At the beginning of the year, I talked about my first experience playing a tournament with a Button Ante structure at the Playground Poker room. A mere 9 months ago was the first time I ever experienced a condensed ante structure. Boy, how things have changed. The big blind ante is rapidly taking the poker tournament world by storm.
In the past 3 months alone, I have played tournaments with a big blind ante structures in Las Vegas at the WSOP, in New York at both Turning Stone and Rivers casinos, and at numerous New Hampshire card rooms. Casinos and card rooms are transitioning to the big blind ante structure so rapidly that I now believe traditional antes will have gone the way of the passenger pigeon within the year.
Big Blind Ante Benefits
The primary benefit of the big blind ante is that it speeds up the game. Until you experience, it, it’s hard to understand how much faster poker moves when the dealer does not have to collect antes from everyone at the table. Or make change. Or remind the 9 seat that they haven’t anted yet for the 6th time in a row. And of course, a faster game means you get to see more hands in a blind level. This alone is reason enough for me to welcome the big blind ante with open arms.
A secondary benefit of the big blind ante is that you are not automatically “in” every hand deep in a tournament. I thus find it easier to step away from the table if, for example, nature calls and it’s still an hour until break. I have always had a lot of difficulty walking away from the table when each hand I miss is going to cost me 500 chips. With the big blind ante, I can take a quick break and know that I just need to get back before the blinds come around.
Finally, the big blind ante reduces the possibility of dealer error. When the entire table is anteing 50 chips and multiple players need change in every hand, the possibility of dealer error is significant. Which, of course, slows down the game. There is nothing worse than waiting 3 minutes for a neophyte dealer to figure out how to make change for a 1,000 chip out of the pot, turn to a player to make an exchange, get it wrong, and have to correct the error.
Did I mention that the big blind ante speeds up the game? SO MUCH.The primary benefit of the big blind ante is that it speeds up the game. Click To Tweet
Drawbacks of the Big Blind Ante
The big blind ante does have some drawbacks. The most significant is the fact that at a short table, there is immense pressure on the smaller stack players. If you have 6 players at your table and blinds are 2,000-4,000, you are still paying 10,000 chips a round. With a traditional ante, that would be 7,000 chips. And, of course, a round is completed every 6 hands. This gets expensive fast. Even worse, if your floor is not attentive, you could be getting killed on antes while the table next to you has 9 players and is paying a more reasonable ante per round.
I have only seen a couple of card rooms make adjustments for the late tournament/short table situation. One is to reduce the big blind ante when tables have less than 6 players. In this case, the big blind antes their regular big blind plus an ante the size of the small blind. Another is to return to traditional antes for the final table of the tournament. I think that both of these are great adjustments and am looking forward to seeing them adopted more widely.
Overall, I think the big blind ante is an excellent step in the evolution of tournament poker. The combination of increased dealer speed and accuracy is unbeatable. I appear not to be alone in this assessment, as more and more card rooms are adopting big blind ante structures every week. So get ready to encounter the big blind ante at a card room near you.
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