Poker blinds are mandatory bets that are placed into the pot before any cards are dealt. The blinds are paid each hand by the players who are occupying the “small blind” and “big blind” seats at the table. Poker blinds help drive the action forward and prevent players from simply folding until they are dealt premium cards.

In this guide we’ll learn the following -

How do Blinds Work in Poker?

Poker blinds are mandatory wagers that must be placed into the pot before any cards are dealt. They are paid by the players occupying the “small blind” and “big blind” positions at the table. The blinds themselves are named after the table positions “small blind” and “big blind”.

Since the positions at the table change after every hand, each player at the table will pay both the “big blind” and “small blind” once per orbit.

What are Big Blinds and Small Blinds in Poker?

The big blind and small blind refer to the amount that players occupying these two positions at the table must place into the pot before any cards are dealt. The big blind is typically twice the size of the small blind, although not always. Antes are different from blinds in that they are paid by every player at the table, while the small blind and big blind are only paid by players in those positions.

How are Blinds Determined in Poker?

The blinds in a poker game are determined by whoever is hosting the game. In many cases the big blind is twice the size of the small blind but the host could technically choose any blind structure. For example, it’s not unheard of for the small blind to be the same as the big blind in some live casinos.

How do Antes and Blinds Work in Poker Tournaments?

Blinds in poker tournaments work in the same way as cash games aside from one key difference. The blinds in poker tournaments increase after set intervals of time. Players must hence maintain an ever increasing chip stack to avoid being knocked out. Antes are often introduced in the later stage of tournaments. Antes are similar to blinds apart from antes are paid by every player at the table rather than just those occupying the small blind and big blind position.

Do Blinds Go Up in Cash Games?

Blinds in cash games generally stay the same; it’s only in tournaments that the blinds increase after set intervals of time. When playing poker online or at a casino, we’ll need to change tables if we want to play for higher or lower blind amounts (usually referred to as “stakes”). Of course, if every player in a home game were to agree, there is no reason why the blinds couldn’t be changed.

How do Blinds Work in Heads Up Games?

In heads up poker games, the button pays the small blind (and is sometimes also referred to as the small blind position). The small-blind/button acts first on the preflop betting round but last on the postflop betting rounds. The other player is referred to as the big blind and pays the big blind amount preflop. Sometimes this causes confusion since the small blind would act first postflop in a standard ring game but acts last preflop in a heads up game.

How To Calculate Number of Big Blinds in a Tournament?

Our stack size in big blinds is calculated by dividing our tournament stack by the current big blind amount. For example, with $1000 in our stack, we would have a 10bb (big blind) stack if the blinds were $50/$100 on the current level. Keeping track of stack size in big blinds is important for tournament players since it has a large bearing on what the optimum strategy looks like.

Final Thoughts

Poker blinds are not complicated once we get used to them. In the context of a live poker game we simply need to remember to place the appropriate chip denomination into the pot when we are in either the big blind or small blind position.

Without the blinds, poker might easily become a boring game where every player at the table waits for strong holdings. Instead, players are incentivized to enter the pot with weaker holdings in the hopes of picking up the blinds preflop.

For more information on poker blinds, and also what it means to play “blind” in poker, check out this glossary definition.

Timothy "Ch0r0r0" Allin is a professional player, coach, and author. Since the beginning in 2006 he has built his roll from the lowest limits online without depositing a single dollar. After competing in some of world's toughest lineups (and winning) he now shares his insights and strategies with the 888poker magazine.