tournament is scheduled to appear on TV in 2006 (Ultimate Blackjack Tour). Having played in all these tournaments, I have an appreciation for the skill involved in beating your opponents. Here is a primer to help you get the edge over your opponents.

1. The objective of blackjack mini-tournaments is simple. You want to end up with a larger bankroll than your fellow table players after a specified number of hands are dealt. Your primary adversary is not the casino it's the other tournament players. Whether you win or lose your bets against the casino is not important. What matters is whether you win more (or lose less) than your opponents.
2. Only play in tournaments where all the entry fees are returned as prizes.
3. If you fall behind a leader it's best to make one or two large bets to try to catch up rather than a series of medium size bets. Wait for the dealer button to pass you before you make your large bet.
4. Another way to catch up to a leader is to bet opposite. If he bets bet big, you bet small or vice versa.
5. If you happen to be the leader it's best to match the amount wagered by your nearest competitors making it more difficult for them to catch you.
6. You should practice "chip counting" so you can estimate your opponent's bankroll going into those last few crucial hands. Purchase some inexpensive clay casino chips of different denomination, stack them at home, and estimate the amount of money in each stack. Players who learn how to count chips accurately have a big edge in blackjack tournaments.
7. You should try to get the lead prior to the last hand. If that means you have to bet big a few hands prior to the last hand then do so even if it means busting out.
8. Pay attention to the maximum betting limit. You don't want to be more than one max bet behind the leaders going into the last couple of crucial hands. Otherwise, you won't be able to bet enough to catch them (unless you have enough chips to double down or pair split).
9. Your betting position is also very important. A contender who bets last on the last hand has a big edge over one who has to bet first. You must also be ready to pair split or double down on the last hand if necessary to win more money.
10. If you don't have enough chips to catch the leader than hold back one more chip then the leader, bet the rest, and then hope that the dealer beats the table.
11. If several opponents in a qualifying round bet it all on the last hand (or you believe they will if they bet after you) and you plan to do the same, hold back one chip. If the dealer beats the table you might possibly end up in second place and advance because you held back one chip while they busted.
12. If you need to make a large bet on the last hand (but not your entire bankroll) consider betting half your bankroll.

By Henry Tamburin.
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