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How Do You Play Elimination Blackjack Tournaments?

If you like blackjack, and you like poker, you're ready to win at Elimination Blackjack, because Elimination Blackjack combines the traditional elements of blackjack and the strategies and competition of poker, with a couple of exciting twists.

First there are the Elimination Hands.
Whether you're a novice or a tournament pro,
the elimination format is simple.
It's a 30-hand tournament, during which the player with the lowest chip stack on hands 8, 16, and 25 is eliminated.
In this type of blackjack, betting strategy is critical.
Second, there's the Secret Bet, which gives players the option vital to the game of poker—the option to bluff.

Basic Strategy

Elimination Blackjack™ tournament strategy differs from standard blackjack in that your primary objective is to beat the other players.

Even if you lose to the dealer you can still win a blackjack tournament by losing less than your opponents.

Elimination Blackjack tournament strategy can be very complicated, but understanding a few basic concepts will take you a long way.

  1. Bet your money
    The most important thing to remember is that it's generally better to be aggressive than timid. That is, betting more is usually better than betting less—especially for beginners and when playing Elimination Blackjack.

    The all-in move in particular can serve beginners well, as an all-in win often provides a lead that forces the other players to win big bets to catch up. As the pros like to say, "When in doubt, put it out."

  2. Be aware of position
    Acting after an opponent is advantageous, so monitor the players nearest to your right (whom you will bet after most often).

    In Elimination Blackjack, where only the low chip count will be eliminated on Elimination Hands, you can gain a big edge simply by staying ahead of one of the players to the right (you can match his bet if you are ahead).

  3. Calculate the button
    This is another positional consideration.

    At the start of a tournament, after an opponent busts out, or after an Elimination Hand, you should count the hands till the next Elimination or final hand to determine your betting position.

    If you will be betting early on the next important hand, you should be more aggressive leading up to it. If you will be one of the later bettors, you can play a little more cautiously.

  4. Count chips
    One of the most important aspects of tournament play is being able to count chips.

    Count the chips as often as you can to help formulate your bets in live tournaments, and pay attention to the provided counts when playing online.

  5. Be willing to make unconventional plays
    You must be prepared to make plays you wouldn't make playing regular blackjack, especially on Elimination Hands or the last hand of a tournament. This might involve splitting tens or doubling on a hard 19.

    If you need more chips to advance, then make the play. Remember, you're not playing blackjack, you're playing tournament blackjack.

Advanced Strategy

Playing Elimination Blackjack™ is like playing four tournaments in one, with the minis concluding on hands 8, 16, and 25 and the final on hand 30.

This format calls for some important variations in strategy.

Let’s look at some important concepts for playing to win in Elimination Blackjack.

  1. The mighty all-in
    A properly timed all-in bet gives you the maximum leverage with your chips.

    Here’s one way to pinpoint the right time for an all-in move. When considering a big bet, think about where you’ll be if you lose. If you’ll still be in the thick of things, then fine. But if losing that bet will leave you out or close to it, then you might as well go for it all the way.

    You should always be looking for opportunities to go all-in throughout an Elimination Blackjack match. In fact, any time you’re thinking about making a bet so big that losing it will leave you crippled, you should make an all-in bet instead.

  2. Think ahead
    Playing this format, there’s no time to relax.
    You have to always think ahead about when you might use your Secret Bet and what position you’ll be in on a particular hand.

    To make sure you’re not one of the players going out on the Elimination Hands, be prepared to keep your head in the game at all times.

  3. Playing heads-up
    Heads-up is very straightforward—if you don’t have the lead, make a bet to take it.

    Just like traditional tournaments, it’s important to be in first going into the last hand.

    In almost all cases, the leader shouldn’t bet more than the lead. If he does, it opens the door for the trailer to take the low side by making a small bet that gives him the lead if the leader loses.

    In a blackjack game, the dealer wins more hands than the player, so you want to make a trailing opponent win a hand to take the lead, rather than get it because you’ve lost.

