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Running Your Own Blackjack Party

Before you hold a Blackjack Party or offer to play a few hands with friends you should learn how to deal the game. Once you know the basics of how to shuffle, handle chips, and hit hands you’ll be ready to risk some money with your mates. Why? Because it’s fun being the house and having the odds in your favor.

There are two ways of organizing your party: as a tournament, where players buy-in and compete for prize money, and as a standard blackjack game where you or someone who can deal a blackjack party does the actual dealing for you. Obviously the person who deals has to know the game and be reliable.

Setting your House Rules

Las Vegas Strip rules are fairly standard for single-deck blackjack games and offer a small house edge of about one-half of one percent. Looking at a blackjack odds chart will give you an idea of which rules help the house or the player, but you can offer a game with about a 1% house (you) edge and your players will be perfectly happy most of the time:

  • Dealer hits soft 17
  • Players may double-down on 10 or 11 only
  • Players may split any pair once
  • Players may double-down after a split
  • No resplit of aces (one-card only on split aces)
  • Insurance pays 2 to 1
  • Blackjack pays 3 for 2

If you get more liberal, you’ll reduce your edge. If you get stingier, your players won’t be happy. Make sure you print-out your rules in advance so there are no questions in the middle of a hand! If you know your players aren’t too sophisticated, you can offer “double down on any two cards” and they will probably make more mistakes with the extra privileges.

Your Table Limits

Since you will be the house, it is your bankroll that is at risk. You should have about 500-units, so a $500 bankroll allows a table limit of 25-cents to $1. That may seem low, but that’s what you can afford. Sure, you can offer a higher limit, but your risk of ruin (the chance that you will go bust) goes up. With one table of six-players, $1 maximum is all you can comfortably afford. Allowing a $5 maximum bet will win you more money in the long run, but you’ll go bust more than 10% of the time.

The thing that casinos know, that most players don’t, is that while they offer a game with a small edge, the house hold, or the amount that players actually lose, is much higher. A typical blackjack game holds between 15 and 20% with the rules you are using. That’s because players make many bets, not just one, and when a player goes broke, they quit. When they win, they often keep playing and let the house edge wear them down.

If you have six friends come by the house and each risks $40 for a total buy-in of $240, you’ll probably win 20% of it, or about $50. With a $1,000 bankroll (yours) and $100 buy-ins by the players, you can expect to win $200 or more.

The good part of home games is that players tend to greatly over-bet their bankroll. If they buy-in for $100 and you allow higher wagers, you’ll get some $10 and even $25 bets. It’s easy to bust a player who only has a bankroll of a few units, but you still have to have a higher bankroll of your own.

How fast can you win that? Probably a couple hours, and that’s about all the time a single dealer can handle a table of players efficiently, so set a time limit in advance! If you are worried about your bankroll, set up your blackjack party as a tournament where you risk nothing but a few dollars for chips and drinks!

Your Chips and Cards

The last place you want to skimp is on your playing equipment. Cards can get easily marked, which is why it’s good to have hands dealt face-up and keep the players from touching them, but it’s still worth the money to break-out a new deck of cards for each party. Let the players see you opening them and checking to make sure all 52-cards are being used. Have a back-up deck around, just in case.

If you are playing nickel-dime-quarter stakes, any chips are fine, but if you want to hold a party where hundreds of dollars are changing hands you should invest in your own chips. Choose real personalized chips to be safe– or get actual chips from a local casino that can be returned after your party.

Blackjack Tournaments

You can hold a blackjack tournament with as few as six players, but a larger crowd will be more fun and make you more money. You offer a prize fund and get to keep either a set percentage or a set fee.  You can guarantee $100 in prize money, have free snacks and soda available, and then charge $25 per player. From that $25 you can keep $5 and put $20 into the prize fund. Obviously 10 buy-ins would be $50 for you and $200 for the prize fund.

Tournament Structure

One table plays at a time, but you can have multiple first-rounds and a final table. That will accommodate many players, for multiple-tries if you want. Say you have 10 players and you draw for seat selections (first round first table, first round second table etc.). They all pay their fee and the six players with first round – first table draws go to your table.

  • Players get $500 in non-negotiable chips
  • Betting limit is $5 to $500
  • Blackjack pays 2 to 1 (it’s easier than trying to pay 3 to 2)
  • Your usual house rules for doubles and splits
  • 20 hands of play
  • Top two chip holders after the last hand make the final table

This means you can have a total of three, first-round tables (players may try again) and up to 18 total buy-ins to get six players for the final table. That would be $450 in buy-ins and $360 in the prize fund ($90 for you).

Set your Pay off:

  • First Place pays 50%
  • Second Place pays 30%
  • Third Place pays 15%
  • Fourth Place pays 5%

These can be adjusted any way you like. You might want a little something for everyone who makes the final table, but you’ll have to have this finalized (percentage-wise) before play starts. You can expect a round of 20-hands to take 30 to 40 minutes.

You’ll want to use a marker to designate the player who bets first (players must make their wagers in turn) and gets the first card each round. Move the marker clockwise after each hand. Shuffle the deck after each hand. Announce the hand number each hand. You can designate the hands remaining by using chips – the dealer moves a chip from the stack and into the rack after each hand.

Make sure you don’t lose any of your non-negotiable chips, especially if you want to have a little real-money blackjack after the tournament!

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