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.
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Cash Games vs Tournaments - Choosing the Right Poker Game for You

So you want to play poker at home? One of the first things you'll have to do is decide whether you want to play cash games or tournaments. With many advantages and disadvantages for each, I've outlined the major points for both below so you'll be able to pick the best option for you and your victims... I mean friends.

Tournaments
Poker tournaments are generally what you see on television with players competing until all chips are controlled by a single player. Players are paid based on how far they get before they are eliminated.

Pluses

  • Tournaments tend to be more competitive as there's actual placing for players to fight for.

  • If you want your home games to be part of a league, it's much easier to track points if people are placed in tournaments.

  • Cash games can be scary for some since you can lose a lot of money quickly as you're able to continually buy back in. Tournaments allow people to know the amount of money they are risking upfront and can focus on playing rather than what they are losing.

  • Tournaments allow for players at many tables to compete towards one goal, thus lending itself to larger amounts of players.

  • With tournaments, you're able to add various awards and achievements, such as bounties for knocking out players, awards for players with the longest winning streak, etc.



Minuses
  • Tournaments can take a long time and you really can't quit until you've been eliminated, thus making it harder to schedule a block of time where multiple people can play.

  • More rules are generally required for tournaments and you often need to keep track of more things (such as raising blinds).

  • Beginners often take awhile to get their heads wrapped around the idea that they can't just walk away with their chips at any time.

  • Players eliminated from a tournament are done and can only watch from then on out.


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