The Ultimate Blackjack Tour

UBT logoThe Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT) was a television series that started in the fall of 2006. It consisted of professional poker and blackjack players who would compete through a tournament throughout the season. The season finales were championship rounds, which served to crown a winner for the season.

There were a few changes made from a traditional blackjack tournament format to make the game television-worthy. In a typical blackjack tournament, the last remaining player, at the end of the game wins. To win in that situation, players know that they should bet the minimum until the final minutes of the game. Then, when the right hand comes a long near the end, they can make a move.

Even though this is the optimal strategy for a tournament, it does not make for particularly compelling television. To force the players to make big moves throughout the game, the lowest player was eliminated after the eighth, sixteenth, and twenty-fifth hands. Also, as a purely theatrical addition, players were allowed to make a single secret wager at any time in order to bluff.

Star Studded Cast

The entire cast of the Ultimate Blackjack Tour was filled with familiar faces. Max Rubin hosted the program, while Ken Einiger and Anthony Curtis were the resident blackjack experts. Some of the big names in poker who appeared on the show were Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth. These big names were largely responsible for the hype that surrounded the series.

The inspiration stirred up by the start-studded line up was crucial for another component of the show to succeed: the recruitment process. Players from all over the United States were allowed to come on to the show and compete. To be eligible, skilled blackjack players could play in smaller satellite tournaments in their hometowns. If they advanced, they were one step closer to playing with their idols.

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The Winners

The show survived for only two years, so there were only two final tables. In the first season, Ken Einiger lived up to his reputation and took the title. The runner up was Anthony Curtis. Some notable final-table players were Stanford Wong and Mike Aponte (from the famous MIT Blackjack Team).

In the second season, we saw a lot of familiar faces, but several poker players were present at the final table. Phil Hellmuth took the gold, but Ken Einiger still made it to the final round. Annie Duke also hung in there until the final table along with fellow professional poker-player, Freddie Deeb.

The Show’s Legacy

Although it wasn’t as monumental as most blackjack players were expecting, the Ultimate Blackjack Tour certainly did get a lot of media coverage. It was one of CBS’s heavy hitters in the fall 2006 line up. Some old-school players might have even been offended by the alterations to the game, but in the end it was supposed to cater to the majority of viewers. After its second season UBT wrapped it up, and since then, there haven’t been any comparable television programs.

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