Elimination Blackjack

Elimination Blackjack was invented by Russ Hamilton, the main event champion of the 1994 World Series of Poker.  It is a tournament style of blackjack and is the format used by many casinos today for blackjack tournaments.


The game is played like regular blackjack.  There is a dealer, representing the house, who deals using a six or eight deck shoe.  The difference for players is that they are competing against each other, as opposed to just trying to beat the dealer or house, in order to win a guaranteed prize amount.

Players pay a “buy-in” amount for the tournament (similar to a poker tournament) and are given a set dollar amount of chips.  Every player is given the same amount in starting chips.  The players then work to increase their amount of chips, hoping to have the most chips at the end of the tournament, so they’ll be declared the winner.

Dealer and player options, such as hit, stand, double, split, are the same as in regular blackjack.  Depending on the tournament, dealer may have to hit on a soft 17.


The following list of rules can vary by casino, but most casinos do abide by these for tournament play:

  • The house must hit 16 or less, and stand on 17 or more.  Some houses do hit soft 17’s
  • A player can split pairs up to four times, with the exception of aces.  Aces can only be split once and only receive one additional card. Ten-value cards may be limited to splitting only identical pairs
  • A six or eight deck shoe may used, though usually six deck
  • A player’s bet must be within the table minimum-maximum, and if unable to make the minimum bet, the player is eliminated from the tournament
  • Surrender is allowed for half the bet
  • Insurance is allowed if the dealer shows an Ace
  • Double down is allowed on any two cards
  • A maximum of seven players per table is allowed
  • A player has 25 seconds to make a decision in a normal hand, and 45 seconds to make a decision in an elimination hand


Once a player has bought in, they are given a random assigned seat at the table.  Cards are dealt in the same manner as regular blackjack.

There is a pre-determined specific number of hands dealt.  The number will vary depending on the casino, however, it’s usually at least 30 hands.

After the last hand is dealt, the remaining players chips are tallied and the player with the most, is declared the winner.


Players are eliminated through the following:

  • If they lose all their chips
  • If they don’t have enough chips to make the required minimum bet
  • If they have the fewest chips after an elimination hand

Elimination hand:  A pre-determined hand, by number, where at the end, player chips are counted and the player with the fewest chips is eliminated.  As stated, they are pre-determined and usually in a 30-hand tournament, the elimination hands are numbers 8, 16 and 25.

Of course, the elimination hands are a key part of the game.  Betting strategy can definitely be affected and used deftly with elimination a possibility.


Usually only in professional tour tournaments and high-profile games, players are allowed one secret bet during the course of the tournament.  As in the name, the bet is not revealed to the other players at the table, and it can be of strategic importance.  A player can elect to make a secret bet in order to force a smaller or larger bet from another player close in chip count.


Most important to remember is that you are competing against the other players, not the house.  You may need to make moves in an effort to cause your table opponents to bust when they make a big bet.

You also need to be aware of the approximate number of chips your table mates have, so you can stay close or get ahead.


Elimination blackjack became popular due to the popularity of Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments and casinos realized the possibility of doing something similar with blackjack.  As with poker, this gives the player an opportunity to win a large amount of money with a relatively small “buy-in” amount.

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