The Luck Factor and Unskilled Opponents

Discussion in 'Blackjack Tournament Strategy' started by gronbog, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. gronbog

    gronbog Top Member

    Some of you may have gone on cruises and seen the blackjack tournaments that they usually hold once or twice during the week. The format is always pretty much the same. They run one or two tables for a few hours or for as long as folks keep coming at a reasonable rate. Each session is 7 hands and they keep a leader board of the top 7 scores. Sometimes the leader board is visible, sometimes it is not. However you can always ask about what the current scores are and they will tell you. When they finally decide to finish the accumulation round, those top 7 players play 7 hands at the final table. It is usually something like $25 to enter with unlimited rebuys. Sometimes the rebuys are at a discount. They take a rake and then divide the remaining money among the top one, two or three finishers at the final table.

    There is not much money to be made, but I like to play them. One reason is simply that, after all these years, I still enjoy playing tournaments. Another reason is to see how much of a luck factor is in play against truly unskilled opponents. In the 9 tournaments that I've played, I've only ever seen two players whom I thought possessed any tournament skills at all. I would estimate an average of 40 entries in each tournament.

    I've actually done pretty well over the years in these. In 9 attempts, I have made the final table 7 times and finished in the money 5 times (first twice, second twice and 3rd once). This is a very small sample, but it might suggest that, under the right conditions, the luck factor can be greatly diminished, allowing skilled players to shine.

    What might be the reasons for this? I think it's because this particular format represents all of the conditions which allow a skilled player to maximize their skills while at the same time minimizing all of the factors which allow unskilled players to succeed through luck alone. One might say it's the holy grail of tournament formats for the skilled player.

    For the skilled player
    • The accumulation goal, the determination of which is the single most important task, is clearly defined via the leader board.
    • During the accumulation round:
      • The flexibility of an open stream of entries allows for observation of the other players and the evolution of the leader board before playing. The skilled player can wait until the leader board is well-defined before playing.
      • Unlimited rebuys allow for repetition of the optimal strategy for making the cut.
      • Unlimited rebuys allow for re-entry should one fall off of the leader board.
    • At the final table:
      • The small number of rounds means that the end game, where the skilled player excels, begins immediately.

    For the unskilled players
    • During the accumulation round:
      • This particular field of unskilled players is also inexperienced which makes them play conservatively. They are more concerned about failing (busting out) than they are motivated to succeed. They tend to make small to medium sized bets in an effort to creep up on the required score rather than using the optimal strategy of betting the maximum. This keeps the advancing threshold low, to the benefit of the skilled players.
      • Many effectively eliminate themselves by refusing to make the bets required to succeed, even when it is clear that it is necessary. On the final hand, I have seen players bet too little to make the leader board, even after having this pointed out to them.
    • At the final table:
      • They tend to use the same conservative betting strategy that they used during the accumulation round, with no purpose other than to avoid busting out. This is not effective during the end game which begins immediately.
      • Their small-ish bets make it easier for the skilled players to make effective strategic bets.
    • In general:
      • The small number of rounds reduces the chance of gaining a large lead through good luck while making a series of large bets. This coupled with their tendency to bet small almost eliminates the luck factor for them.
    So it seems that all we need to limit the luck factor and to succeed regularly is for all events to be short accumulation events, with full information available and filled with unskilled, inexperienced opponents. Is this really too much to ask? :rolleyes:
    KenSmith likes this.
  2. Dakota

    Dakota Top Member

    Gronbog, this is an excellent treatise on cruise ship blackjack tournaments. My tournament results mirror yours largely due to the factors which you present. On Norwegian ships only first place at the final table gets paid and it's $500 regardless of fees collected. The accumulation rounds have no maximum bet, with a 5,000 bankroll, so I go all in until I win 2 hands in a row (0 to 2 re-buys necessary). This very advanced and highly skilled strategy gets me to the final table without burning out any brain cells! Your final table observations are right on.
    johnr and KenSmith like this.
  3. gronbog

    gronbog Top Member

    Dakota, I concur with your advanced strategy for no limit cruise ship accumulation rounds. I have also found that twice all in does the trick. One thing about accumulation event strategy is that, although mindless, it is highly effective.
    johnr and KenSmith like this.
  4. Dakota

    Dakota Top Member

    Ken Smith has a name for this strategy: "Damn the torpedoes ... full speed ahead!"
    johnr likes this.
  5. Ternamint

    Ternamint Member

    Several questions: Does end play always begin at ten hands or less, whether the round has only ten hands total or more than ten hands?

    Is this end play definition of final ten hands true for any prize level, small to large?

    Does the definition change as the number/percentage of skilled players increases?

    Does the definition change if play is very loose in lieu of your hoped for conservative play (lets call loose 1 to 3 players making large wagers)? In a loose situation, I am assuming the AP needs to make a move sooner versus later or he may run out of time to catch up; is this correct?

    Thank you and good to be back for some new knowledge!
  6. gronbog

    gronbog Top Member

    My answers to all of your questions would be "yes".

    Every situation is unique and, although some basic principles may apply, each situation may require a different response.

    I believe that it was Wong who recommended beginning the end game with approximately 10 hands remaining. I don't know how he came up with this number.
  7. Ternamint

    Ternamint Member

    Thank you gronbog. I am looking at a tourney that doesn't have the 30 hand format. I want to have a benchmark plan. Wong states that under ten hands is a good time to consider big bets. I believe his point was that doing it earlier isn't necessary, not that the tenth hand is a given.

    One thing I struggle with is when to move against a loose goose that never lets up. We have all seen them bust out and I have only seen the strategy work one time. It usually looks like a dumb approach but until the player has a lock, it might make sense. I don't see these players usually observing whether or not they have a lock. They just want as many chips as they can get.

    I actually like these players because they are often gone quickly.
  8. gronbog

    gronbog Top Member

    I think that the best way to deal with a lone " loose goose" who is continuing to bet big is to do the opposite and bet small. This creates maximum "motion" between your bankrolls and carries very little risk for you.

    If you decide to chase him, correlation works against you and you need create your own "motion" by making risky doubles and splits. If he does not start losing, you will eventually come to a point where you have to chase, but do this only as a last resort.

    If the loose goose starts to bet small after gaining his lead, I begin the chase immediately, unless a crippling or all in bet is required, in which case I am more patient.
    Ternamint and LeftNut like this.

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