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Elimination Blackjack Tournaments
How to Win Elimination Blackjack Tournaments
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How to Play Elimination Blackjack Tournaments

Elimination blackjack is a new and exciting format for blackjack tournaments.

The elimination format was created by poker pro Russ Hamilton, who also developed and launched the Ultimate BlackjackHenry TamburinHenry Tamburin is the editor and publisher of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter and author of the best-selling Blackjack: Take the Money & Run.  He is also the lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, a feature writer for Casino Player magazine (and 6 other publications); an owner of a casino gambling publishing company ( and the host of For a free three month subscription to the Henry's Blackjack Insider Newsletter with full membership privileges go to  Henry's website is  Tour (UBT). The first season of the UBT was televised nationally on CBS to strong ratings and the second season airing is planned for the fall of 2007. 

Why a new format for blackjack tournaments? Even though traditional blackjack tournaments have been popular for quite some time, the few that were televised was simply too boring for viewers. The reason is that the best strategy in traditional blackjack tournaments is to bet conservatively for the majority of the hands in a round and then make your move over the course of the final five hands. This is a good playing strategy but boring for viewers. Russ Hamilton decided to do something about this.

Hamilton is one of the world’s best poker players. He won the World Series of Poker in 1994. and also played in many televised poker tournaments. Televised poker tournaments are a hot commodity with viewers because players can bluff, they can see the player’s hidden cards, players can go all-in and get eliminated if they lose, and many players have become celebrities and house-hold names with the general public. Hamilton wanted to inject these same elements into blackjack tournaments to make them more exciting for viewers. He succeeded with his trademarked elimination blackjack format, which was launched with the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.

In elimination tournaments, players are staked with a $25,000 playing bankroll. Each table has 6-7 players and the minimum bet is $1,000 and the maximum bet is $25,000. A maximum of 30 hands are played and the top one or two players with the most chips at the end of the round advance to the next round to play other table winners. The big change is the elimination hands, which are hands number 8, 16, and 25. The player with the lowest chip count on each of these designated elimination hands is eliminated from the game. It doesn’t matter how many chips you’ve won; if you are low man, you are out.

To add the element of bluffing, each player is given one secret-bet and action card that can be used at any time during the round. When a player wants to conceal how much he wants to bet on his hand, the player can write the amount of his bet on a card which is placed in the betting spot and not revealed to other players until after all the players and the dealer complete their hands. Players are only given one opportunity to make a secret bet in a round so they have to pick the best time to use it (late in the round is best). If a player decides to make a secret bet, he can also conceal whether he intends to surrender, stand or the amount of his double down wager. These twists allow players to often bluff their opponents into thinking they are going to bet big when they bet small, or vice versa.

The third major change that was made to the televised UBT matches is to reveal the dealer’s hole card to viewers. Viewers know what the dealer has, but players do not.

One other twist introduced to elimination blackjack tournaments is all the double down cards are dealt faced down and not revealed until after all the players have completed playing their hands. If a player who acts before you decides to double down on a 12 you don’t know whether or not he busted because the double down card is not revealed. This makes for some very interesting play.

The rest of the playing rules are standard: 6-decks of cards are used, dealer must hit soft 17, players can double on any two cards, doubling-down is allowed after pair splitting, and you can split pairs up to three times (except aces – you can’t resplit them). Also the rules allow players to surrender their hands, which is another element which makes for some exciting play. And like traditional tournaments, the betting order rotates from one hand to the next.

Continued in Part 2.
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