A Simple Guide To Elimination Blackjack


Thanks to the growing popularity of tournament card games like Texas Hold’em and the World Series of Poker, other tournament games have also ridden the same wave to the top of gamblers’ play lists. Elimination Blackjack was one such game. Today this Blackjack variant remains as popular as ever with both land based and online casinos offering regular competitions.

Introduction: A Simple Guide To Elimination Blackjack

We can thank the 1994 World Series of Poker winner, Russ Hamilton for this version of Blackjack. He created the game with the idea of the ultimate Blackjack tournament in US casinos similar to the WSOP. Hamilton was already playing in a professional Blackjack team in Las Vegas. Using his knowledge, he tweaked the rules in such a manner that it forced players to be far more aggressive. This would turn a pretty mediocre game into prime-time TV fodder. The format for Elimination Blackjack was an instant hit and also resulted in the 2006 CBS Sports Television show, “The Ultimate Blackjack Tour.” Unfortunately for Hamilton, far from being able to bask in the success of his efforts, he fell from the public eye after being involved in a betting scandal revolving around his creation. Nevertheless, Elimination Blackjack was here to stay. 

For the vast majority of casinos, whether land based or online, Elimination Blackjack is now the preferred tournament blackjack format. It allows for the players to have fun, whilst at the same time play for set stakes, as well as in the hope of winning a large amount of cash.

Elimination Blackjack Basics

Virtually all the rules of this variation of Blackjack are the same as those of regular Blackjack, though the game play has been adjusted slightly for a better tournament game play. As always, the dealer represents the house and will deal to a maximum number of seven players. The main differences are really twofold. One is the minimum and maximum limits of the game. And the other is that the players are in competition with each other for the main prize. This can be substantial as the minimum buy in for such games is normally a minimum of $10,000 in chips. To that end most of the tournaments are really designed with having high-rollers play. If you want to see how they play, you can also find high roller online blackjack tournaments.

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Elimination Blackjack                                                                                                           Image: poker-black-jack-kasino-schwarz | © TheAndrasBarta  | Licence: Pixabay

The Game Play

You’ll find that the buy-in is very similar to that found in a poker tournament. Up to a maximum of seven players will receive an equal amount of chips. As previously mentioned, the buy-in is normally set at a minimum of $10,000, but can go higher than $100,000, depending on the size of the tournament. There are tournaments where there’s no upper betting limit. Players are in competition to increase the size of their stack of chips, with the winner being the player with the most chips after 30 hands have been played. 

Because all the participating players are betting against the dealer/house, then you’ll find that the individual outcomes are all pretty similar. The chance element of the game is in the cards you’re dealt. The skilled part of the game comes from your own betting strategy, which is based on the number of chips each opponent has, as well as how much they’re betting. We suggest that you download an online blackjack strategy chart to help with your decision making process. Another point when playing, is that it’s important to think short-term as opposed to setting long-term goals. You must cut your losses instantly or there’s  the risk of you losing everything, especially if you’re dealt a bad shoe. Finally, it’s important that you know your blackjack hand signals and are clear about they’re use.

Elimination Blackjack: The Hands

It’s the tournament director decides where the players sit once the buy in is completed. This seating process is normally randomised in some way before the tournament begins in earnest. The dealer will deal out the cards in exactly the same manner as you’d find in a normal game of Blackjack. A button will show where the action starts, as the player who acts first is not necessarily in seat number one.

The actual game play options for both dealer and layer are the same as you’d find in a regular game of single deck Blackjack. The player can hit, stand, split or double-down. As for the dealer, he must hit on a 16 and stand on a 17. Depending on the blackjack tournament rules, it may well be possible for the dealer to hit on a soft 17. One other point we should mention, and that’s the fact that card counting will be of no help in this game variation.

The Elimination

The “elimination” part of the game can occur in several different ways. A player may well run out of chips. Maybe they are unable to cover the minimum bet. Or simply, they are the player with the smallest number of remaining chips. In most tournament formats the elimination can only occur in the rounds numbered 8, 16 or 25. More often than not, players who are trailing at this point, have no option but to go all-in, in the same way players who are “short staked” have to when playing Texas Hold’em. At the end of these rounds, the dealer will tally up the total number of chips held by each player. The player with the lowest number is asked to leave immediately. The purpose of these elimination rounds is to ensure that only four players remain to take part in the final. 

