What is Ante?

Ante → 1.  Ante is a mandatory preflop investment that must be contributed by all players at the table. 

Example usage → “It was NLHE ante game, so I adjusted my strategy accordingly”

“Up the Ante” → 2.  "Up the Ante" is a colloquial expression describing increasing the amount wagered.

Example usage → “He wanted to flip for $100, but I decided to up the ante and make it $200”

Explanation

Antes are generally uncommon in cash games although such ante games do exist. The exception is stud variants of poker which always have a required ante. One reason for this is that there is no dealer button in stud variants, meaning that mandatory SB and BB aren’t taken. Without antes in stud there wouldn’t be much of a pot to fight for on the first betting round (aside from the forced bring-in). Cash games with a dealer Button hence rarely use antes because the SB and BB payments have already built a small pot for the initial betting round. 

Most poker tournaments employ antes, but typically only in the later rounds. The initial blind levels in a tournament hence usually only involve SB and BB payments. The exception again is stud variants since the ante payment is an integral part of the game and must be taken at every blind level.

In fact, when describing the limits of stud games, the ante amount is generally included in that description. For example $1/$2/$0.25 where 25 cents is the ante. An additional may also be included to describe the size of the “bring-in” payment in stud, i.e $1/$2/$0.25/$0.50

Strategy Application 

Whether in a cash game (such as Hold’em or Omaha) or the later stages of a tournament, the forced payment of antes typically incentivizes looser decisions on the preflop betting rounds. There is simply more money in the pot to be won.

For example imagine a 6-handed table at $0.05/$0.10 online. There will typically be $0.15 in the middle before any player gets to act. If we assume that it’s a game with a 2cent ante, there will be an additional $0.12 in the middle on top of this for a total pot-size of $0.27 before any betting takes place. Seeing as the pot-size is nearly doubled in this instance, it would be a mistake to assume that preflop strategy will remain the same as it was with no forced antes.

See Also 

Stud, Bring-in, Small Blind, Big-Blind

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