Monday, June 2, 2008

British Championship of Blackjack

Last night I played in the British Championship of Blackjack at the Vic. Obviously I'm giving this tournament its full title with a huge dollop of irony and hope you can all picture the smirk on my face as I type it out.

This tournament was in the card room and cost £100 to enter (3 rebuys and an add-on were allowed too). There was no juice which was about the best thing going for it. Because it was run by the Vic and was aimed more at their regular punters from downstairs as opposed to the poker players it was complete chaos with absolutely no regard for any kind of "rules". I put that in inverted commas as I doubt there exist any rules for a BJ tourney in Britain. I'm sure if one played in the Million Dollar BJ tournament at the Hilton in Las Vegas there would be plenty of rules regarding asking other people for advice, speaking in other languages besides English at the table whilst bets were being made and so on.

Besides all that it was still exceptional value; the amount of dead money compared to a poker tournament was through the roof. I think the only person who knew what he was doing in it was Shoreman (luckily I had a 20% saver with him as he came second, well played Jon). I have to say the skill involved in this is probably a lot higher than in a poker tournament. Tournament BJ strikes me as extremely technical and I know I must have made plenty of mistakes. Of course, everybody else in the competition played even worse so I guess I had a vague edge.

The ability to come up with the right bet size at the end when you have to not only try and catch up with the chip leader, but also make sure the players close behind you don't overtake you is a real headfuck, let me tell ya.

The small amount of literature I had read on the subject was helpful, but tended to be based on BJ tournaments which have rounds of 30 hands as opposed to 12 hands like last night. Also, the Vic had a secret bet which really puts the cat amongst the pigeons.

I was reminded of when I first played poker and the only game at the Vic was 7-card, pot limit. The only book I could find was Sklansky's book on stud which of course was all about limit poker, but I had no idea how the different betting structure made an impact on the game so I was completely at sea.

Anyway, I made it through to round two, but busted out after 6 hands in the second round. There was an amusing moment in the first round where I had 675 chips on the 10th hand. After hand 10 players were allowed an add-on of 1,500 chips (rebuys got you 1,000). Anytime you had 500 or less you were allowed to rebuy. Wanting to be able to rebuy and add-on I made a bet of 175 and proceeded to hit on 18 purposely busting my hand, much to the consternation of the other players at my table.

If I hadn't done that I would only have been able to take the add-on which would have meant that going into the last two hands my chip stack would have been 2,350 as opposed to the 3,000 I had after my seemingly crazy play. And believe you me I needed that as I squeaked through by three chips.

Shoreman nearly got himself barred by constantly trying to impose some semblance of order on the proceedings. He had to tell the dealer and the floorstaff not to turn the secret bets face up, constantly remind the floor to enforce the English only rule and also ask for players not to get advice from railbirds watching the action. He also got reprimanded when he tried to stop a string bet from the player in front of him who wanted to add more to his stack after he saw that Jon was min-betting.

As they pulled him aside Shoreman was even told he was right, but to keep his mouth shut. If the Vic are going to run more of these tournaments, and I would imagine they are as last night was quite successful, they better get their shit together. They wouldn't let those sorts of shenanigans go on in a £10 poker tournament, so why is a BJ competition exempt from the normal codes of conduct in a tournament setting?

Another interesting moment occurred when all the dealers shuffled after hand 6. Completely pointless and time consuming although a decent red herring for those players who thought counting was a useful skill in this format. Anyway, Jon and I asked the dealer why she was shuffling to which she replied, "So nobody can cheat".

"Eh? How are they cheating?"

"Card counting, that's cheating"

"Er..., no it's not"

"Yes it is, card counters are cheaters and we don't want them here"

Wow, management did a good brainwashing number on this one, didn't they?

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