poker terms - big blind

This Is Poker Blinds Simplified | How to Play Poker

When you’re playing poker in an online room, cash game or in a poker tournament, one of the first things that you’ll encounter in a Texas hold’em game is the concept of poker blinds.

Honestly, poker blinds really aren’t all that complicated. They’re exactly what they sound like – forced bets that you have to make blind (i.e., without seeing your cards). Poker blinds are generally broken into a small blind and a big blind, and they’re a vital part of the process of moving poker games and poker tournaments along.

Why do you need to worry about poker blinds?

For the most part, it’s because your poker blinds are part of the price you pay for playing poker and will play into your overall poker strategy. When you’re playing in poker tournaments or even in friendly cash games, they’re going to be the kind of bet that you can’t control but with which you must learn to deal anyway.

poker blinds

Poker blinds are forced bets that you must pay once every orbit. You will pay the small blind once every orbit and you will pay the big blind once every orbit. Let’s start with the simplest example, which is a 1/2 cash game, the most popular of all poker games.

Posting Poker Blinds Correctly

When it’s your turn to pay the small blind, in a 1/2 game you must post $1, which means you must place a $1 chip in front of you. Some poker tables have an actual line to determine your area and the community area for the pot, but most of the time, that line is invisible. If you’re not familiar with that line, watch other people and how they post their small blind and big blind.

If you’re the first person to post a blind and you’re not sure what to do, it’s about an arm’s length from where you’re sitting. If you have it wrong, don’t worry, the dealer will adjust it. Don’t question whether it’s right or wrong.

If you do that, the rest of the table will see you as a fish and attack. When it’s your turn to post the big blind, you must post $2, which means you must place two $1 chips in front of you. If you don’t have two $1 chips, you can use a $5 chip and the dealer will make change.

Poker Blinds In Tournaments

Posting poker blinds in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments is a little different. At Level 1, the blinds will usually be 50/100, but they will sometimes be 25/50 or 100/100. At Level 2, the blinds will increase. They will continue to increase every level. The length of a level is often dependent on the buy-in, smaller buy-in tournaments usually have shorter levels, such as 20 minutes. Larger buy-in tournaments usually have longer levels, such as 30-40 minute levels. And if you’re playing a Monster Stack or a Main Event, then you’re probably looking at 40-60 minute levels.

poker blinds

When you read a structure sheet and it’s advertised that you get more chips, make sure you read all the details. Sometimes they will give you more chips so it looks like a good value, but in some cases, they’re starting the blind levels higher than the norm, so you’re not really getting good value. Finding the best value in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments is one poker strategy that is often overlooked.

Defending the Big Blind

This is a common debate in the poker world: Should you or should you not defend your big blind? Answer: It depends. That is the correct answer to most poker questions.

The first thing you need to look at is who raised. A tight player raises and you have a weak hand, fold. If a tight player raised and you have a marginal hand, then it really depends on your ability and you’re going to need to be honest with yourself about that ability. If you choose to defend here, you will be out of position (unless the small blind raised).

Since you will be out of position against a tight player, you’re going to want to fire on the flop. Don’t go crazy, just make it a feeler bet that’s about half the pot. If a tight player didn’t hit any of it, they will fold. If a tight player calls, they probably have it and it’s a trap. When a tight player raises, run for the hills unless you have the nuts or close to it.

By betting out here, you’re +EV (positive expected value) over the long haul because that player is usually going to fold to a bet because they will usually miss the flop. You won’t pick up the pot every time, but you will pick up the pot more times than not, which will lead to profitability.

