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Definition of Big Blind

Big Blind Poker Term

by Jesse Knight
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Big Blind
Big Blind - A blind wager used to seed the pot, usually to the left of the small blind.


In most poker games, pots are seeded with either antes or blinds. There is a very good reason for this. It creates an incentive for the players to generate action, and this incentive would be greatly decreased or absent if the pots were not seeded prior to the initial deal. To understand why this is the case, you have to have a basic understanding of pot odds.

Pot odds analysis is a risk/reward evaluation done by the player when they are deciding on whether or not to put money into the pot when it is their turn to act. To calculate pot odds, the player must consider how much money is in the pot, how much it costs to continue, and how many outs they have. For example, imagine that you are playing 3/6 Hold’em, and hold J♣ T♥. On the turn the board reads K♦ Q♠ 2♥ 4♣, you are heads up and your opponent bets $6. There is $60 in the pot (including the $6 your opponent just bet). You have an open ended straight draw which you must complete in order to win, and must decide on whether or not to call, based upon your calculation of pot odds. Luckily, you have all the information you need to make an accurate assessment of pot odds, which will steer you toward the correct play.

The first thing you should do is decide how many outs you have. In this case, you must hit either an Ace or a Nine on the river. Either card will give you the nuts and win you the pot. So you have eight outs. You have seen your two hole cards and the four cards on the board, and know that none of them contain any of your outs. This means that 8 out of the remaining 46 unknown cards will result in you winning the pot on the river. This reduces to 1 out of 5.75, or written as odds you are 4.75:1 against hitting your hand, a substantial underdog. To decide correctly about whether to take these long shot odds, you need to know how much you stand to gain. Remember there is $60 in the pot and it costs you only $6 to call. That is a return on your investment of 10:1. In this situation it is clearly worth it to invest $6 as a 4.75:1 underdog, when the rate of return for success is 10:1. Of course, had there been only $18 in the pot, rather than $60, you would have yielded a negative return on your investment, and your incentive to call would evaporate. This, in a nutshell, is how you calculate pot odds.

This background helps us understand why the seeding of pots is necessary. If a pot is seeded prior to the initial deal it gives every body in the game better pot odds to draw to their hands. Many players will know right from the start that their hand is an underdog, but if they are provided with the right incentive, in the form of correct pot odds, they will be willing to give action because it would yield a higher long run return over throwing their hand away. As the pot continues to grow, so does the incentive for players to draw. So, seeding the pot prior to the start of the hand has an exponentially beneficial effect on the action as the hand progresses.

Alternatively, consider the result if there were no money seeded into the pot. It would actually create a barrier for any player who considers their hand an underdog. The only player who would have an incentive to put money into the pot would be the player who felt he held a favorite. No player in their right mind is going to attempt to take an underdog against a favorite without pot odds. So seeding the pot breaks this natural barrier to entry by creating pot odds which incentivize action.

In most poker games, pots are seeded with either antes or blinds. Antes are typically used in Stud games, and are also used in conjunction with blind in the later stages of many tournaments. An ante is a nominal sum collected from every player before the start of the hand. This money is place into the pot to seed it, so that players are already playing for something as soon as the cards are dealt.

Blinds are commonly used in flop games and draw games. They work differently from antes, but have the same common purpose of seeding the pot prior to the initial deal. The reason two different systems are needed is because flop games and draw games are logistically different from stud games.

Flop games and draw games have a consistent clockwise order of action. This is accomplished by moving a disc called the dealer button, which indicates the right to last action after the flop, one position to the left after every hand. In this manner, everyone acts in a clockwise rotation, and has an equal turn at every betting position. Furthermore, blinds must be posted by the two players who sit immediately to the left of the dealer button. These obligations also move one position to the left before the start of every hand, and cannot be skipped or missed or the offending player will be dealt out for the entire round. Therefore, in flop games and in draw games, every player must pay their blinds when it is their turn to do so.

Blinds are appropriate and efficient for use in flop or draw games, but cannot be used in Stud games. This is because there is no dealer button and no set betting order which would allow for a set scheduling of blinds. Instead, the order of action in stud games is based upon the value of a player’s up cards, and can change anytime a new up card is delivered. Since this is the case, it is easiest to seed the pot in a stud game by collecting a nominal sum (ante) from each player.

Blinds and antes also function differently. Antes are dead money, which are taken into the pot prior to the start of the deal. They provide no credit towards future betting obligations, and must be posted by every player before every hand. Alternatively, blinds are mandatory blind wagers which result in live bets. A player who has posted a blind receives the same consideration as if they had bet.

Blinds come in different sizes and may be required from different positions. Most commonly, there will be exactly two blinds, which are classified by their size and are referred to as a “small blind” and a “big blind.” The small blind is typically posted immediately to the left of the button and is a partial bet. When it is his turn to act, the small blind will have the option to complete the partial bet and continue on in the hand, or instead, to sacrifice his small blind and throw his hand away. The big blind (sometimes called the large blind) is typically posted immediately to the left of the small blind, and is a full bet. This bet receives the same consideration as any other bet. The player in the big blind has effectively called in the blind, and will not have to put up any additional money to continue on in the hand, unless he chooses to raise or is raised by another player.

In Limit games, the big blind is usually a full small bet. For instance, if the game were $3/$6 Hold’em, the big blind would be $3. In No-Limit and Pot-Limit games, the big blind establishes the minimum allowable wager. If the game were $3/$5 blind No-Limit Hold’em, the big blind and the minimum bet would both be $5. Notice that with Limit games, the game is identified by the size of the structured bets, while No-Limit games are identified by the size of the blinds (or the buy-in amount, for instance $300 No-Limit Hold’em).

See also: Small Blind

Usage: Steal the Big Blind, Post the Big Blind, Missed the Big Blind

Previous Poker Term: Bet
Next Poker Term: Big Slick

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