PokerStars Tournament Director Explains Big Blind Ante Decisions
It's a familiar drumroll resonating in the ears of all tournament players worldwide. Posting an ante on top of the blinds has been around for decades and a staple at every major poker tournament around the world. However, the traditional system wasn't without its flaws, as recently pointed out in an article on PokerNews regarding the subject.
In short, antes slow the pace down, provide a logistical problem by having to keep smaller denomination chips in play and often force players into tedious changing processes just to be able to post the ante.
Despite the issues, the "everyone posts their ante" rule survived unscathed throughout the years, stemming from a purist background of everyone having a piece of proverbial skin in every hand. That is until recently, when the poker community decided to start moving away from the traditional ante, instead favoring the big blind or the button to pony up a round of antes at once.
A recent poll on Twitter showed the community is still very divided on the subject. With more than 1,000 responses to the question whether the big blind ante, button ante or traditional ante is preferred, 31 percent indicated a preference for the big blind, 30 percent said button ante was favored, while 39 percent stuck to their guns and rather had the old-fashioned way of posting.
Poker writer Marc Convey has a clear preference: the big blind ante.
"The big blind ante and the shot clock both speed up play, you also see players interact more," Convey said. "The big blind ante is better than the button ante for two reason. First, you have just two people needing to put chips in as opposed to three. And secondly, the big blind is always in play. Sometimes, you have a dead button; then what are you going to do?"
PokerStars introduces big blind ante at major events
After trying it out at earlier events and receiving positive feedback, the big blind ante format has been implemented at every no-limit hold'em tournament at the 2018 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo©Casino EPT. To ask about this big change, we spoke with EPT Monte Carlo tournament director Toby Stone to inquire about the change and why the big blind ante is preferred over other ways of anteing.
"The big blind ante has been introduced at every NL hold'em event at the Monte Carlo EPT, as well as the Barcelona EPT and we're working on getting it in Prague as well," Stone said. "We've got two PokerStars festivals coming up in Marbella and Lille — for those events we've just decided to introduce it on the key events, the Main Event, High Roller and the Cup.
"The reason is that at those events, that level of player is a bit less professional than here, the big blind ante hasn't filtered down to that level of play yet, it needs a little bit of time to work its way down. We imagine we'll do it on all events in the future, but we're willing to change depending on the feedback we get."
On why the change to the big blind ante format was chosen, Stone said:
"There are a few reasons we're doing this. One, it takes time for the dealer to collect the antes. Every single hand without collecting the ante saves a couple of seconds that saves you a minute or two per hour, giving players one, two, three more hands per hour. From an organizational perspective, it's also a little less wear on the dealer. They don't have to collect every ante every hand. They work long hours and it's a quite tiring job, and it a little less wear on them, so it's natural to do it for them as well.
Also, we do it for the players. They don't have to constantly think, 'put your ante, put your ante.' It should increase the enjoyment of those players as well by not having to constantly think about it. It's less work for them, less activity for them. They can have a conversation or check on their phone instead of having the dealer pounding on the table, 'hey, post your ante.' It makes for a more fluid game."
With the response to the Twitter poll being divided, it's clear the poker community hasn't settled on a consensus yet regarding the ante format. While the big blind ante seems to be the one spreading, some events have used the button ante.
Why did PokerStars go with the big blind?
"We settled on the big blind because you can only be the big blind once," he said. "You can never be the big blind twice. However, you can get the button twice. Now, if you're the button twice, we can't force you to pay the ante twice. That's not right.
"It's a little bit purer to the game, and that's really the key reason we have the big blind ante over the button ante."
Speaking of purity, another massive debate that raged was between whether players should post their ante or big blind first, with outspoken stances on both sides of the aisle. Posting the ante first has been the traditional way of posting since, well, ever, but at PokerStars events, this has been changed to a big-blind-before-ante format. Stone laughed heartedly when we inquired about this change.
"I tell you a true story," he said. "When I was first asked [about whether to post the ante or big blind first], I was like 'well, it has to be the ante.' It has to be the ante, because everybody pays their ante first, that's what it was before. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to poker. And the argument against that, obviously, if [a player] is just all in for the ante, he can only win that money back, not any more money. From a purist level, that would actually be correct, if you take into consideration what we've been doing in the past.
"On an enjoyment level for the players, it's horrific that you can get down to such a low amount of only winning your money back. It's really not good. Then I kind of changed my view and decided: well, I'm not going to look at it and take the history why the ante is there and why we changed it."
Positive feedback from the players
PokerStars has received positive feedback about the change to the big blind ante from the players. Team PokerStars Pro Fatima Moreira de Melo played her first ever big blind ante tournament in last night's €1,100 EPT National Day 1c turbo and instantly fell in love with it.
"It's super chill!" Moreira de Melo laughed right away.
The change to the big blind ante format does create an interesting new dynamic, as players feel like they're posting two big blinds at once. She pointed out defending the big blind might become more common as a result.
"You're more likely to complete the big blind, because 'why not,' while it technically shouldn't matter as you should divide the antes across the orbit," she said. "Consequently, you have to be alert in the other hands as well and not think 'well, I've invested nothing,' you have to look what it's the pot and think longer term. I've not been trained in that yet as yesterday was my first time playing with a big blind ante."
Monaco resident and high roller Govert Metaal chimed in as well, stating no preference regarding big blind or button ante. Metaal didn't notice a specific difference, as he said these days everyone completes the big blind all the time.
Talking about the big blind before ante change, Moreira de Melo said, "It's a good thing, otherwise it would be terrible when you're short."
"It really saves a lot, you play like 4 more hands per hour," Metaal added.
On the button versus big blind debate, Metaal said, "You putting the big blind in anyway, and it's easy to throw in another big."
"It's easy, a lot smoother," Moreira de Melo concurred. "Everything will be simpler and easier."
In conclusion, Metaal pointed out, "When you're a poker player, with the big blind ante as well at the shot clock, at the end of your career you will have played thousands of hands more because of it. That's what you're doing it for."
So there you have it, the reason why the big blind ante is in play at all no-Limit hold'em events at the 2018 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo©Casino EPT.