It seems that many tournaments lately offer a “First card is an Ace” option for an additional fee with your tournament entry. This option: allows you to play an ace once during any of the hands of a tournament as your first card. In a tournament that Blackjack pays 2 to 1, taking this option and playing it at the right time can be a game changer.
As you’ve probably guessed, one of the advantages of the “First card is an Ace” is that it can be used to turn any hand containing a face card into a natural. Roughly speaking, after playing the big ace as the first card, we will then be dealt a natural 4/13=30.76% of the time.
This is huge, especially if a natural pays 2 to 1. The “First card is an Ace” is also very valuable because we are guaranteed to be dealt a soft hand when we use it. This guarantees that you will be able to get two bets working via a double or a split without busting. Lastly, you are more likely than normal to simply win your hand. Anywhere from 43.39% vs the dealer’s Ace to 56.82% vs his 6.
When your first card is an Ace, it usually gives you a big advantage. You need it the most on the last hand. The main reason, it is better to get ahead towards the end rather than the middle, because there will be less rounds left for others to catch up with you. So when should you use this option?
The answer to the question of when to play it is, as always — it depends. It depends on:
IF you are in the lead (save it for later)
IF the leaders are betting wildly (save it for later)
IF you can catch the leaders without it (save it for later)
IF you really and truly need the lead NOW (use it NOW)
I think that you are best to save it for the last hand, if possible, or for one of the last few hands at the very least. If you use it early however, your opponents have plenty of time to adjust their strategy and catch you. Once they do, you have wasted your most powerful weapon, while they probably still have it. The key to advancing/winning in table game tournaments is to not only get the lead, but to keep it. This is best done as late in the round as possible. Doing so on the final hand gives you a lock. This is a good reason to use”First Card is an Ace” to get the lead as late in the round as possible.
The other reason for you to keep your “First Card is an Ace” until near the end in a tournament is simply because, virtually everyone else does. If you begin the final hand without your “First Card is an Ace” while other players still have it, you better have at least a 2 x max bet lead, or minimally be able to cover 2 x max bet wins by your opponents. Otherwise you will find yourself getting beat on the final hand over and over again. On the other hand, If you still have it, and you have the lead, then you can effectively neutralize the “First Card is an Ace” held by your opponents.
So to summarize, you want to use the “First Card is an Ace” to get the lead as late in the round as possible. If you can get the lead without it, then you are a huge favorite on the final hand. Otherwise you need to use it to get at least 1 max bet lead going into the final hand so that you can cover 2 x max bet wins by your opponents who still have it.