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Expert Mark Pilarski shares Advice on Winning Blackjack Tournaments

In his personal blog (MarkPilarski.com), syndicated gambling columnist and blackjack efficiency expert Mark Pilarski was recently asked if it’s ever a good time to split 10’s. He mentioned a particular scenario in which winning blackjack tournaments could rely on breaking that golden rule by splitting, winning both bets and doubling up to stay alive in the tournament. That led to a new question from a reader in which Pilarski replied by giving various tips to winning blackjack tournaments.

The reader’s question wasn’t really a question at all; more of an observation. ‘Bob W.’ said that Pilarski’s recent write-up on splitting 10’s reminded him of his “favorite casino story”, in which he watched a craps tournament wherein a mid-stacked participant bet it all on Box Cars. A pair of sixes were rolled, and the lucky bettor went on to win the tournament, which Bob W. said, “led me to conclude that what happens in the last round of any tournament a) is insane and b) has nothing to do with reality.

Pilarski responded by saying there aren’t many players who can successfully track their bankroll in relation to all others, especially in the “final frenzied moments of a tournament”. However, he disagreed with the reader’s assessment of the final round being “insane” or “having nothing to do with reality”.

After detailing the typical wagers of players in a craps tournament, wherein the leaders generally follow the betting patterns of those who are close behind, while the lagging players try to place opposite bets compared to the leaders, Pilarksi said blackjack tournaments are completely different. Blackjack does not present a multitude of opposing betting options like Craps, thus players cannot make a wild wager on a high-paying prop bet and cross their fingers.

“When it comes to a blackjack tournament, the most important thing to remember is that all players are competing against the same dealer,” wrote Pilarski. “The implication of this is that players tend to have similar outcomes on any given hand. If the dealer busts, the results on the table tend to be the same: a win. If the dealer has a blackjack, everyone loses.”

Pilarksi’s Advice on Winning Blackjack Tournaments

First and foremost, Pilarski points out that the winners of blackjack tournaments are most often those who “play each hand correctly”. Using (or better yet, memorizing) a strategy chart that coincides with the exact rules of the variation being played will ensure proper decision making on every hand. Of course, Pilarski also noted that “winners usually have better cards than their competitors.” So it’s a combination of perfect blackjack strategy and the favor of Lady Luck that most often determines the winner.

“However,” the blackjack expert continued, “in those final moments, you can gain ground by both betting and playing your hand differently than the others at the table.” Near the end of an elimination round or the final round of blackjack tournaments, anyone who is falling behind must make a move, or face an inexorable loss.

At such a juncture, the player’s strategy must be taken up a notch. They can bet the maximum amount, and if their cards allow, may need to split and/or double down to ensure maximum win potential. Then again, if a player is last to act and all others have busted, a more cautious approach may be required.

#1 Tip for Winning Blackjack Tournaments

Mark Pilarski said the best advice he could give for winning blackjack tournaments is to get as much experience as possible without any monetary risk. He recommended playing “as many free online tournaments as possible.” He was quick to point out that he is “not encouraging online gambling”, but rather “playing with no skin in the game”, and the only way to play free blackjack tournament is online.

“Playing countless hands, especially at high speeds, helps you figure out how to keep from getting knocked out, especially when you get to elimination hands, betting strategies, hand play, understanding position and chip counting,” he concluded.

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