Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy

The Case For The Big Blind Ante

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Apr 11, 2018


Once you get past the first few levels of a no-limit hold’em tournament, you start anteing. Don’t ask me why you have to play some levels without antes, I think it would be better to just start at an ante level, but that’s a question for a different column. In most tournaments in the history of poker, each player would ante a small amount. Recently, some tournament directors have had the spectacular idea of only having one person ante, the big blind (BB). The ante is always the same size as the big blind, and again, only one person posts it. This has been a revelation and, in my opinion, is the greatest innovation in tournaments since they started to allow late registration. There are some who don’t like it, but I’m going to take a look at some reasons why I think it’s great.

It Speeds Up the Game

As I said above, up until this innovation, every player at the table had to pay an ante on every hand. So, if there is one or more person at your table who is only nominally paying attention to what is going on, they would each slow the game down on every hand as someone at the table, either the dealer or another player, has to remind them to ante, sometimes several times each hand. I’m almost always one of the first people to ante in a hand and even I space out sometimes and forget to post my ante.
With the BB ante format, only two people in each hand are putting money into the pot. The player to the left of the button posts the small blind and the player to their left posts both the big blind and the ante. That’s it, simple as can be.

Also, because only two people are posting money, there are less people who could possibly need change in a given hand so it needs to be made less often.

As a result, the speed of play is much quicker in my opinion. There is less downtime between hands, basically just enough time for the dealer to do their shuffle and take in the one ante. So much less waiting on someone to post their ante and tremendously less time spent making change for people at the table. My guess is that we got in about four hands more per hour early on in the tournament and two or three later in the tournament when people started taking their time with their decisions a bit more.

The Ante is Less Variable

Because live tournaments have logistical chip issues, you can’t just break the ante down so that it’s the same percentage of the big blind each level. Some levels it’s bigger as it relates to the blinds, sometimes it’s smaller. For instance, usually, a tournament would have a 25 ante at 150-300 blinds. With nine players at a table, there would be 225 in antes and 450 in blinds so the antes would be 33 percent of the pot once cards are dealt. The next level would usually be 200-400 with a 50 ante. This time, with nine players at the table, there would be 450 in antes and 600 in blinds, so the antes would be 43 percent of the pot.

With the BB ante format, the ante is always the size of the big blind. So, when the small blind is x and the big blind is 2x, the ante is 40 percent of the pot.

Occasionally, because smaller denomination chips come off the table earlier in the tournament, the blinds are not x and 2×. For instance, because they don’t ever put T25 chips on the table in the BB ante tournaments I played, the blinds in the second level are 200-300 with a 300 ante. So, the ante is 37.5 percent of the pot instead of 40 percent of the pot. The total amount of antes in the pot is sometimes smaller and sometimes bigger than it would be if everyone anted individually, but the antes as a percentage of the pot will either be 40 percent or 37.5 percent unless there are some weird levels in the tournament that I haven’t encountered.

This makes the levels more uniform with each other instead of having levels be different relative pot sizes based on the ante size. Not to mention when the amount of money in the pot changes because of the number of players at the table changing. This aids in planning your strategy and tactics for each level.

There is one main argument that I’ve heard against the big blind ante format, that it’s harder on short stacks than the ante every hand option, especially when short handed. People have argued that because the ante is a bigger portion of a player’s stack it’s a disadvantage to them when short stacked. I think this is wrong for two main reasons. First, at a full table, the total amount of antes posted in a round is roughly the same amount as if you had anted on each hand. Sure, you post more in one hand than you usually would, but then you don’t have to post any money at any of the positions outside of the blinds anyway. Second, even if it’s short-handed and you’re posting more in antes than you would if you anted every hand instead of just one, everyone else has to do the same thing. Because of this, it’s neutral, and if you’re concerned about having better structures with more play when you’re short stacked, the extra few hands you’re getting per level because of the one ante make your short stack more valuable.

I’m excited that the World Series of Poker has decided to adopt this for some of their tournaments. When they start doing something, it spreads to lots of other tournament venues as well. It makes for a much more enjoyable tournament experience that’s good for both recreational poker players and professionals. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG