It's time now to begin the biggest blackjack event in the nation.
40 players will be competing in eight first-round matchups. The winner of each game gets $25,000 and an automatic entry into the semi-finals. The second-place player in each game goes to a Wild Card Game and gets $5,000.
The players tonight are defending champion Dr. Jeff Bernstein, Tiffany "Hot Chips" Michelle, George Mandilaras, Christiane Hogenbirk and Phil Dunaway.
Each players starts with $100,000 in chips. In the first part of each game, the minimum bet for each game is $1,000, and the maximum is $50,000. They keep playing until one of the two Knockout cards comes up, or until somebody goes broke. If a Knockout card comes up, the player with the lowest score after the following hand will be eliminated from play. Also, once each game, each player is given a Burger King Power Chip, and anyone can use it to replace a card they don't like.
In the third or fourth hand, Bernstein bets $20,000 of his $98,000 up to that point. He started out with:
A nasty 12 to start. The dealer's base card is a Ten of Spades. Bernstein hits....
...and has 16. Another card later....
...he busts, so he takes a huge plunge to dead last. The dealer had 20. Hogenbirk has the early lead.
On hand eight, here are the bets:
Everyone's first cards:
Dealer's base card is a Nine of Diamonds. Michelle and Mandilaras double down. Dunaway hits and gets a Nine of Clubs, giving him a flat 12. He then hits and gets a Seven of Clubs, and stands at 19. Bernstein decides to use his Power Chip and replace the four. He has a Nine of Spades and now....
...an eight, giving him 17. He stands. The dealer turns over an Eight of Hearts, for a total of 17, so the champ pushes, and Dunaway and Hogenbirk win their bets. Michelle's double down card is a Ten of Diamonds, so she wins with a 19, and Mandilaras's final card is a Nine of Diamonds, so she wins with a 20. Hogenbirk still leads at this point with $122,000. Dunaway is second with $105,500. Michelle has an even 100 grand, Mandilaras has $98,000 and the champ has $63,000.
Michelle bets $25,000 on the next hand, while Bernstein goes $50,000 again. Here are the base cards for these two:
Dealer's base card is a Two of Diamonds. Michelle hits and gets another Five of Diamonds, and stays at 17. While Mandilaras was playing split hands with a pair of threes, the first Knockout card of the game pops up. The champ also stays. Here's the dealer's cards.
Ouchie. Bernstein drops to $13,000 and goes on to lose in the Knockout hand, so for the second year in a row, the defending champion bows out in the first round. He leaves with $1,000 this time.
The minimum bet in the second part of the game is $2,500. After winning a $40,000 bet on a hand, Mandilaras takes over the lead with $146,000. But Dunaway would take the lead with $178,000 when he made a successful Double Down for $100,000! One hand later, Michelle hits a Blackjack on a $50,000 bet, and took over the lead with $240,000! By the start of the 17th hand, however, Mandilaras took the lead back with $230,000. When the second Knockout round came, these were the scores:
The base hands:
The dealer's first card is a Nine of Hearts. Mandilaras hits, but it's a King of Clubs and he busts.
Hogenbirk surrenders, so she goes back to $137,750. For those of you who are wondering, the surrender option is only offered to players on their base cards, and those who aren't confident can opt to receive half of their wager back. Michelle stands on 20 and Dunaway does as well.
It comes down to Dunaway and Hogenbirk. If the man loses, Hogenbirk will be eliminated thanks to that big mistake she made by surrendering. Dealer's hand:
It's 19, so Hogenbirk is eliminated and she leaves with $2,000. After the second Knockout hand, there are only five more hands played in the game. The minimum bet is now $5,000. Everyone surrendered on the first of the final five hands, though we didn't get to see what happened due to time constraints. At this point, Michelle still has her Power Chip.
Everyone loses on the second of the five hands, with Mandilaras and Michelle both blowing $50,000. On the third hand, Michelle splits a Queen and a King on a $30,000 wager. Interesting. On her first split hand, she scored a 21! She stayed on a 15 in her other split hand.
The dealer's base card was a three. Dealer's hand:
Mandilaras pushes and Dunaway blows another $50,000. By losing her second split hand, she pushes. At the final hand, here are the scores:
Everyone bet $50,000. Base hands:
Dunaway scores a Blackjack! His final total is $310,500. The dealer's base card is a Ten of Clubs.
Mandilaras doubles down. Michelle uses her Power Chip to replace her seven. Her new card....and gets another seven, this time in diamonds! Ouch. She decides also to double down.
This means that if both win, Dunaway is eliminated. If one wins and one pushes, the one who pushes goes home. If one loses and one pushes, the one who lost goes home. Dealer's hand:
The dealer busts, so Mandilaras is definitely tonight's $25,000 winner! He moves on to the semi-final round.
Now, for Michelle's final card. If it's an Ace to a four, she will be in a Wild Card Game and win $5,000. Otherwise, she goes home with $3,000 and Dunaway will be in the Wild Card Game. Final card....
...Nine of Diamonds, so she's out of here with $3,000, and Dunaway is a Wild Card!