UltimateBet Debuts Elimination Blackjack
2006 Randy Saylor  

Poker’s meteoric rise in the last few years has barely made a dent in the popularity of other casino games, which continue to flourish. One already popular casino game, blackjack, might find itself on the rise in years to come due to increased television exposure of a relatively new blackjack format.

Although blackjack tournaments have been around forever, this new format seems to have taken a cue from poker tournaments. Players are eliminated after specific rounds of the tournament, giving rise to the name Elimination Blackjack.

CBS Network Doubles Down

The American television network CBS is debuting the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. Preliminary rounds of the tournaments have recently begun airing. Ten top poker players have joined one hundred top ranked blackjack players to compete for $1 Million.

Poker players will find a familiar rule in Elimination Blackjack. The player with the lowest stack is sent to the rail at the end of selected rounds.

Preliminary rounds have been played and will be aired on CBS. The final tournament of the first season of the Ultimate Blackjack Tour will be played and filmed in conjunction with the UltimateBet Aruba Poker Classic, which will be played later in September.

Professional poker players participating in the inaugural season of the Ultimate Blackjack Tour included Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Johnny Chan, Freddy Deeb, and Robert Williamson III. Williamson has noted the similarities between elimination blackjack and poker. Where he might trail behind professional blackjack strategists in traditional blackjack games, the similarities of tournament poker to elimination blackjack will offset some of his disadvantage.

“Elimination blackjack is much more like poker than normal blackjack,” Williamson said in a press release from the UBT. “I'm not a card counter, I'm not a shuffle tracker, I'm not any of the things that you can be and actually beat a casino playing blackjack. But I use tournament strategy to my advantage. It's easy to learn,” says Williamson about the elimination variant of the game. “Enough people can catch on to that side…to be somewhat competitive. There's enough luck on any given day where they can come out on top against the [blackjack] experts.”

UltimateBet Online Elimination Blackjack Tournaments

UltimateBet is the first online gaming portal to offer Elimination Blackjack tournaments. Buy-ins start as low as $1, which is a threshold that can never be duplicated in a live casino. Expect many new online casino players to be joining the ranks at UltimateBet soon to try this new variation of the popular casino game. There may be real value in this for us poker players. As the casino players wander into UltimateBet to try tournament blackjack, they might just wander into the poker lobby as well. We could always use a few inexperienced players in the poker world!

Secret Bets, Bluffs, and Tells

Online poker players know all about bluffs and tells, but never before have blackjack players needed these as part of their arsenal. After all, when you’re playing against a house dealer who doesn’t care that you’re hitting 19 (unless you’re cheating), there is little to no value in a bluff.

The bluffing strategy comes into play with the introduction of the secret bet allowed once per round. This allows players to conceal their bet size from competitors. Although elimination blackjack is still played against the dealer on a hand-by-hand basis, the goal is still to accumulate more chips than the opponents, and adjusting bet sizes to other players’ bets is part of winning strategy. The secret bet puts a poker-like bluffing aspect into the game.

Chris Welch is managing director for Loudvision, an advertising agency for UltimateBet. “This unique blend of blackjack combined with aspects of tournament poker we believe have mass appeal to both poker and blackjack players, “he said. “The response from those that have tried Elimination Blackjack has been overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to large numbers of players in the months ahead.”

The note-taking feature available to most online poker players via their client software is something that is all new to blackjack, too. Poker players have had the ability to note betting tendencies on their opponents. Now blackjack players have a need for the same utility. The fact that UltimateBet is primarily a poker site means this ability is already built-in to the software. Players wishing to make notes on opponents simply right-click on the targeted player icon and record their thoughts. Player notes are stored locally on the hard drive, meaning other players have no access to your thoughts about them.


In the old format of blackjack tournaments, most players would wait until after the countdown at hand 25 of a 30-hand tournament round before making a move. In Elimination Blackjack, the short stack after hands 8,16 and 25 is eliminated, so waiting is not a good strategy.


Robert Williamson closed his comments on the blackjack tournaments by saying “the top blackjack players in the world have us hands down beat on the eccentric side. They are definitely colorful characters.” In a world of colorful poker personalities, we’re going to have to see it to believe it, Robert.

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