How to play

  1. How to Play 
  2. Poker strategy 
  3. Betting 
  4. Poker blinds 

Learn about the big and small blinds in poker

In this section you will find out everything you need to know about poker blinds including the following:

What are blinds in poker?

Blinds in poker are forced bets that are made before the dealer pitches cards to the players. There is a small blind and a big blind. The small blind is paid by the player to the immediate left of the dealer, with the player to the direct left of the small blind paying the big blind.

The size of the blinds are predetermined before the start of the cash game or poker tournament, with the small blind typically being half the size of the big blind.

Why do we need blinds in poker?

Blinds are crucial in flop games such as Texas Hold'em and Omaha. Cash game blinds remain constant, and act to entice players to enter the pot because there is already money on the table they can win.

Tournaments require continually increasing blinds because they would take several days to complete without them! Multi-table tournaments often attract several hundred or even thousands of players. Without increasing blinds, players would sit waiting for premium hand before committing any of their chips. Rising blinds forces players try and accumulate chips before the blinds eventually swallow their chip stack.

What is a good tournament blind structure?

There are no set rules for what determines if a tournament structure is good or not. Some players prefer fast or turbo structures where the blind levels are short, where others only like playing in tournaments with slow structures.

Typically, a good tournament blind structure sees players sit down with a generous starting stack of chips worth 100-250 big blinds, and where there are no significant increases between levels. For example, a tournament where the blinds went from 50/100, 75/150, 100/200 would be deemed good, but one with blinds of 50/100, 100/200, 250/500 would be terrible. Furthermore, a good tournament blind structure keeps the average stack size at such a level that players have room to play poker against each other instead of moving all-in or folding.

Example of a blind structure

A typical PartyPoker tournament blinds structure for an event with a 50,000 starting stack would look something like in the table below. Notice how the blinds and antes continually but gradually increase. This ensures the action continues and that the tournament eventually concludes.

Level Number

Small Blind

Big Blind


Length (mins)



















































Poker Blinds Terminology

Starting stack – Your starting stack is the number of chips you receive when you enter a poker tournament. Most tournaments see players receive a starting stack with between 100-200 times the number of big blinds at the start of the event.

Blind increases – Blinds continually increase throughout a poker tournament. The increasing cost forces the action, and ensures players are eliminated and the tournament reaches a conclusion in a timely manner.

Gradual blind increase – The best tournament structures see gradual blind increases rather than having large differences between the blind levels. Gradual increases keep the average stack size at a healthy number of big blinds. Gradual blind increases are preferred because it gives players more time to play poker and build up their stacks.

Big blind – The big blind is the forced bet paid by the player seated two seats to the left of the dealer; the big blind is usually twice the size of the small blind. Players measure their stacks in terms of the current big blind amount.

Missed blinds – You are deemed to have missed the blinds if you leave the table while you are seated in either the small blind or big blind seat. The dealer will still take your blinds if you are competing in a poker tournament even if you are sat out. However, things are slightly different in a cash game. If you sit out before the blinds reach you, and then return once they have passed you, you have missed the blinds. You are unable to receive hands until either the big blind reaches you, or you pay the blinds early. Nobody gets away with missing the blinds!

Blind periods/levels/round length – Blind periods, blind levels, and blinds round length are different terms for the same thing. They describe the time before the tournament blinds increase. For example, 20-minute levels would mean you play at the current blinds for 20 minutes before they increase.

Rebuys/Re-entries – Some tournaments allow players to rebuy or re-enter if they lose their initial stack. There is a predetermined length of time were rebuys and re-entries are permitted. You purchase the rebuy or re-entry, receive the starting stack, and continue playing.

Add-ons – Add-ons are a feature of rebuy tournaments where player can buy some additional chips once the rebuy period ends.

Antes – In addition to the small blind and big blind, most tournaments, and some cash games, have antes in play. Antes are forced bets that everyone at the table pays before cards are dealt. The size of antes varies, but are typically between 10-15% the size of the big blind.

Poker Blinds FAQs

Q: What is a blind structure?

A: A blind structure is used in tournament poker because tournament blinds continually increase until a champion is crowned. The blind structure shows the size of the blinds and the length of time the blinds remain at a particular size, also known as levels. Blind structures ensure that a poker tournament concludes within a specific timeframe.

Q: What should poker blinds be?

A: Poker blinds can be whatever amount you want them to be, although the tournament's starting stack or cash game maximum buy-in often determines them. Traditionally, cash game players sit down with 100 big blind stacks. Tournaments have varying stacks but typically see players start with 100-200 big blinds.

Q: How do blinds work in poker tournaments?

A: Poker blinds in poker tournaments work in the same way as cash game blinds, but with two significant differences. First, cash game blinds remain constant where tournament blinds continue increasing until a champion is crowned. Second, tournaments usually see an ante added into play at some stage, which is essentially a third blind that everyone at the table pays.

Q: Where do poker blinds sit?

A: The small blind sits to the immediate left of the dealer, or button. The big blind is the seat to the direct left of the small blind.

