Blinds Amounts, Raise Schedules, and Antes

If you're looking to run a poker tournament at home, determining the blinds and antes is crucial to making sure your game runs at just the right pace to keep action lively while still giving players room to maneuver. Make your blinds to high to start with or raise them too fast and people will not have much wiggle room for strategy. Raise your blinds too slowly and you're likely to have a game run on forever with people waiting for perfect hands every time.

Note: the following tips are geared towards poker tournaments and not cash games as cash games run as long as you want regardless of blinds and antes.

Blinds Starting Amount
Determining the starting amount for your blinds isn't as crucial as figuring out how much to raise them and how often, but the starting amount definitely plays a fairly big role. A general rule is to use 1/50 to 1/25 of your starting chip amounts as your big blind. If everybody starts with 100 in chips, the big blind should be two and the small blind should be one for 1/50 or 4 and 2 for 1/25 the stack. This allows the first few rounds to go by at a relatively relaxed pace. The 1/25 amount starts things off a little quicker, so it's best used if all your players are veterans.

When to Raise
Most tournaments raise blinds fairly quick (usually between 15 and 30 minutes) as they try to keep the action moving. You'll probably want to do the same even though you might think you can keep blinds low for a long time. The problem with leaving blinds low is that people will often merely wait for a huge hand before playing, thus slowing the game down severely. Depending on your player size and how quickly you want your game to end, I recommend raising blinds at either 15 or 20 minute intervals. You can also stagger the raises so that the first few raises are at 15 minute intervals but then you can switch to 20 or 30 minute intervals.

Another easy option for those not wanting to keep track of the time is to raise the blinds after each player is eliminated. This is a simple route to take though it's not terrible reliable since people may get eliminated incredibly quickly - thus raising blinds faster than normal, or people could survive longer than usual - thus slowing the blind raises too much.

How Much to Raise
Again, determining how much to raise is going to be based on how quickly you want your tournament to move along. You'll also want to take into consideration your blind starting amounts and your blind raising schedule. If you're raising blinds very quickly, you'll probably not want to raise your blinds too high each time.

Doubling the blinds may seem like a simple and fair way to raise the blinds each round, but you'll likely find certain levels grow too fast. A big blind schedule of 2,4,8,16,32,64 will probably start to strain players at the 8-16 jump. Instead, try 2,4,6,10,16,20. This has a more gradual incline and yet will keep the action moving. Obviously this will depend on your chip stack starting amounts, your raising schedule, and how many players you have. If you start with 50-100 chips, the above blind schedule should move your group pretty well if you've got 6-10 players. Again though, you'll likely want to adjust the amounts each game depend on how you see the action move.

Antes
Some tournaments use a combination of antes and blinds but I generally play without antes as it's one more thing you have to keep track of when blinds generally keep action moving fast enough without them. If you do wish to use antes, you should still use blinds along with them as it introduces the familiar blind strategies that are seen on television and are practiced in most card rooms.

One Blind-size Does Not Fit All
In the end, it boils down to feeling out what works best for your group and how long you want your tournament to run. You'll probably want to try out a more relaxed (smaller blinds and slower blind raises) the first game or two just to see how long your games run. If you find your tournaments running long, try doubling your blinds at the beginning or raising the blinds 5 minutes earlier. Just remember, if action seems slow with people not raising a lot, bluffing, and making moves, you'll want to raise blinds faster or by larger amounts. If you see people forced to go all-in too quickly due to high blinds, you'll want to slow down the blind schedule and/or lower how much you raise the blinds each time. No matter what you decided, you should agree on the blinds before the game starts so that nobody is blindsided (pardon the pun) by a blind raise in the middle of the game, screwing up any strategy they had going.

Comments

  1. martin Said:

    In a home no limit game of 6 - 8 players, each with 400 - 500 chips, hoping for a game no longer than 6 hours, is it a good idea to start with blinds of 1 and 2, but double them every 30 - 45 mins??

  2. Michel Said:

    Well, i think it depends on you. If you guys are playing for a long time it would be okay. But in the end you will have the problem that blinds are too low in heads-up. Think of it...Both players have abozt 4000 chips and blinds will be like 64/128. My mates and me had the same problem ( 5-7 players each one had about 3000 chips and blidns were 5/10 ) You will have to raise blinds faster to keep to an adequate ratio between chips of the players and blinds. I give you our solution: start at 5/10. 15 minutes 10/20. 15 minutes 20/40. 10 minutes 25/50. 15 minutes 50/100 ( from now on we established antes of 1/5 SB ) 15 min 75/150. 15 in 100/200.. and so on..this soudns pretty fast but its perfect.you can divide all our blinds through 6 (3000 chips / 500 ) and you have the aproximate amount of blind in your game. I hope i helped you a bit.

  3. All (American) Weekend « …sed mutato n Said:

    [...] usually hindered by our gross ignorance of the rules, what to do in case of a split pot, how the blinds are to be raised, etc, etc. Now, we had a charming dealer who took care of that while we were just there having fun [...]

  4. skoups Said:

    just for somebody else that may stumble across this site and have the same question as Martin, we have about 8 players and our games runs just over 6 hours. We start around 20:00, with 10,000 chips, unlimited rebuys until 23:00 and have the following schedule, increase at 30 minute intervals, 50/100, 100/200, 200/400, 300/600, 500/1000 (we play this for an HOUR ending at 23:00), at 23:00 we have final rebuys of up to 25,000 chips. Blinds now continue to go up in 30 minutes intervals, being 1000/2000, 2000/4000, 3000/6000, 5000/10k, 10k/20k, 25k/50k, 50k/100k, 100k/200k. We normally have the bubble bursting (3 players left) just before we move the blinds to the 25k/50k mark (i.e. 01:30) The blinds at 25k/50k gives headsup a nice fight with each having about 500k chips.

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