Let’s begin with a simple definition of a poker ante so you know what you’re about to read. A poker ante is a forced bet for all players. It’s used to prevent players from consistently folding so there will be more action in the game.
Poker antes are used more in draw and stud games than anything else, but they have been used in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments as well. Traditional antes were used as a catalyst for action. Things have changed. These days, most poker tournaments use a big blind ante instead of antes. The main purpose of this is to speed up the play of the game.
Time for Change
Earlier this year, I posted a poll to my Facebook friends (all poker players): Do you like the Big Blind Ante? The response: 83% said Yes and 17% said No. There were 304 votes.
The vast majority of poker players prefer the Big Blind Ante, and that goes way beyond this vote. Every time I hear the topic come up in a poker room, most people say they love it. Once in a while, there will be one or two people who disagree, but these are often grumpy players and/or players who don’t like change.
If you want to win in poker games, then you need to be able to adapt to new poker rules. Actually, if you want to win in anything, then you need to be willing and able to adapt to change. People often say there are two guarantees in life: death and taxes, but there are three: death, taxes, and change.
Going Back In Time
I just read an article that went back to January 2018, when the Big Blind Ante was gaining momentum. It all started at the ARIA poker room in 2017. Paul Campbell, the Tournament Director at Aria, had sampled it in one of their tournaments. It turned out the players loved it, so he stuck with it.
At that time, some well-known poker players and other people within the industry were fighting it, but the high-stakes players in Las Vegas fell in love with it. If the people bringing the most money to a poker room fall in love with something, the people running that poker room are going to make sure it’s available.
At that time, there was much debate about whether or not the big blind or the button should pay the poker ante for the table. Eventually, it was determined that the big blind made more sense because there is always a big blind. Sometimes, there is no button in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments because of an all-in situation. That’s called a dead button. So … the idea of the Button Ante died.
Today’s BB Poker Ante Situation
This new poker ante format—the big blind ante—gained so much momentum so quickly that it’s now used at the ARIA, in all WSOP and WSOP Circuit events, in the Los Angeles Poker Series, and much more around the world. However, there are some poker rooms that still use a traditional poker ante. For example, I recently played in one of Bally’s small poker tournaments. I was shocked when the dealer said, “Antes, please.”
I almost didn’t know what to do because I had been playing in so many Big Blind Ante poker tournaments. This format is highly likely to change at Bally’s as well. I’m sorry to those who don’t like the Big Blind Ante, but the traditional poker ante is on its way out, and it’s not coming back anytime soon.
The Purpose of the BB Poker Ante
The purpose of the Big Blind Ante is to speed up the game. Almost every poker table has one or two people who are always looking at their phone, watching television, eating, getting a massage, people-watching, and/or talking to someone.
When this happens, the dealer has to consistently remind them to post their antes. Sometimes it’s the dealer that forgets to collect antes. Other times, the dealer will forget an ante, so you have to watch carefully.
By using the Big Blind Ante, there is only one person to remind to post their poker ante. That person will usually remember, but not every time. I’m pretty good about it, but there have been times when I forgot and needed to be reminded. I think it’s a transitional phase.
Now let’s get to poker strategy when it comes to the BB Poker Ante.
Basic Psychological Impact
I understand there is really no difference from a traditional poker ante when you’re not in the big blind, but there is definitely a psychological impact. When I’m deep in a Big Blind Ante tournament and I’m not in the big blind, I feel very at ease. I usually (not always) feel pretty at ease at a poker table because I feel like I’m in my element, but it’s even more so the case in this situation. The reason is that I’m getting tons of free looks at my cards. I can literally just sit there and fold until I’m in the money.
You might say that’s not possible because I have to post the big blind along with the ante when I’m in the big blind, which is a double hit, but consider two things. One, I’m more likely to get a walk (when everyone folds to the big blind) deep in a tournament because other players know that the big blind is more likely to defend in a Big Blind Ante situation. Two, if you don’t get a walk and players in early and middle poker position fold to the in late position, those players are more likely to call than raise because they believe you’re viewing the ante as your chips to protect.
This isn’t actually the case, but that’s how people view it, and you have to go with how people view things versus reality. In reality, those ante chips would have been in the middle anyway. They just would have been dispersed differently.
Defending The Big Blind
I’m only a quasi-believer in defending the big blind anyway. I strongly believe that the big blind itself is a forced bet. Therefore, they shouldn’t be viewed as your chips to protect. They are a fee that you must pay. That being the case, they really belong to the pot.
