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Getting Started with Poker Blinds

Jordan C

Jun 12, 2023

Getting Started with Poker Blinds

Everyone hates paying them, but poker blinds are an essential part of the game. But what exactly are poker blinds, how do they work, and why do we need them? All of that and more will be answered in this poker blinds article.

What Are Blinds in Poker - Big Blind, Small Blind?

Poker blinds are forced bets made by the two players to the left of the button in popular poker games such as No Limit Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. These blind bets are referred to as big and small blinds, as the blind amounts are different from one another.

Posting the big and small blind is mandatory and must be made before the cards are dealt. You cannot take back your blinds after the cards are dealt, even if you fold your hole cards.

In the preflop and postflop betting rounds, the big blind is the minimum bet a player can make. For example, if you’re playing in a $0.50/$1 cash game, the minimum you can bet is $1.

How Do Poker Blinds Work?

Now that we know what they are, how exactly do poker blinds work? Well, before the cards are dealt, the player to the direct left of the dealer button pays the small blind, and the player to the left of that player pays the big blind. Once the blinds have been posted, the cards can be dealt and the hand can begin.

The small blind is often half the size of the big blind. However, the exact sizes of the blinds will depend on the game you’re playing. It’s important to know that poker blinds work differently in cash games and tournaments, so let’s take a look at how they differ.

Cash Games

In cash games, the size of the blinds is dictated to the players at the start of the hand and will not increase during the game without the consent of the casino and all players at the table. For example, if you sit down at a $1/$2 cash game in your local casino, the game won’t suddenly become $2/$4 or $5/$10. The only way for the blinds to increase is if everyone at the table agrees and the casino approves. If one player does not want the blinds to increase, they’ll stay the same.

In online cash games, there is no possibility of the blinds increasing, so you’re guaranteed to be playing the same stakes. So, if you log on and start playing a $0.25/$0.50 game, it will always be a $0.25/$0.50 cash game.

Tournaments

Tournaments, on the other hand, work very differently from cash games. In poker tournaments, blinds start out at a low level compared to the starting stack and will increase at the end of each level. Tournament levels can be anywhere between two minutes to two hours depending on the game you’re playing.

If the blinds did not increase in tournaments, the games would last much longer, as people wouldn’t be forced into going all-in to win chips that would keep them in the tournament. The smaller your chip stack compared to the blinds, the fewer rounds you can survive without winning a hand, so the more aggressive you must be.

Calculating the Number of Big Blinds in a Tournament

You’ll often refer to players having a certain number of “big blinds” in their stack when they’re playing a tournament rather than the number of chips they have. This is because their stack size in relation to the blinds is much more important than the sheer number of chips. It’s better to have 10,000 chips and 100 BB than it is to have 1,000,000 chips and 10 BB!

The more big blinds you have, the more rounds you can survive without winning a hand, so the more comfortable your position at the table is. When you get short-stacked, it won’t be long until your stack is entirely eaten away by the blinds, so you need to make an aggressive action quickly to try and win a pot and top-up your stack.

To calculate the number of big blinds in your stack, simply divide the number of chips in your stack by the size of the big blind. For example, if you have 100,000 chips and the big blind is 5000 chips, you simply have to divide 100,000 by 5000 to get the number of big blinds in your stack - in this case, 20 BB.

Related: The Essential Guide to Poker Tournament Strategy 

Heads-Up

Posting blinds in heads-up play can be a little confusing for beginners, as there are only two players and one of them is on the button. In these games, the player on the button posts the small blind and the other player posts the big blind. 

After the hand has finished, the button moves to the next player, just like it would in a regular game, and the blinds are posted again. You need to play very aggressively in heads-up poker, as you’re posting a blind every single hand!

How Are Poker Blinds Determined?

Poker Blinds in TournamentsThe blinds of a poker game should be determined by the organisers before the start of the game and dictated to the players. In a cash game, the game organiser will decide the blinds for each table. While in most cases, the size of the big blind is double that of the small blind, that’s not always the case. 

For example, in most live cash games, a $5 big blind is paired with a $2 small blind, as this eliminates the need for $0.50 chips on the table. Some casinos will even have the small and big blind be the same size in their lowest stakes games, such as $1/$1.

In poker tournaments, the size of the blinds at each level must be determined before the game starts. You can often find a structure sheet that will tell you what the blinds will be at each level. Knowing how quickly or slowly the blinds increase will allow you to make better decisions; if the blinds increase sharply, you may need to play more aggressively than you otherwise would.

Why Do We Have Poker Blinds?

While it’s clear to see why poker blinds are useful in tournaments, why do we also see them in cash games? After all, it’s not like you play down to a winner in cash games, so why are you forced to pay a small blind and a big blind every round?

Well, the reason blinds are used in all types of poker is because they drive action. Think about it, if there wasn’t a small blind position or a big blind position, there would be no punishment for sitting around and waiting for aces. You could sit around and receive cards with no penalty and there would be no need to play any other hand, as your stack would stay the same size no matter how many times you folded.

However, if we introduce blinds into the game, suddenly sitting around and waiting for aces isn’t such a good strategy. For every 9 hands, you need to pay 1.5 BB. If you expect to get aces every 221 hands, it will take roughly 24 rounds before you get them. This means you would have paid 36 BB while you’ve been waiting!

Poker blinds are our incentive to play. They force us into making aggressive actions to steal the blinds from other players and stop our stack from slowly trickling away. They’re much more important than players realise, so make sure you play aggressively and attack the blinds when you can.

Summary

While no one likes paying the blinds, poker games would sure be a lot more boring if we didn’t have them. The blinds drive the action in poker games, making them much more exciting and interesting to play. After reading this article, you should know everything there is to know about how blinds work, why they’re necessary, and how you can adjust to them in your games.

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