The concept of tournament blackjack has been around for a long while, and tournaments have taken place in live casinos all over the world for many years.
Towards the end of the 20th century, they had fallen out of favor somewhat, possibly due to the fact that many casinos stopped offering them as they did not want to encourage the use of card counting skills.
However, blackjack tournaments have become increasingly popular in recent years. This could be at least partly attributable to the growth in popularity of poker tournaments.
Casino bosses have seen how many people they can attract, and offer blackjack tournaments hoping for the same effect. Online casinos have also had an impact. Many of them offer blackjack tournaments on a regular basis, making them far more accessible to players.
On this page we explain what blackjack tournaments are all about, and also look at the different types.
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.
The objective in a tournament is to win more chips from the dealer than all the other players do.
When entering a blackjack tournament, players must pay an entry fee. This fee goes into the prize pool, usually with the casino taking a small cut. Entrants then receive a number of chips, known as the starting stack, which have no real monetary value but are otherwise used in the same way as chips normally are when playing blackjack.
A tournament can take place over one single round, or several rounds. Each round is played over either a fixed number of hands or a fixed period of time. Participants play blackjack as normal during a round, winning or losing chips against the dealer on the outcome of each hand.
The order of play changes during each hand, so that it’s not the same player acting first every time. This makes things fair, as players do need to make decisions based on how their opponents are doing.
What happens at the end of each round depends on the exact rules of the tournament. If just a single round is to be played, then the chips are counted up and player positions are determined based on how many chips they have at this point.
The prize pool is then distributed according to the payout structure. In some tournaments, the winner will take the entire prize pool, while in others it will be split among those in the top few positions.
If multiple rounds are to be played, usually some players are eliminated when each round ends. These eliminations are based on the number of chips held, and the remaining players all progress into the next round. The cycle then continues until a winner is determined.
These basics largely apply to all blackjack tournaments, whether they are played live or online.
There are, however, a few different types of blackjack tournaments where certain rules vary.
Types of Blackjack Tournaments
Blackjack tournaments can be categorized in a number of different ways, with most tournaments falling into one or more category. Below is a list of the most common types of tournaments, along with explanations of each.
Sit and Go
Elimination & Non-Elimination Tournaments
With an elimination format, a number of players are eliminated after each round. It might be a case of a single player with the least chips, or everyone except the two players with the most chips. The exact rules of elimination can vary, but this is the basic idea.
With a non-elimination format, there is usually just one single round. The player with the most chips at the end of the round is the winner, with other positions determined by the number of chips players have at this point.
Players can still be eliminated during the round if they lose all of their chips however.
Single Table & Multi Table Tournaments
The difference between these two formats is both simple and, given their names, fairly obvious. Single table tournaments are played on just a single table, while multi-table tournaments are played over multiple tables.
Multi-table tournaments are often played with elimination rules, and the number of tables used then decreases as players are eliminated. The tournament ends up being played on a single table with the last few players.
Sit and Go & Scheduled Tournaments
These differ purely in the way they start. A sit and go has no fixed start time, and will begin as soon as enough players have entered.
A scheduled tournament will start at a fixed time, with registration opening some time in advance.
Freerolls don’t cost any money to enter, but they still offer some prize money. They are typically held by casinos either as a reward for regular players, or as a way to attract new players.
The amount of prize money on offer is usually fairly low.
These have a minimum prize pool regardless of the number of entrants. The prize pool will be paid out even if the entry fees paid by players do not cover it.
When a casino puts a guarantee in place, it is usually to make a tournament particularly attractive to players, which means that very often the guarantee will end up being covered by the entry fees in any case.
In a rebuy, players can purchase more chips if they lose their starting stack. This enables them to take more risks without the fear of being eliminated.
There is a charge for rebuying, however, which is usually similar to the original entry fee. Rebuy fees are generally added straight into the prize pool.
Satellites do not offer cash prizes to winners, but rather entry into other, higher value tournaments.