Know Your Blinds:  How a Blind Bet Changes the Game

When your in the blind seats, both small blind and big, you’re starting the game throwing money into the pot when you haven’t even been dealt cards yet.  That fact alone changes the game for you, and you’ve got to be able to adjust your game to it unless you want to be out money every time the seat comes back around to you.  Like other aspects of the game, there’s strategy to playing in the blind seats.

Now you’re betting is changed the moment you become the small or big blind.  In Omaha and Texas Hold’em, the most popular card game in America and Europe today, the blind betting structure is used. 

So what is it and why is it used?  Put simply the blind betting structure is one in which 1-3 players, most typically 2, must put in a required bet of a certain minimum amount before the cards are dealt in order to play in the game.  The big blind is most often double that of the small blind which is usually a full minimum bet.

The reason for this being that in Omaha and Texas Hold’em there usually isn’t an ante.  So instead to get the pot going and get players interested in winning it blind bets are used.  That way everyone eventually pays their fair share into the pot but they don’t have to pay into it every game.

The dealer seat is where everyone wants to be so they’ll have the advantage of betting late in every round.  Of the small blind was conveniently placed just to the left of the dealer position and the big blind position is the seat just to the left of the small blind.  So it works out to where players must have the positions with the least advantage before they can have the best seat at the table.

Now I’m sure some players might ask, well what happens if someone leaves the table, or someone goes out who is about to get one of the blind seats, what then?  This has been taken into consideration.  First off if a game is head’s up play then the small blind goes to the player in the dealer position and the other player has the big blind.

If a player who in the big blind position goes out during the hand then the next round the small blind is simply skipped.  That way the dealer button goes to the player who just posted the small blind gets the dealer button and the player after the big blind gets it just as they normally would and the rotation will stay the same. 

If it happens that the player who was getting the dealer button next, the small blind, unluckily goes out then the dealer button is moved to their empty spot and no one is actually at that position.  This is called the dead button rule and is used to keep things fair as well as keep the rotation intact.  

No one can get the dealer button in a rotation if they haven’t paid the big blind.  That means if you leave the table and don’t come back in time to make your big blind you’re out as dealer until it goes all the way back around again.  This is a double negative for you because if you leave and come back or if you enter a table that’s already in play you’re going to have to throw in an additional big blind into the pot to be able to sit in and play. 

That means you’ll have to pay the big blind but not get the benefit of great positioning in the near future, and then you’ll have to pay the blind again when the big blind seat actually gets to you in the rotation.

This means you’re going to need to make a decision of when you want to actually get in the game when you approach a table.  In real table play you have two options that are also available to you when playing online.  You can go ahead and jump into the game if you really want and post a big blind bet then possibly have to turn around and post it again right away.  But you could also opt to wait until it is your turn for the big blind in the rotation. 

This is the suggested choice even though you can’t play a hand until the big blind comes to you.  Waiting gives you two benefits, the obvious one of not having to post two big blinds in one rotation, but you also have the opportunity to look in on some hands and see how people are playing.   Everyone knows in poker the better you are able to read other players the more advantage you have.  This is really your only opportunity to sit and watch everyone else while you’re not distracted by playing your own hand.

Online some poker rooms give players the Past Posting option.  This makes it so that a player can choose when they’re going to enter the game, thus can choose what seat they want first.  Of course they can’t choose the dealer position, so the next best decision would be entering just after the dealer button has passed.  This way you start off the game in an advantageous late position and you won’t have to pay the blind again until it comes to you later down the line.

Likewise a player can strategically choose when they take their break so that they reenter the game in a better position than leaving at other points.  Some people like to leave right after the Big Blind so they don’t have to post two in a fairly short period of time.  This could be a good decision if you’re stack is running really low, but it also means that you’ll miss some of the late positions. 

The better choice would be post take your break just before your big blind when you’re in the early positions and don’t have the luxury of good positioning.  It might cost you a little more up front, but it can also mean a much better chance of winning hands worth a lot more.

There’s one other disadvantage to discuss other than a blind seat having to put money in the pot before they even have cards.  The blinds must wait until the end of the first round of betting to either call, raise or fold.  This is fine as you’ve gotten to see what others have done.  But the problem lies in that for every other betting round you are an early better and in a weaker position.  This must be factored in when deciding what move to make in the first betting round.

So now that we know how blinds work and strategy involved with positioning yourself when playing blinds it’s time to move on to the actually question of betting while in the blind seats.  There are two different circumstances which are worth taking a look at separately because each will affect your playing differently; limit hold’em and no-limit hold’em.  

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