By Randall Rapp
The hot new trend in poker tournament play is the big blind ante. If you haven’t come across it yet, it simply consists of the big blind paying the ante for everyone.
My first reaction when I heard about it was that it seemed kind of communistic for this bastion of capitalist games. After all, why should I have to pay your ante?
But like most knee-jerk reactions, this was short-sighted and highly inaccurate.
Yes, it does make for a big hit when the big blind comes around to you, as the ante usually is the size of the big blind. So if the blinds are 1,000/2,000 you can count on coming up with another 2,000 for the ante, which can make for quite a hit to your stack all at once.
On reflection, though, the positives outweigh the negatives.
The main reason given for implementing this rule change is usually that it speeds things up. This is undoubtedly true. The dealer doesn’t have to spend time collecting antes, making sure everyone actually did ante, or figuring out who didn’t when the pot comes up one ante short. She just reaches over to the big blind’s offering, grabs the chip(s), and the whole process is over.
I can’t be the only one who remembers Prahlad Friedman saying that Jeff Lisandro had failed to ante during a hand at the 2006 World Series of Poker. It kept getting more and more controversial and chewing up time as Friedman’s insistence increased and Lisandro approached the boiling point, until finally he threatened to “take your [Friedman’s] head off.”
Strictly from a television viewing standpoint, this might actually be an argument for leaving things as is, with all that potential drama we’ll miss out on. How can you start a brouhaha over antes when there’s only one! Either it’s in the pot or it’s not. It might cost poker some TV ratings, but the actual players involved would (mostly) prefer to avoid the stress and tension that comes from a scene like that one.
Then we have the economics of the new system. If I pay the ante once every orbit, same as everyone else, I certainly am not harmed by it—at least not any more or less than anyone else. Yes, it can seem like a painful hit to the stack, especially when the blinds get really big, but look at it from the other end too.
If the blinds are 100/200 you would usually have to ante 25. At a full tournament table of 10 players that would cost you 250 per orbit, but with a big blind ante it would only cost 200. You just saved 50 chips!
Of course, when the tables get short handed the ante starts to become disproportionately large. With 10 players and the blinds with big blind ante at 1,000/ 2,000/2,000 the ante is effectively costing you 200 per hand—about what you’d expect. But if you are six handed, the ante now cost you 333 per hand, a significant increase.
Then you have the dreaded situation wherein you’ve just paid the big blind (and, in this case, ante) when the tournament director announces that your table is breaking up and passes out seat cards and chip racks. You collect your things and move to your new table only to find that, naturally, you are about to pay the big blind again! The only thing that can be said about this, other than that it makes a bad luck of the draw worse, is that it sucks to be you.
These were the two situations that made me first wonder about the wisdom of big blind antes. But it doesn’t happen that often, or for very long, until you get down to the last couple of tables. At that point it’s best to remember the good things about the system, be glad that you made it so deep in the tournament, and keep in mind that the big blind ante hits every remaining player equally once per go-round.
The conclusion would be that it’s equal, fair, faster, less prone to misunderstanding, and in only a few places necessary to take the bad with the good. Sounds like a worthy experiment. Like with any good capitalist enterprise, it’s the paying customers who will decide in the end whether its an advance or a setback.
Stones Gambling Hall
Mrs. A and I took the trip up Sacramento way to participate in Stones Gambling Hall’s Moneymaker Tour to take a shot at the Platinum Pass to the Bahamas courtesy of PokerStars. The pace of the event was fast and furious, but people didn’t seem to mind the turbo structure too much, as there were alternates and re-entries galore. Enough to get more than 800 entries over two starting days in a room with a limited number of tables.
Alas, neither of us was destined to take the long flight to the Caribbean courtesy of PokerStars, but it was nice to chat with Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, Joe Stapleton, and Lon McEachern. Stapleton was particularly fun to hang with for a few minutes. He’s clever, quick with a quip, and had this to say about the establishment: “Stones is one of the coolest, kind-spirited, fun poker rooms I’ve ever been to. There’s not one obnoxious thing about this place. Which doesn’t really sound like a compliment … but this place is just chill.”
Because Stones had them lined up so nicely and we were already in the neighborhood, we stayed an extra night and Monday morning took part in the first flight of their now semi-regular Quantum Tournament. With multiple buy-in options over the course of a week, there are a lot of ways to qualify for the big Day 2 showdown in this $100,000 guaranteed event.
Next time they have it on their schedule you should give it a try, even if you’ve got a ways to go to get there. It’s worth the trip. Hope to see you there!
Lucky Chances Casino
Not content with the couple of stabs I already took at the Platinum Pass, I decided to head over to San Francisco (okay, technically Colma) to play in Lucky Chances Casino’s version of the Moneymaker Tour.
They had been playing $86 Day 1s all week, but I got there on Saturday in time for the last one before the big Day 2 on Sunday. The structure at Lucky Chances was more that of a regular tournament, but that’s the advantage of having more days and tables available.
They also played all six of their Day 1s with no rake, so the full $86 of each entry went to the prize pool. This was quite a bonus Lucky Chances gave to their players, and all I spoke to were very appreciative.
Other than another nice chat with Chris Moneymaker, not a whole lot went right for your humble Ambassador in the tournament. It seemed the universe just had no use for me hanging out in Nassau next January.
Both Stones and Lucky Chances used the big blind ante for the Moneymaker Tour, and it seemed to be well accepted. Even if you haven’t seen it used yet, enter a few more tournaments and you surely will.