When visiting the Playground Poker Club  outside Montreal last week, I played in a tournament which employed a button ante. The button ante has appeared on the radar recently, so I thought I would share my experience with it.

What is a Button Ante?

When a button ante is used, the player on the button pays the ante for the entire table. At the Playground, the amount was static regardless of the number of players sitting at the table. Early in the tournament, the ante was the size of the small blind. Later it went up to the size of a big blind. The button amount is treated exactly like any ante, as it is swept in by the dealer and does not mean that the player is in the hand.

I have seen reference to other tournaments using a “big blind” ante (doubling the big blind) instead of the button ante. Personally, I prefer the latter, but individual preferences may vary.

Impact of the Button Ante

I became an instant fan of the button ante. The action moved much more quickly than in a typical ante tournament, as the dealer merely had to pull in one ante, rather than sweep, count, and make change for all ten players around the table. That alone won me over. Additionally, I preferred paying up once for the round, rather than having to put chips out every single hand. The larger ante sizes meant that the smaller chips were off the table faster, making it easier to count my, and my opponents’, stacks.

I have to admit, I am a fan of the button ante. Click To Tweet

Finally, the button ante also encouraged me to play more aggressively (which I should be doing anyway) in a couple of ways. First, when I was on the button I had a tendency to play more aggressively (as I should) as it felt like I already had some investment in the hand. Even though I know this was an illusion, as once the ante is taken in it is gone just like any other ante, it still had some subjective value. Secondly, this style ante further pushes the action for small stacks as it becomes more critical to be aggressive ahead of the blinds. If you fail to shove in the hands before the big blind, you now have to pay the big blind, small blind, and button ante in consecutive hands. That can take a short stack to a microstack pretty quickly.

Who is Using It?

At this point, the button ante seems to be fairly rare, at least in the US. The Playground has been using this system since early 2017. Several online tournaments on sites such as Party Poker and Dusk Till Dawn have recently launched them. A number of casinos in Europe and Asia have instituted the button ante as well. The Tournament Directors’ Association position appears to be wait and see before they comment on the practice.

I think that the button ante will become a reality in card rooms across the country very soon. I will happily greet it when it does.


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