July 2008
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Day 10: Standing on nine

I rule at blackjack.

Well, nearly. I finished 5th out of more than 400 players in the freeroll Summerfest blackjack tournament at the Rio, for a total of $550.

As part of the package that included the comped Flamingo room, I had two free entries into this tournament. If you were so inclined, you could also buy into it for $40 a time.

On Monday, I didn’t last long. I’d decided to go for the death or glory approach and found myself walking away from the table after exactly two hands.

You start with $1000 in tournament chips and I was playing the maximum bet of $500 each hand. It could only have been over any quicker if I’d had to double down or split on the first hand.

I’d decided this would be my plan even before I got to the table. I know a little about blackjack tournament strategy but not enough to be able to come up with good decisions quickly under pressure.

I figured that by trying to get ahead early on, decisions at the end of the tournament would be much easier. I wanted to put the pressure to catch up firmly on the other players.

The tournament lasts just 20 hands, with the winner from each table moving on to the final and picking up $50.

On Tuesday, I won three of my first four hands with a maximum bet out, and nobody else at my table had even started to edge ahead of a starting stack, with their $25 and $50 bets.

So with $2000 in front of me, all I had to do was drop my bet to the $25 minimum and let them try to catch up.

Three players went bust trying, one carried on betting small and didn’t realise she couldn’t catch me until it was too late and the only player who came close to having a shot at keeping up lost the key 19th hand to hand me the win.

On the last hand, I stood on nine just for the hell of it.

So back I came at 5pm, which couldn’t have been worse timing as Vij was landing at the airport at 4.55pm. Claire had to go pick him up by herself, leaving me in charge of all the winning.

The final is a different format, with 84 players making it this far and the top ten overall scores (across all 14 tables) getting paid.

I decided to stick with the same strategy, and thought that about $3000 should be a high enough score to get paid.

I won my first two hands with maximum bets, and then pulled a blackjack on hand 3. That’s $2750 without really even trying.

Then, with a display of awesome timing, I dropped my bet to the minimum to ride out a streak in which the dealer hit two blackjacks and I would have lost or pushed every other hand except two. By hand 19, there was only me left at the table!

I looked around and on the tables I could see nobody really had any chips, but there was no way of knowing for sure how much you’d need without having someone else there to scope out all the tables and report back.

They’d announced "no coaching", presumably for this reason, but it was definitely going on at other tables.

So I asked the dealer if he knew what kind of scores had made the money yesterday. He said this was his first day on the tournament, but that I probably needed to go for it.

Always trust your dealer. I decided to take one more max bet.

My seventeen looked poor, but it was better than a busted twenty-five and I was happy to throw away $25 on the last hand (another loser, masterfully avoided by me) to finish with $3100.

I took 5th place by just $50 in tournament chips, but it was worth an extra $100 in real money compared to 6th.

The winner had $3750 and walked away with two grand, but given that I’d won just about as much as I was ever possibly going to with the dealer on a massive hot streak for much of the tournament, I felt pretty good about it.

2 comments to Day 10: Standing on nine

  • James

    nice performance, blackjack tournament play sounds bizzarre though

  • I appear to have managed to bag a copy of my Harrah’s win/loss statement early.  On their web site, it says that statements for 2008 will not be available until 1st Feb.  Right now, that does seems to be the case, however last week it disregarded its own

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