That said, I will defend my big blind against marginal and strong players early in poker tournaments to let them know to shut it down, stop what you’re doing. I do this early in a tournament because it’s cheaper. This way, when the blinds are higher, I’m more likely to get walks and passive play when I’m in the big blind.
When I’m in the big blind, the Big Blind Ante does impact me slightly in regards to defending, but nothing like most other players. Contrary to popular belief, most players don’t defend their big blind with hands like 86-suited because they want to protect their chips and outplay their opponents. They defend their big blind because it’s seen as the right thing to do and because they don’t want to look weak. Basically, they defend their big blind due to ego, but they’re forgetting that ego is the enemy.
Think about this logically for a moment. If someone raises and you’re in the big blind with a hand like 86-suited and you call, do you really think that’s +EV (positive expected value).
First of all, you’re out of position. This means your opponent(s) will have an opportunity to see you act before they do anything. This gives away information, which gives them an advantage.
Two, do you really think 86-suited is going to be ahead most of the time?
Three, and perhaps the most important point, what if you hit that straight or flush and someone puts you all-in? You’re going to have to call, most likely. And if you call an all-in in that spot, I would like to say, “Sayonara.”
You never want to say/hear/think that word in poker tournaments. And how do people often end up in that situation? By defending their big blind. All they had to do was fold. This is what they will tell themselves the whole way home: “All I had to do was fold.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the pot is a dangerous place to be in poker tournaments. You better be sure you’ve got some ammo. Either that or you better make sure you’re up against someone who only knows how to fight with a nail clipper.
Big Blind Poker Ante All-In Impact
The shift to the BB Ante has definitely impacted all-in decisions. If you’re short-stacked, it’s going to impact your play. Let’s say you’re playing in a poker tournament and you have 15,000 chips when the big blind is 3,000 and you’re six hands from the big blind.
When you get to the big blind, you will owe 6,000 chips (3,000 for the big blind and 3,000 for the ante), and that’s assuming you’re still on the same level. This is not going to be fun, and it’s pretty much going to force you to go all-in if you get to the big blind. There are no poker hands that you will fold when you already have that much invested.
On the other hand, you don’t have to let it get to that point. When you have six hands until the big blind, you have to ask yourself on each hand when you look down at your cards: “Is this likely to be the best hand I see over the next six?” If the answer is yes, you shove. If the answer is no, you wait one more hand, but now your range must widen because you have fewer opportunities. For example, if you’re dealt QJ-off, you have to go all-in.
There is another factor here, which is first-in equity. If you’re unsure if you should go all-in or not on one of those hands, you can eliminate the cards you’re looking at as a factor. Instead, become fearless by remembering that any two cards can win and base your decision on previous action.
Don’t even look at your cards, but pretend to look at them. However, if someone raises before it gets to your action, you need to look at your cards and make a decision. If no one raises before it’s your action, you need to shove without looking at those cards. Without anyone having raised, it’s much more likely that you steal the blinds/ante, and if you get called, so be it.
At least you went out swinging. Nothing feels worse than petering out like a wimp in a poker tournament. You will hate yourself the entire way home, and possibly for a few days. When you go out swinging, at least you have some pride.
Also don’t forget that comebacks are a real thing in this game. The best poker tournament players are fearless when they’re short-stacked. They don’t even care about their hole cards. They just get all their chips in the middle and aim for a double-up. If it happens, they aim for another one, and now their stack is more threatening so they will get more pre-flop folds, allowing them to collect big blinds/antes without seeing a flop.
The poker rules have changed for most poker games due to the implement of the BB Ante. In my opinion, that change is for the better. It speeds up the game, which is what everyone wants. For me personally, it also allows me to feel very at ease deep in a tournament because I’m seeing so many hands for free (even though it’s psychological). As far as poker tournament strategy goes, it will change your short-stack play, but that’s fine. Adapting to change is necessary for winning.
Big Blind Ante – FAQ
What is BB in poker?
BB means big blind, which is the fee you have to pay once per orbit. Everyone at the table pays this fee the same amount of times.
What is BB ante in poker?
The big blind ante means that you're paying all the antes for the table. Everyone at the table does this once per orbit in a big blind ante poker tournament.
Why does the big blind pay antes?
It's the same thing as everyone paying antes every hand. It's just done this way to speed up the game.
Why did they change the ante format in poker tournaments?
Because it's faster and easier. Players love it, including myself.