Definition of Ante
In all forms of poker, it is very important to have money in the pot prior to the deal. If there was no money in the pot, then it would benefit conservative play, and players would kill the game by simply waiting for pocket aces.
An ante, which is a mandatory bet for every player every hand, is one solution to that problem. If a poker game has an ante amount, then each player, starting to the left of the button, seeds the pot with that predetermined amount.
Itís important to note that blinds, the small blind and the big blind, are different from the ante. The blinds are forced bets but only for the two players to the left of the button, and the button moves one position to the left each hand.
Antes are most common in private casual games. Blinds are more common in casino environments and high-stakes games. Typically, a poker game will either use the ante or the blinds but not both of them at that same time.
There are, however, exceptions to that rule of thumb, particularly in tournament environments. Using an ante in conjunction with the blinds can speed up the game, especially in the latter stages where players may play safe.
For this reason, tournaments and high-stakes games also use graduating antes and blinds. In a casual game, the ante may never change, but in most other games, the ante increases by a set amount each time around the table.
Larger tournaments tend to escalate at levels marked by time. The World Series of Poker uses 2-hour levels starting at $25/$25 with no ante. Level 2 is $25/$50 with no ante. In fact, there is no ante at all until the fifth level.
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