Depending on the circumstances of your opponents, then you’ll have to decide on just how much risk you’re willing to take. This will become increasingly important as you approach each elimination round. One of the best blackjack tips and tricks to ensure that you don’t go bust, especially when you notice that you have double the number of chips in comparison to your opponents, then wager low amounts. If on the other hand, you see that others are betting small, then increase the size of your bets. To learn the fundamentals, like basic blackjack strategy, we suggest that you practice online, at any of the thousands of casinos offering Elimination Blackjack as free play.

As for the winner, there are two scenarios for taking home the pot. One is simply that they are the last remaining player at the table after the 30 hands. And the other occurs when there is more than just the one remaining player, in which case, the player with the largest stack of chips is declared the winner. 

The Secret Bet

Depending on the hosts, there’s a type of bet, called the secret bet, which may be allowed. In many ways, this is an option that brings the game more in line with Poker, in that the secret bet can be viewed as a form of bluffing. You’re more likely to see secret bets if the competition is televised, as it adds an extra element of interest and suspense to the game. This bet is only available once and can only be used within just one round. 

It’s called a secret because the wager is not revealed to the other players. Only at the end, after the player’s hand is concluded, is the bet revealed. You’ll usually see it in play if two players have a close chip count. One will use a secret bet to force a larger or smaller bet from their opponent. 

If you’re playing Elimination Blackjack at your local casino, don’t expect them to allow this bet. It’s primarily the reserve of professional tournaments and high-profile games. 

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Blackjack Table                                                                                                                                     Image: casino-chips-pokerface-glücksspiel | © ahundt | Licence: Pixabay

The Standard Rules of Elimination Blackjack

Here we have made a list of the standard rules you’ll encounter when playing Elimination Blackjack in most casinos, whether online or off. But please be aware that these rules are flexible depending on the casino or the tournament rules. Look at these rules below as a guide for what to expect:

  • A score of 16 and below means that the dealer/house must hit. They must stand on anything above 17. In some games the house must hit on a soft 17. 
  • With the exception of aces, a player can split pairs up to four times. Aces can only be split once and then receive only one additional card. In some tournaments, splitting any ten-value cards is only allowed for cards of the same type. For example, King:King, 10:10 etc. One important thing to keep in mind with regard to splitting, is that, if the player splits two aces, and then receives a two card Blackjack, it will not count as a Blackjack.
  • Six to eight decks are used in each shoe. On the whole, most games utilise six decks.
  • Any wager must be between the minimum and maximum bets allowed. If a plate can’t make the minimum bet, then it’s curtains and they’re eliminated. The maximum bet is normally a multiple of the starting chip stack.
  • If a player surrenders their hand, then they can reclaim half of their original bet.
  • If the up-card of the dealer/house is an ace, then the player can buy insurance.
  • On any first two cards, a player can double-down, and can also do so after a split.In fact you can double down even after a split, but you cannot with aces. Depending on the rules set by the host, some players can only double down when they have two cards. 
  • Only seven players are allowed to sit at a tournament table.
  • There are playing time limits. A player has twenty five seconds to make a decision when playing with a normal hand. If it’s an elimination round, then the time allowed goes up to forty five seconds.

Payouts For Elimination Blackjack

If you get a Blackjack, then the payout will be at 3 to 2, except when the dealer also has a Blackjack. If that happens, then there’s a push. As usual, insurance pays out at 2 to 1 if it turns out the dealer has a Blackjack. All other wins are paid out at even money. As we previously mentioned, the winner is the player with the largest stack of chips at the end of the 30th and final hand. If you decide to give Elimination Blackjack a try, then remember to keep your bets low if you see that you have twice the number of chips of your opponents. Conversely, increase them when your competition is only wagering small amounts.

Conclusion: Elimination Blackjack

When playing a regular game of Blackjack, then knowing and understanding perfect Blackjack strategies is essential. But if you’re playing in an Elimination Blackjack tournament, then that knowledge, whilst still important, will not be the main driving force for your decision making. Much will depend on how your opponents are betting. Though the deal of cards is a factor, on the whole the name of the game is to mix up your betting in order to outwit the competition. Understanding the betting dynamics, and exactly when and what to bet, will bring you big profits.

 Virtually all online casinos will offer some form of Elimination Blackjack. And many of the best online casinos to play blackjack will offer free play. This allows you to play the game but without spending any of your own cash. The casino provides a virtual currency for you to practice with. If you’replaying on your phone or tablet, then head over to the relevant store to download the mobile blackjack apps for Android or iOS. This is a great way to improve your game, understand the rules, and learn some basic game play strategy.