Big blinds, small blinds confusion
April 23, 2005 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Can someone explain to me, in simple terms, the meaning behind the big/small blinds in texas holdem?

What makes them different from an ante? Why would there be betting before the first hole cards are dealt?
I'm confused! I've googled this to death, and have sort of an idea, but from a strategy standpoint it seems needlessly complicated. 6 of us have been playing a bit with just an ante, and now that we got the game down, I feel that we could handle the added complexity of the big/small blinds thing, I just feel, as the house, that I should fully understand it before I implement it.
Bonus question: if everyone at the table starts with $10 worth of chips, what's a reasonable table limit to set for betting?
posted by asavage to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
The pot starts too big if everyone antes. Since the big blind is considered the first bet, anyone wanting to play their hand must call that bet.

If you are going to play limit hold-em starting with a $10 buy-in: .05 small blind, .10 big blind, .20 bet on the turn and the river. This should keep everyone in the game for most of the night, however long it goes. Otherwise .10/.25/.50 should last about 3 hours with 6 players starting.

If you are going to play no limit with a $10 buy-in: .10 small blind/.25 big blind is fun and should last about 2 hours with 6 players starting.
posted by mischief at 8:35 PM on April 23, 2005

The blinds are good for setting an immediate bet for the first round of betting. The big blind has effectively bet first, everyone else has to call his bet, raise, or fold. The betting before the flop can be some of the most important betting, as the big cards are usually trying to get out the crap. Imagine if you had Ace King, and someone was able to sneak in for free, with an 8 4. He hits two pair (or full house), and your Ace King are worthless, since you didn't knock him out before he saw the cards that made his hand.

We play a tiny game of $5, and start our blinds at 15 for big, 10 for small, and then double the blinds every half hour.
posted by still at 8:36 PM on April 23, 2005

Everyone is explaining what the big blind is for. Thing is, that is the one that can be figured out with logic and patience. What is the *small* blind for?
posted by Chuckles at 8:44 PM on April 23, 2005

Thanks for the quick advice.

Forgive me for sounding like an idiot, but do the blinds come before you get your two cards, like an ante? Or do they happen after your two cards but before the flop? Thanks mischief for the estimated game times, that helps a lot.
Also, does it always go: small blind, then big blind?
For limit hold'em with that $10 buy in, is $2 a reasonable big bet, with the blinds and the limit doubled after a couple hours?
posted by asavage at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2005

You have big and small blinds to encourage some money to change hands with each round of cards.

Before anybody gets any cards, one player is forced to make a bet (say 10 cents), the next player is forced to raise the best (say 20 cents). Then the first two cards are dealt, and the next player has the option of calling/raising/folding the 20 cent bet. When it comes around to the first better they already have 10 cents in the pot, so if people are just calling or folding, there's a lower threshold for them to get into the game (they're already 10 cents in, so they may was well go another 10 or 20 cents). That makes it more likely that the game will get to the flop rather than the big blind just picking up their single bet and no money changes hands.
posted by willnot at 8:54 PM on April 23, 2005

There's a pretty good explanation here
posted by willnot at 9:00 PM on April 23, 2005

What willnot says. It's to get the action going.
posted by melt away at 9:02 PM on April 23, 2005

1. no ante or blinds = everyone would wait hours and only play AA, folding everything else for free = no game

2. ante = primitive solution to above. new problem = if everyone is pre-committed, there is now pressure to stay in even with poor cards which promotes a very luck-based gambling game. lowering the ante to where people no longer feel that pressure just results in situation (1)

3. blinds = primitive solution to (1) and (2). new problem = the concept of blinds is not intuitive and causes mass confusion
posted by foraneagle2 at 9:19 PM on April 23, 2005

So the small blind is just (a tiny little bit) more of a good thing?

Why not just one blind, or two equal blinds, or have everyone bet 1 unit, then 2 units, then 3, etc. in order clockwise from the dealer?

Historical reasons. Okay, I guess I see...
posted by Chuckles at 9:28 PM on April 23, 2005

If you have only one blind, and no ante, everyone can just fold at no cost and the big blind takes back their bet and it's very easy for nothing to happen (no flops) until someone gets AA or AK or KK. And then everyone else will run away and the game is boring.

You also don't want two equal blinds, since every hand will see a flop, regardless of what people actually have.

A half-value small blind tries to strike a balance between those two extremes. It seems to work well enough, though they'll still fold a lot of hands.
posted by smackfu at 9:51 PM on April 23, 2005

Having the blinds makes it more fun to play. If I'm in the small blind, that means that (assuming nobody raises before it gets to me) I only have to call half as much as anyone else. That makes me slightly more likely to play a hand I otherwise might not. If I'm in the big blind, and nobody raises pre-flop, I get a free look at the flop before deciding if I want to bet any more.

It also changes the dynamics a little for the pre-flop betting. On every post-flop round of betting, the dealer (or, if there's a common dealer, the person who "should" be dealing) is "on the button" and bets last. This is a huge advantage, because it lets you see what everyone else is doing before you have to do anything. On the pre-flop round, though, the big blind bets last, because the small and big blinds are considered to have already bet.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:57 PM on April 23, 2005

Blinds are forced bets, instead of an ante. Pretend there are no bets in the first round. It gets to the small blind, he bets 5. The big blind bets 10. 15 Is now in the pot. The next player calls, raises, or folds.

The blind rotates around the table to make things fair. The big blind has an incentive to stay in on a marginal hand, because he has already been forced to bet. If nobody raises the big blind, he is in for free.

If you think of the whole thing as a rotating forced bet and raise, it makes much more sense.

For the bonus question - Try a tournament round. Everyone buys in, winner takes all. No limit on betting. I've also played winner takes almost all, second place gets the buy-in back.
posted by bh at 10:17 PM on April 23, 2005

The blinds are, as many have noted, designed to induce action. They're also faster to deal with in a casino setting. I've played in live tournaments where there are blinds AND an ante, and ante related errors are FAR more common than blind related errors. They also take longer for the dealers to verify, and create a scenario where players without small denomination chips have to continuously get change from other players, to keep the game moving.

The standard limit holdem structures are 1/2 for 2 or 4 chip games (example: blinds are 40/80 in an 80/160 game played with $20 chips) or 2/3 for 3 or 6 chip games (blinds in a 30/60 game played with $10 chips will be $20 and $30)

The limit holdem structures have evolved over the years, to help create a good game. You can still occasionally find mini-blind games though they're rare. (The only ones I know of off-hand is the 10/20 game at mandalay bay, which had 1/2 blinds, and the low-limit games at the Hustler, which only have one blind)

In no-limit or pot-limit games, you'll find a lot more variation in blind structures. I've played in pot-limit games with three blinds (5-10-15, with the button posting $5), no-limit games with 5-5 blinds (small the same as big) and $10/$20 blind games, where the minimum opening bet is $40, not $20.

With $10 in chips, I'd set the limits at 0.25/0.50 if you're playing limit holdem (with .10/.25 blinds). If you're playing no-limit and people are capable of respecting raises that are less than a dollar, i'd play with two ten cent blinds. If not, I'd go for one twenty five cent blind.
posted by mosch at 5:09 PM on April 24, 2005

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