The great 'Ante first' vs 'Big Blind first' debate

Barry Carter explains the big debate happening on Twitter right now about a rare situation that will come up in 'Big Blind Ante' games.

Earlier this year I made a prediction that the ‘Single Ante’ (ie. the Big Blind or the Button posting the antes for the entire table) will become the norm in poker tournaments and I think that has already become the case. In fact I played in a Button Ante event myself and the integration was seamless. If you are unsure what I am talking about, read my column on it, but basically it speeds up the game and makes it easier for the dealer.

There is, however, an interesting and strangely intense debate going in poker about its implementation. In fact over the weekend Daniel Negreanu and Matt Savage got quite heated (they’re friends so don’t take this too seriously) about the best way to implement it:

And no, it wasn’t a debate about Button vs Big Blind Ante, it was about which is posted first in a Big Blind Ante scenario – the Big Blind or the Antes?

Ante first or Big Blind first?

So in a Big Blind Ante game, let’s say the blinds are 500/1,000 and the Big Blind Ante is also 1,000. The Big Blind obviously belongs to the player who posted it, but the Antes represent 111 chips from everybody at the table (assuming a nine handed table). This is all relatively easy to understand, until you get to this unusual situation that will rarely happen….but it will happen. What if the player only has one Big Blind?

The question then becomes when they post their only 1,000 chip, is it their Big Blind or is it nine 111 Antes they are posting?

This is important to understand because if we say that the 1,000 chip is that player’s Big Blind and let’s say they win a three-way pot, they would take back 3,000 chips and have a lifeline. However, if we say that that chip represents nine 111 Antes, in that situation the player would win only 1,000 chips, because the only hand they were contesting was a side pot between all the Antes. This visualisation helped me understand the debate taking place between ‘Big Blind first’ vs ‘Ante first’.

This second example from Steve Badger highlights how complicated this rare (but once again, will happen often enough) situation becomes:

Fairness vs player experience?

The argument for ‘Ante first’ seems to be that the Big Blind Ante represents the Antes of everybody at the table (It just happens to be this Big Blind’s turn to post them) and the only equity the player has in the hand is the 111 chips for their share of the Antes. If we are to deem the lone 1,000 chip of the player that was posted to be their Big Blind, then the rest of the table have posted Big Blind Antes themselves in this orbit but not had one posted on their behalf this hand. It essentially is the ‘fairer’ way of doing things for all players at the table.

The core argument by the ‘Big Blind first’ side is more based on compassion, indeed Negreanu argued this was the ‘Player friendly’ example because it would leave a stink in the mouth of a recreational player who would win a multi-way pot and only get the blind they posted back.

My usual default response to any of these debates is to do the thing that would make the game more enjoyable for recreational players and the ‘Big Blind first’ side certainly does that. It’s quite a complicated scenario for serious players to fathom anyway, let alone recreational players, and anything that gives a casual poker fan a glimmer of hope is no bad thing.

However, I must find myself siding with the ‘Ante first’ crowd on this one for the simple reason that the Big Blind Ante represents equity of every player in the hand, not just the current Big Blind. I also think that despite how seriously this is being debated on Twitter, I doubt any casual poker player is going to have sleepless nights over a hand where they already had less than two Big Blinds (It will no doubt be the hand that preceeded it they will leave the card room cursing about). Either way it’s great that the conversation has already shifted from whether the single Ante system works to what is the best way to implement it.

Share this page

Comments (2)

newest first
  • Tim128


    Just put the ante on the button or UTG
  • playboychess


    Ante on the BU makes most sense to me