- You registered with the Board Person and waited to be called
- You took your seat at the table
- The dealer placed The Button
Now it’s time for play to begin. At the start of each hand, two players must put chips into the pot before any cards are dealt. These “forced bets” are called blinds. They are called blinds because the players have to put in chips without having seen (blind) any cards and having had the opportunity to decide whether they want to play the hand or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether they want to play the hand or not, they must put in the blinds.
Of the two players, one is called the Small Blind and the other is the Big Blind. The Small Blind is the first player to the left of The Button. The Big Blind is the first player to the left of the Small Blind.
Here’s some examples…
When play first starts and the table is full, the player in seat 2 is the Small Blind and the player in seat 3 is the Big Blind because The Button is in front of the player in seat 1.
Blind positions at start of play at a full table
If the table is not full, the Small Blind is the first player sitting to the left of The Button, and the Big Blind is the first player sitting to the left of the Small Blind. In the example below, The Button is in seat 1. Seats 2 and 3 are empty, so seat 4 is the Small Blind. Seat 5 is empty, so, seat 6 is the Big Blind.
Blind positions at start of play at an unfilled table. (Seats 2, 3, and 5 are empty.)
The Blinds Move Clockwise Around the Table
Remember that The Button moves clockwise around the table at the start of each hand. Since the position of the blinds is determined by the location of The Button, the blinds will move clockwise around the table at the start of each hand as well. The Small Blind is always the first player to the left of The Button, and the Big Blind is always the first player to the left of the Small Blind. Looking at the graphics will help you see that the player designated as the Big Blind in one hand, will become the Small Blind in the following hand, and The Button in the hand after that. The order of The Button, the Small Blind and the Big Blind never changes.
The Blind Amounts
The amount of chips put in by the Small Blind is always “smaller” than the amount of chips put in by the Big Blind, and frequently the Small Blind is half the amount of chips of the Big Blind. Blinds can be as small as $.01/$.02, $1/$3, $5/$10, and as high as $3,000,000/$6,000,000.
Placement of the Blinds
I said above that the Small Blind and Big Blind must put their chips into the pot. In reality, they place the chips in front of themselves. The dealer gathers the chips and sweeps them into the center of the poker table. (No limit hold’em etiquette dictates that only the dealer touches the chips in play, and that no one else should be reaching into or touching the chips in the pot.)
Why are the blinds necessary?
The blinds put in chips in order to ensure that the pot has value. Why? Because it is possible that everyone except one player folds. If everyone but one player folded and the blinds did not exist, there would be no chips in the pot and the player who wanted to play would be left empty-handed. Putting blinds into the pot ensures that the player who wanted to play receives a reward. If all other players fold, the last player to act (decide whether to play or not) wins the pot regardless of the value of his/her hand and whether or not he/she would have played.
When you go to a casino and register at the Poker Room desk, the Board Person will ask the “level of blinds” that you want to play.
Note about Live Play etiquette
If you do not have the exact denominations of chips to make the blind and need change, do not make the change yourself. Place the chips in front of you and the dealer will give you change after the blinds are swept into the center of the poker table.
When you log on to your online Poker Room, the No Limit tables will be listed by blind values.
As a beginner, whether starting out in a casino or online, choose the smallest level of blinds. Once you become familiar with and enjoy some success with the lower levels, you can gradually move up.
Slice of Life
The first time I played live was in 2005 at The Mirage in Las Vegas. I had been playing online for 5 months. I chose to play a $3/$6 table. The registrar politely and firmly told me that since it was my first time playing live, she would only seat me at a $1/$3 table. 🙂 Thanks for her wisdom. I bought in for $100 and only lasted 45 minutes in my first session at that level. That afternoon, I played again, buying in for another $100. Just that little bit of experience in the morning helped me last 2.5 hours – and – I was table high for about 1.5 of those hours.
Blinds in Tournament Play
As a No Limit Texas Hold’em tournament progresses, the blinds increase according to a pre-defined time period (and antes are charged). Each blinds:time period combination is referred to as a level. Each tournament has a tournament schedule, and when you sign up for a tournament, you will be given the schedule so that you will know how quickly the blinds will increase and when the antes will begin. Here’s a look at a typical No Limit Hold’em tournament schedule played during the 2018 WSOP.
Points to remember:
- At the start of each hand, one player is designated as the Small Blind and another player as the Big Blind.
- The Blinds are forced bets that must be put in the pot before any cards are dealt in each hand.
- It doesn’t matter whether the players designated as the blinds want to play the hand or not.
- The blinds are put in the pot to ensure that the pot has value.
- The Blinds move clockwise around the table like The Button.
- The order of The Button, the Small Blind and the Big Blind never changes. The Small Blind is always the first player to the left of The Button, and the Big Blind is always the first player to the left of the Small Blind.