An ante is a forced bet in the game of poker that all players are required to place. This amount is placed in the pot by each player before the dealing begins. There may be variations on how the ante is imposed and these will be determined before the game begins. The ante helps to ensure player participation in the game which in turn increases the pot odds for all the players in the game.
How much is the Ante?
The ante is a fixed amount that is equal for all players. It is often a single unit or the lowest denomination of chips or money in play. It can also be worked out to be a proportion of the minimum bet amount. Subsequent bets in the game are generally based on the ante value so the ante gets the game rolling.
Why is the Ante Required?
The ante ensures that every player places some money into the pot every round. In a similar way to how the blind bets act as the starting point for betting in a game of poker, so the ante bets also act as the starting points for betting. While the ante is a small amount of money for each player and overall, it means that even players who fold every round will lose money, even though it will occur slowly. The aim of the ante is to encourage players to play some of their hands at least, in order to try to win some money. This does not mean that you cannot fold – it just means that you are unlikely to win if you fold every round.
When is the Ante Imposed?
The ante is not very common in games that impose a blind structure. They are far more common in poker variations such as stud poker and draw poker. That being said, some tournaments that impose a blind structure also impose an ante bet. This ante is often imposed at the later stages of the tournament in order to get play moving and liven up the tournament. Imposing an ante discourages very tight play. If play is loose, it means that more players are staying in the game every round. If more players stay in the game, the pot size increases more which means that the cost of staying in the game is lower relative to the pot size at the time which increases the pot odds. It also makes for more exciting play which is especially important in televised poker games. Once the ante is introduced at the later stages of tournament play, most players will change their style of play to compensate. This change in style is known as "changing gears."
The ante also often provides the encouragement for players to play sensibly. If you have invested in the pot, despite the fact that it is a small amount, you will be encouraged to play your best. If you have nothing to lose on the other hand, you do not need to focus on your game.
Who is Required to Place the Ante?
In general, every player is required to place an ante bet every round. As explained above, in this way every player will be given the incentive to play as they will have invested into the pot each hand.
In games where the dealer changes every turn, the players may agree to have the dealer pay the ante for each player. That way, the requirement to pay the ante rotates. It is a way of simplifying the ante betting procedure, however, this only works if players do not miss their turns to deal or if some system is set up to ensure that a player who misses his turn to deal, will still have to pay the ante amount on their return.
Some variations of online poker impose the same rules for blinds, on antes. The player who sits to the left of the dealer is known as the small blind and this player will place the minimum bet ante into the pot. The player to the left of the small blind is known as the big blind and they will place the big ante bet or double the minimum bet ante into the pot.