If you’re playing against a LAG player (Loose-Aggressive player) and they raise your big blind, your range should be wider. They’re going to be applying a lot more pressure on you so their range is much wider as well. However, just like in the scenario above, you should fire first on the flop. This will look even stronger than when you fire against the TAG player (Tight-Aggressive player) because the LAG player knows how you perceive them and will believe that you would only bet with strength in this spot. That said, there is another way to handle the LAG player as well.

poker blinds - aggressive player

If you’re not comfortable defending your big blind against this type of player, fold. Some might say that’s not what you’re supposed to do, or that it looks week. Their opinions don’t matter. What matters is chip preservation so you can go deep in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. You can make a strong argument for consistently folding in this spot. It might look weak, but it keeps you out of trouble. If you keep getting involved with LAG players, it’s not going to end well for you … unless you have situation where you can take all their chips in one shot, which is possible.

Playing the Small Blind

A lot of the time in poker tournaments, you will find yourself in the small blind and you’re getting pot odds with a hand like 73-off. Most poker players believe you should call here because of the odds, but where they’re not figuring is the endgame. In most cases, you will miss the flop, but the worst thing that can happen is hitting the flop.

If an opponent remains interested while you bet out strong, they’re likely to have a bigger pair, a bigger two pair, the higher end of a straight, or a bigger flush. So … those pot odds that people talk about? Forget about them. What you really need to think about is reverse implied odds, which is how much you expect to lose if you make your hand and your opponent hits a better hand.

Think about that every single time you’re in the small blind and the phrase “pot odds” enters your mind. Allow “reverse implied odds” to enter your mind and shove “pot odds” out of the way. You will be much better off in the end.

Rules for Poker Blinds

In regards to when you can leave the table and what happens to your chips, poker blinds are different in cash games and tournaments. If you’re playing in a cash game and you get up to use the bathroom, get a bite to eat, go for a walk, or anything else, the dealer will toss a ‘Missed Blind’ chip in front of your seat and the blinds will skip you while you’re gone.

When you return, you will owe the total for the blinds missed. Some people don’t like doing this because they wasted chips without being able to see their hands. Others don’t mind because it’s a small amount and they feel as though it might have kept them out of trouble. And then there are those who just needed to go for a walk because something bad happened and they needed to shake it off. For those folks, poker blinds are the last thing on their minds.


In poker tournaments, poker blinds are different when it comes to rules. In a tournament, poker blinds will not skip you. If you leave the table and it’s your turn to post blinds, the dealer will take chips from your stack to post the blinds. Your hole cards will be dealt to the middle of the table. They will never be turned up.

The game will go on as normal. If the blinds are small in the early levels, then it’s fine to get up and go for a walk. It’s not going to hurt your stack much at all. In fact, it might keep you out of trouble. It’s much easier to get into trouble early in a tournament than it is to chip-up early in a tournament.

poker blinds - tournament

If it’s later in the tournament when the blinds are high, it’s not recommended to leave the table. A lot of the time, this will be a serious dent. Even though everyone has more chips, you’re usually playing a smaller amount of big blinds. For instance, you might be played 250 big blinds on Level 1, but you might be playing 35 big blinds on Level 18 and feel like you’ve got a real shot. This should reveal tons of information, and it should tell you to play Level 1 like you play Level 18, but very few people are capable of doing that.

Final Thoughts

Now you know a lot more about poker blinds and how to play them. Whether you should defend the big blind depends on certain variables. As far as the small blind goes, don’t fall into the “pot odds” trap. It can lead to trouble, and also remember that you’re in the worst position possible after the flop. If you still don’t feel like you understand poker blinds, it’s recommended that you give this a few reads. It will sink in. See you at the WSOP!

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Poker Blinds – FAQs

Q: What are poker blinds?

A: These are the forced bets/fees you must pay once per orbit to play. There is a small blind and a big blind. The big blind pays double the small blind.

Q: What is the purpose of blinds in poker?

A: It’s so players don’t sit there all day and wait for AA or KK. They are used to create action.

Q: What is the big blind ante?

A: The big blind ante means you are paying the antes for the entire table once per orbit. Everyone does this on the big blind. It’s easier and faster than everyone putting out their own ante on every hand.

Q: How do blinds work in heads up poker?

A: The button is the small blind. The other player without the button is the big blind.

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