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What Comes First, The Big Blind Or The Ante?

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Oct 09, 2019

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I’m sure most of my readers, especially tournament players, have heard about the concept of the big-blind ante. For anyone who doesn’t know what I am referring to, the big-blind ante works like this: Once antes have been introduced in a tournament, instead of each individual player posting an ante every hand, the big blind position posts the ante for everyone at the table. The ante is equivalent to the size of the big blind. 

I don’t know why it took so long for someone to come up with this concept. Most tournament players I have spoken with love the big-blind ante for the following reasons. It speeds up play because the dealer only has to collect the ante from one person each hand. There are no more arguments when the ante is short and the dealer has to figure out who didn’t ante. The dealer doesn’t have to make change multiple times per hand. 

However, a problem can arise with the big-blind ante when the player in the big blind doesn’t have enough chips to cover both the big blind and the ante. How do you decide whether the ante has priority (gets posted first) or the big blind has priority? This has been the subject of many arguments.

Heading into the 2019 Tournament Directors Association Summit, we knew that this would be a time-consuming issue. We started out by polling the attendees to see how many cardrooms were currently using antes as first priority. I was pleased to see that about 90 percent of the cardrooms represented were doing it that way.

An example of what this means is that if the player in the big blind only has $800 and the big blind is supposed to be $1000, then he would post $800 as an ante and there would be no big blind that hand. If he wins the pot, he can only win $800. If he had $1,500 total, he would post a $1,000 ante and then $500 would go toward the big blind.
A discussion ensued as to why some of the cardrooms were giving the big blind priority over the ante. The consensus was that they were doing it that way because they thought it was more player friendly.

Having played in many ante-type games, I am a huge proponent of the ante taking priority. I completely disagree that posting the big blind first is more player friendly. While it may be more friendly toward the person in the big blind, it is very unfriendly toward all the other players at the table who have had to post antes for that player and get no reciprocity. 

Other reasons were brought up for why the ante should go first. The very definition of ante in Latin means “first.” Someone said that protecting the short stacks shouldn’t be a consideration since the tournament doesn’t end until everyone but one player is broke. Someone else pointed out that it is part of tournament strategy to not let yourself get so short stacked. 

In the end, the few cardrooms that were giving priority to the big blind agreed to change the policy to ante-first for the sake of uniformity. Unfortunately, there was no representation from the World Series of Poker whose rules this past summer called for big blind first. Hopefully they will join the rest of the TDA and go with ante-first in the future. Consistent TDA rules is a good thing and so is ante-first! ♠

Linda JohnsonLinda is a partner in Card Player Cruises and invites you to join her on a poker cruise. For more information check out www.cardplayercruises.com.