The implementation of big blind ante is all the craze in tournaments right now. In this format, instead of every player individually anteing, the big blind antes for everyone, often 1 big blind total. In today’s article, we will discuss the issues being discussed pertaining to the BB ante and required strategy adjustments.
As this new format is implemented, there have been a few different variations that different casinos have adopted. First is the use of big blind ante or button ante. PartyPoker has used the button ante for all of its events while most North American casinos use the BB ante. The advantage of a button ante is that it helps smooth the payment of chips for the big blind. Instead of paying 2.5 big blinds over 2 hands, they now pay it over 3 hands. This helps smooth out the structure a little bit, especially for short stacks. The main disadvantage with the button ante is that there is not always a button. This leads to pots with no antes. While there are slight differences with button and BB ante, I don’t see any real big strategical differences between the two.
Another big difference/argument you see is what to do when tables are shorthanded. Should the ante remain 1 full big blind or be reduced to the size of a SB. For example, at Wynn tournaments, when down to 4 handed at the final table, the ante is reduced to the size of the SB. The argument for this is that it helps improve the structure late in tournaments when most of the money is on the line. Playing 20k/40k with a 40k ante 4 handed is the equivalent of a 10k ante per player, which is quite massive. The BB ante structure would greatly benefit an aggressive player while the SB structure helps the short stacks and more passive players. The arguments against reducing the ante size is that it promotes more action shorthanded and helps promote aggression. Tournaments are about aggression and knocking people out in my opinion, thus I am a fan of not reducing the ante. I think people under adjust and don’t play aggressive enough shorthanded with a large ante. Another argument against reducing the ante is that when 4 handed, stacks are often deeper. Stacks have now combined into four people and the average stack is often larger in terms of BB than it was at the start of the final table. This variation in BB ante has more strategic implications in terms of how aggressive you need to play deep in tournaments based on the size of antes.
The final variation you will hear about pertaining to BB ante is whether or not the ante or BB are paid first. This situation comes up when a player has less than 2 big blinds and cannot fully pay both the ante and BB. The argument for paying the ante first is that everyone else has paid your ante for the last nine hands, so why should you not have to pay theirs. The argument is also used that in any ante game such as stud, players are not dealt in until they ante. The argument for BB first is that it benefits the short stack. Say you have 1 BB and post the ante and have nothing for your BB. Five people call and play out the hand. You win the pot, but you only can win 1 BB! You did not double up because you had no “live” money in the BB. The opposite situation occurs when you post the BB first. Then, you would have won 5 BB. There are valid arguments for both sides here, however it is a situation that comes up so rarely that I don’t think it matters much.
As for strategy adjustments for BB Ante, the most common question that I get asked involves defending your BB. People seem to think they need to defend MORE hands because they invested more. This is false. The ante is dead money in the pot and you should treat your BB defense range the same as before. You need to get over the mental barrier that because you invested more money, you need to call more. The same thing happens in big pots. People do not fold the river because they mentally know they already invested so much money.
The only realistic strategy changes in the BB ante format is shoving from early position as a short stack. When in early position and facing the BB ante approaching, you should adjust your shoving range slightly. I feel people are WAY over adjusting and shoving way too wide in early position with the BB ante. I would start taking EVERY +EV shove from early position with fewer than 10 BB, whereas in normal ante, I would pass on the marginal spots as I had time to wait. In general, people are way over adjusting in this spot so I may start calling early position shoves wider. It is still fine to go through the blinds with 10 BB. You do not need to be shoving crazy wide.
In summary, I think people are over analyzing the implications and strategical changes in the BB ante format. Don’t over adjust your strategies in the BB ante format! Just make sure you know which hands you can shove for +EV in EP. Jonathan Little’s Push/Fold app at JLPoker.com/app is a great tool to help you study these situations.