If you have ever played poker, you have probably been forced to pay the poker blinds, but you may not fully understand what they are and how they work.
If you are unclear about what is a blind in poker, we will help you understand this common poker term and concept by looking into every aspect of it.
We will cover what poker blinds are, why they are paid, what they are used for, and how you should play, depending on your position in relation to the blinds.
In most poker games, including Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha, one of the players at the table is randomly selected to act as the “dealer.”
While this player does not deal the cards, he is used as a referent point for who gets the first cards and who posts the poker blinds.
The dealer is marked by the dealer button and changes every hand while the two players to the dealer's left post the “small blind” and the “big blind,” the two poker blinds.
Blinds in poker are static when playing a cash game, and they change in time intervals in poker tournaments. In both cases, blinds are used to entice action.
If not for the blinds, all players would be free to sit around and wait for premium hands without any real incentive to enter pots.
The posting of blinds entices other players to start making raises to try and win these blinds, which then entices further potential action.
A poker game without blinds would be pretty dead, while poker games that add multiple blinds called straddles tend to get pretty crazy and hectic.
The concept of blinds is fairly simple. The two players to the left of the dealer are responsible for posting the blinds, the small blind and the big blind.
Whether you are playing a cash game or a tournament, the dealer will announce what the blinds are before a hand starts and instruct which players need to post them.
In a $1/2 cash game, for example, the player to the immediate left of the dealer button posts $1, which is the small blind, while the player to their left posts $2 before any cards are dealt, which is known as the big blind.
The action continues with the first player to the left of the big blind, who gets to act on his hand once the hole cards have been dealt.
The two players in the blinds are at a disadvantage for the hand as they are the only ones who must put money into the pot without looking at their hole cards.
However, the button moves around the table, and every play
r is forced to post the small blind and the big blind once per orbit, balancing things out for everyone.
In fact, you will get to play each position at the table exactly once per orbit, which means no one can have any unfair positional advantage over anyone else.
You may be wondering how poker blinds affect the game's action, and you would be right to ask this question.
The higher the blinds are, the more reason players have to enter pots with a raise to try and steal the blinds from players who have posted them without looking at their cards.
When everyone sits down with a $200 stack in a $1/2 cash game, players will have a reason to raise it up to $6 to try and win the $3 already out there.
The two players in the blinds have two random cards each, which means it is unlikely they will have a big hand they can defend their blinds with.
If the game was played without blinds and everyone was sitting with $200 at the table, there would be no real incentive to enter pots or play any poker.
While games without poker blinds are possible, these forced bets make a lot of sense in starting the action.
Many new poker players start out by playing in tournaments and are quickly introduced to the concept of escalating blinds.
In poker tournaments, blinds are essential, and it is necessary to increase them in time intervals if there is to be any hope for the tournament to end.
If we give 1,000 players a stack of 10,000 chips and start the tournaments at 50/100 blinds, which is a common practice, there are 10,000,000 chips in play.
If the blinds never escalated, there would be nearly no way for a single player to accumulate all 10,000,000 chips in play.
This is why blinds continue to escalate throughout the event, forcing players to play for higher stakes as time passes and forcing eliminations.
As the tournament advances, another mandatory bet is typically introduced, which is called an ante.
Ante bets are typically worth about 10% of the big blind and are paid by every player at the table.
If you are playing poker tournaments, get ready to face the ever-escalating poker blinds and make sure you know what blind level you are playing at every point.
Your entire tournament strategy will be designed around the number of big blinds you have in your stack and the average stack size, so you will have to have a strong grasp on these concepts very early.
The big difference from tournaments is that blinds in cash games typically don’t change. This is why you don’t see stacks dramatically escalate in cash games, as players continue playing at the same level for the entire session.
The process by which the blinds are posted in cash games is identical to that in tournaments. The players to the left of the dealer button are the ones who must post the blinds on each hand.
However, cash game players have come up with a way to make the games bigger, and this is by introducing multiple blinds.
A “straddle” is another bet made before the cards are dealt, and it is typically posted by the player sitting to the left of the big blinds.
Unlike the blinds, straddles are not forced and are completely optional. Some venues allow cash game players to post as many straddles as they want, which can dramatically increase the size of the game.
In most cases, a straddle will be worth twice as much as a big blind. In a $2/5 game, for example, the first straddle would typically be for $10.
One thing to remember about straddles is that they are actually very unprofitable to post. Unless you don't have to, you should never put money into the pot before looking at your cards, so stick to posting the poker blinds you must, and peek down at your hole cards before you act.
Heads-up poker is another format that has been very popular lately, with many big-name players challenging each other to heads-up battles, both live and online.
Unlike cash games or tournaments, heads-up games are played between just two players, but the blinds are still in play.
The one question that must be asked is, who posts which blind in a heads-up duel? Since one of the players is the dealer, we can't go by the rule of the two players to the left of the button posting the blinds.
Instead, the player who is the dealer for the hand will post the small blind and act first before the flop, while the other player will post the big blind.
The button puts you in position throughout the hand and is an extremely powerful tool in heads-up poker. Having a position on your opponent will enable you to play nearly all your cards, making heads-up poker extremely complex.
As I already discussed, the big problem with being seated in one of the two blind positions in a poker hand is that you are forced to commit money without looking at your cards.
With a small or big blind out there, you may be forced to continue to the flop if no other player comes in for a raise.
In raised pots, you will often be given very good pot odds to make a call and see a flop, especially because most players only open for a min-raise these days, so there are quite a few things you should consider when playing in the poker blinds.
When seated in the blinds, you will be forced to play the entire hand out of position against all other players at the table if you go to a flop.
While you will be acting last before the flop, you will be forced to play first on every following street, which is a big disadvantage.
Your opponents will be able to control the pot size and act almost perfectly on each street, while your hands will be tied in many situations.
While the pot odds on calling a raise may seem solid, you should think carefully about doing it, especially when you are seated in the small blind position.
Whenever you defend your big blind against a raise from any position, you will typically have a weaker range of hands than your opponents.
Since you will usually 3-bet all your big hands, your opponents will be able to have hands like AA, KK, or QQ after the flop, while you will not have these hands if you just call preflop.
While this may give you some space to maneuver on certain boards, it will also limit your ability to represent a big hand on many boards where your opponent can do so.
This is another reason to be careful when defending the blinds and why you should introduce quite a few 3-bet bluffs into your defense strategy, especially in the small blind.
This one is related to your positional disadvantage, but it is a more mathematical reason to exercise caution when defending the blinds. Being forced to play first on all streets means you will be put under a lot of pressure and be forced to fold your hand before the river on many occasions.
Whether you have a winning hand already or may be able to make it on the river, your opponent’s bets will often force you to fold a hand with some equity.
This ability for your opponents to deny your equity means you will get to realize less than you would hope for, which makes it necessary to have better odds against your opponent’s range than you would need if you were playing in position.
Like it or not, you will have to pay the price of the blinds in every poker game you ever play. So, you should not put too much value on it.
Every player at the table will be forced to post the blinds once per orbit, and most will end up playing too many hands in these positions.
When playing online poker games where the raises are small and the pot odds are good, you will need to defend your big blind quite a bit while still releasing all speculative hands in the small blind.
In the live games where raises are big, you should play extremely tight in the blinds and let go of all but premium hands or those that have the potential to make a monster.
Position is king in poker, and your ability to maneuver through the hand greatly diminishes whenever you play from the blinds. Remember that there is no need to “defend your blind” but always play poker according to the math and the odds, never out of spite or ego.
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