Elimination Blackjack – How to Play, Strategy & Odds of Winning
A Tournament Blackjack Format Used in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour
Blackjack has been played in tournament format for many years. What Elimination Blackjack did was to standardize the tournament rules – and make this format work online. As well as playing individual hands against the dealer, your objective is to outlast the other players. The winner of each game accumulates the most chips over 30 hands. This format was used on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. It was once offered online by a now-defunct poker site called Ultimate Bet. You can find Elimination Blackjack in live casinos too.
Below you will find an overview of how Elimination Blackjack works – followed by some of the key strategy considerations while you play. After that the pros and cons of this format (compared to regular blackjack variations) are summarized.
How Elimination Blackjack Works
In this game, you play for tournament chips, rather than cash. You buy-in for a specified amount, and receive 10,000 chips to bet with. Each table has 7 players – and the player with the most chips at the end of the game is the winner. Elimination Blackjack can be played as a single table tournament – or the winners of each table can go through to the next round in multi-table format.
Each game lasts for 30 hands – and along the way there are hands where players must be eliminated. On hand #8 and #16, one player will go (with the least chips). If any player runs out of chips, then they are also eliminated. If there is only one player remaining before 30 hands are completed, due to everyone else busting, that player wins.
Since all players bet against the same dealer hand, outcomes of individual hands are fairly similar. While there is a chance element (what you get dealt), betting strategy is a key factor in this game. There are minimum and maximum bets allowed on each hand, and in some variations, secret bets are allowed. With these, you will only know how much your opponent’s bet after the hand is completed.
Strategy for Elimination Blackjack
Knowing how many chips your opponents have, and how much they have bet on each hand, is very important in this game. In blackjack tournament play, there is a button which shows where the action starts (so that the player acting first is not always the player in seat 1).
How much risk you are willing to take on a hand will often be determined by whether an opponent is getting way ahead – or looks like they might bust. This is even more important in the run up to the elimination hands. If you can ensure you are safe (you have more than double the chips of a rival), then a small bet will keep you safe from busting early and ensure that your opponent busts instead. If you need to play catch-up to avoid being the smallest stack, then you can switch to going big with your bets after seeing more ‘comfortable’ opponents bet smaller amounts.
Once you understand the fundamentals of the game play, factors like your opponent’s experience level will also make a difference to your decision making.
Pros and Cons of Elimination Blackjack
This format makes for an entertaining change from regular games. The biggest advantage is that skill and strategy relative to your opponents can make you money. In a regular game knowing the basic strategy is a must. In Elimination Blackjack this is still needed, though outwitting your opponents by mixing up your bets adds a new level of engagement. In the short run the deal of cards is still a big factor. Getting that 15 at a vital time can ruin even a great player’s chances. Over time, understanding the betting dynamics and out-strategizing novice players is where the profits lie.
Drawbacks include the fact that there are not always games running. You will have to show up at a casino at a specific time to play these games. The variance for your bankroll can also be high. The prizes at the later stages of multi-round games can be high – though you will not reach the last positions too often.
Summing Up – How Does Elimination Blackjack Compare?
I recommend you play a blackjack tournament at least once. This is a real change from the basic casino game, and can be an entertaining experience as well as a challenging one. If you get lucky you can win a large amount compared to your buy-in.
Elimination Blackjack, and blackjack tournament play in general, will never replace the regular table games. These have a place and continue to be popular. I hope to see elimination blackjack back online in the near future.