Playing Online vs. Live

The biggest difference between playing online and playing in a live tournament is speed.

The online game moves faster, because there are no live distractions (dealers, shuffles, other players talking) and hands are dealt and played on a precise timetable according to the clock.

Pay attention to the clock so you know when it's your turn to act. You can use the speed buttons to bet early if you know what your bet will be.

It's OK to punch in your bet before the action gets to you; the software won't display your wager out of turn.

Double Down Strategy

Players may double down on any original two cards or on the first two cards after splitting a pair (except when splitting a pair of aces).

Doubling is allowed up to the full amount of the wager and players are allowed to double for less.

In a tournament, a double down is often used to get more money into play, especially during an Elimination Hand or the final hand of a tournament.

Split Strategy

Players may split two original cards of the same value, including tens of any type (e.g., a king and a queen).

Split pairs may be resplit up to three times (to make a total of four hands), except for aces, which may not be split again.

Similar to doubling, splitting pairs is a good way for tournament players to get more money into play.

For example, you have bet $500 on an Elimination Hand and are dealt two face cards (10-value) for a total of 20, but discover you need to win $900 to advance.

While you would not split your kings in a regular blackjack game, you might split them in a tournament to increase your bet.

You now have two hands with maximum bets, which may be the only way to win enough (by winning both hands) to advance on an Elimination Hand.

Each hand is played separately. You are dealt a queen on the first hand and stand with a total hand value of 20.

Now you play your second hand. A 9 is dealt and you stand again with a total hand value of 19. You are in a good position to win both hands and advance past the Elimination Hand.

The Secret Bet Strategy

Every player can make one Secret Bet per round. This bet can be used at any time.

The strategic advantage to this twist is that no other player can see the amount you bet until the end of the hand.

Because other players formulate bets based on what they see at the table, the Secret Bet can be used tactically during a crucial Elimination Hand and can be a powerful move when you must bet early, because you leave opponents no option but to guess at what you have done.

The Secret Bet gives players an option that is familiar to poker tournaments—the option to bluff!

Remember, once you've placed the Secret Bet, you can disguise every other decision made for the rest of that particular hand, except hitting and splitting. Any other bet or playing choice—double down, surrender, stand, or insurance wager—can be done secretly in order to make the other players unsure of your strategy.

Surrender Strategy

Players may elect to forfeit half of their original bet after seeing their original two cards, provided the dealer does not have a natural (blackjack). This is called "late surrender."

While many tournaments do not offer surrender, Elimination Blackjack™ tournaments at UBT do, which can open up a grab bag of options for savvy players.

For example, if you've made a bet that you must win to advance on an Elimination Hand and the dealer has a high card up, you may be able to surrender to a position where you will still advance if the dealer beats one other opponent at the table.

Elimination Hand Strategy

In Elimination Blackjack™, the player with the lowest chip total is eliminated after hands 8, 16, and 25.

To avoid elimination, you must pay attention to your chip count at all times and stay ahead of at least one other player.

No matter how many players a round begins with, at least one player must be eliminated on each Elimination Hand.

Even if a player has been eliminated on a hand prior to an Elimination Hand, one player must still be eliminated on hands 8, 16, and 25.

The Elimination style whittles the competition down, often making the game end in a heads-up confrontation, similar to poker tournaments.

Here is the UBT television schedule for the rest of the 2007:
PREMIERE of UBT Sat 09/15  UBT on CBS  
  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 09/22  Episode 2  
  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 09/29  Episode 3  
  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 10/06  Episode 4  
  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 10/13  Episode 5  
  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 10/27  Episode 6   

  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 11/03  Episode 7  
  UBT on CBS: Season 2! Sat 11/10  Episode 8   

  UBT CIRCUIT EVENT Tue 11/27  11/27-29, Barona 
  EBJ TOURNEY OF CHAMPIONS Fri 11/30  11/30-12/02, Barona
The shows start at noon or 1:00 Eastern Time

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