Q: How many big blinds should you have in a poker tournament?

A: Most poker tournaments give players a starting stack of 100-200 big blinds, although some deepstack events start with more. Tournament blinds should not have large jumps between levels, and instead increase progressively.

Q: What does small blind mean in poker?

A: The small blind in poker refers a forced preflop bet. The player to the direct left of the dealer pays the small blind, which is usually half the value of the big blind.

As well as knowing about how poker blinds work during games and tournaments, it is equally important to have a strategy in place in order to steal your opponents blinds and protect your own.

Find out how to develop your strategy when dealing with blinds below!

In cash games, stealing poker blinds should be an important part of your strategy. In this section we’ll talk more about how to steal blinds – and what to do if someone’s stealing them from you.

Things you’ll learn about include:

Setting up

Cash games are all about action. Usually, it’s the most aggressive players who win the money, either by forcing people with marginal hands to fold, or hoping their aggressive image pays off when they do have a hand.

Because it’s about attitude rather than cards, there’s a lot of variance to deal with. This means you’ll need to factor in a bankroll of 30 buy-ins or more (or 50 buy-ins for six-handed games at $5/10).

Opening moves

In this type of game, it’s no good waiting for good hands to come along. Instead, you’ll see players raising and re-raising before the flop all the time, often with pretty dubious hands.

Suited connectors, face cards and medium pairs are all good for a re-raise (useful if you get aces or kings later). You can also call to mix things up a bit, but generally, this is no time for limping.

If you’re going to play a hand, raise three to four times the big blind (five times if someone’s already raised). Hopefully this will win you the poker blinds. If not, you’ve got the momentum you need to continuation bet, which should always be the next step in your plan.

Playing from the blinds

If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of tactic when you’re in the blinds, don’t take it personally. At this point, it’s purely about position. They’ve got it – they’re using it. You would do the same.

One thing you shouldn’t do is play back just because you’re annoyed. The chance of getting caught out is so high that you’ll want to tighten up your play and focus on damage limitation instead.

Blind defence

It's good to know how to defend your poker blinds - It’s possible to see off an aggressive blind-stealer, but only if you know what you’re doing, and who you’re up against.

  • If they raise too regularly
    Try re-raising them. Be prepared to go over the top with anything from A-J, A-10 or K-Q to medium pocket pairs (6-6 and above). You want to go big, for three reasons:

    1. It puts them under real pressure (with any luck, they’ll fold)
    2. It tells people you’ve got a strong hand
    3. You take pot control from your opponent, putting you in prime position to continuation bet, no matter what the flop

It puts them under real pressure (with any luck, they’ll fold)

It tells people you’ve got a strong hand

You take pot control from your opponent, putting you in prime position to continuation bet, no matter what the flop

  • If they don’t bet enough post-flop
    In this case, drawing hands with potential are your best friends. Hands like 4-5, 6-5 and 7-6 suited are worth a call.
  • If they’ve bought in short
    Because the payoff is small, this is one of the few times where a pre-flop call out of position is better than a re-raise. If your hand’s disguised well, your implied odds should warrant a call.
  • Other times to call
    The other hands you would call with are small pocket pairs from 2-2 through to 6-6 (unless you want to find yourself continuation betting into a K-10-8 board with 3-3). In general you should be thinking no set, no bet out of position – and always check the implied odds. If your opponent has $80 and raises you to $8 pre-flop, only call with 3-3 if he’s the type of player to pay you off.

    You might also want to apply the 'rule of 10' – and adjust the odds of flopping a set (7.5:1), to 10:1 – to cover set over set situations and the fact you’re out of position.
  • Learn to fold
    Ultimately, calling out of position in this type of game is never going to be ideal. Sometimes, it’s better just to hold onto your chips and fold.

After the flop

In higher limit games (even big, more anonymous ones) predictable play is the road to ruin. So post-flop strategy becomes a lot about mixing it up and creating the kind of table image that will pay off later.

For example, you’ll see people veering away from the standard continuation bet and floating (calling with a weak hand in position hoping to take the pot away later), bluff-raising or smooth-calling with any made hand.

To deal with this, you’ll need to mix in some check-raises and check-folds yourself to keep people off-guard. You should also float more against anyone who tends to fold under pressure on the turn.

If someone’s being particularly gung-ho, you should aim to bluff against them on the turn a decent percentage of the time (especially when the board changes or you pick up outs).

You should also place a few all-in bluffs on the river to balance out the times you value bet a big hand.

Here are some more plays that will help confuse your opponents:

  • If the pot is $15 pre-flop, lead out for the full pot with any two cards (you’ll want a reasonably dry board - one high card and two cards are ideal). Why? It shows strength, it’s not a move you see often, and in terms of risk-versus-reward from the big blind, it’s a good one.
  • Check-raise any flop with a single king, queen or jack. Since most hands miss most flops, they’ll need this face card in order to call.

If you can play aggressively on all streets with the right kind of frequency, you’ll do well. These games are about the players more than the cards, so you need to be able to read them – without letting them read you.