Poker Blinds and Straddle: The Complete Guide

Ashley Adams
Written by Ashley Adams
Vlad Mihalache
Editorial review by Vlad Mihalache
icon-thumb-up 0% icon-clock-grey 15 min
icon-calendar Updated on Sep 20, 2023

Poker blinds aren't just about putting money on the table; they shape the game's strategy and pace

In this guide, pro player Ashley Adams takes you through the ins and outs of blinds in poker.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

Let’s get started!

The History of Poker Blinds

In private poker games, back before hold’em became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, players were often required to place a small amount of money into the pot.  

This was called an “ante” - Latin for “before”, as it was placed before any action had commenced.  

It didn’t start action, but it provided something to play for.  

Without an ante, some players might just sit all day waiting for super-premium hands.  That was seen as something that would kill the action of the game, eliminate gambling, and eventually lead to a bunch of players doing nothing but folding.

A blind bet is meant to stimulate betting even more.  It puts money in the pot before players see their cards, and it also initiates betting action.  Once the blinds are posted, subsequent players must either call, raise or fold, eliminating the option of checking.

What are Poker Blinds?

A blind is a forced bet, placed by the player to the immediate left of the dealer, that begins the action of a hand.  

With two blinds, a small and big blind, the small blind is the first of the two blinds, placed by the first player to the immediate left of the dealer.  Typically, it is roughly half that of the big blind.  The big blind is posted to the immediate left of the small blind.

Two blinds are the standard today, but there’s nothing automatic about having them.  One blind was the standard for many years. Some games have three blinds.  

We now call the first blind, the smaller of the two, the small blind (abbreviated with SB); and the second blind, the bigger of the two, the Big Blind (BB).

Blinds have another special quality.  They retain the ability to raise if they themselves are not raised.

For example, in a typical two blind game of $1/2 no limit hold’em, the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2.  Imagine a loose passive game, as exists in many public poker rooms today.  It’s typical for a bunch of players to just call the big blind. 

The action might go like this:

  • SB: $1
  • BB: $2
  • Sue: Call $2
  • Bob: Fold
  • Joe: Call $2
  • Ika: Fold
  • Don: Call $2
  • Sam: Call $2
  • SB: Call $2
  • BB: ??

blinds in poker

At this point it is the BB’s turn to act.  His blind has been called by five opponents.  No one has raised.

The Big Blind can now raise himself!  It is the only situation in poker when this can happen.

The BB retains the option of raising.  If he doesn’t raise, he checks and the dealer deals the flop.  If he does elect to raise, then the subsequent opponents must either call the raise, raise the raise or fold.  If they call his raise, he does not retain the ability to raise again.

When the hand is concluded, the dealer button moves one seat to the left, and the SB and BB also move one place to the left.  In this way, every player, in turn, becomes first the big blind, then the small blind, and then the dealer.

What are Poker Straddles?

Most public poker rooms allow something called a straddle. It is a type of blind bet. 

Let me explain what it is and how it comes into play.

A straddle is a voluntary blind, sometimes made in addition to the required blinds of a game.  

As such, it functions exactly as a blind, though it is not required.  

It is a bet made before the cards are dealt.  The player making it retains the ability to raise if no other player has raised the straddle.

Types of Straddles

There are a few types of straddles. 

The most conventional is made in the seat to the immediate left of the big blind, as if there were in fact a third blind twice or roughly twice the size of the big blind.  

For example

In a $1/2 no limit hold’em game, the person in the three seat (known as “Under-the-gun” or UTG) might straddle by announcing before the cards are dealt, “I’m straddling”, and then place $4 (or $5 in some rooms) in front of him.  Thereafter, when the cards were dealt, the player in the four seat could either call the $4, raise, or fold.  If no one raised, then the person who straddled could himself raise.  

Button Straddle

Some poker rooms allow a straddle on the button.  When that is the case, the person on the button places the straddle. 

There are a few different variations on what happens thereafter.

In some poker rooms, when the button straddles, the action proceeds from the button through the blinds, around the table, and back to the straddler. 

The small blind acts first after the straddler, and must decide whether to call the straddle, raise, or fold. The big blind acts next, then the 3 seat, all the way around to the button, who retains the option of raising himself if no one has yet raised.

Other rooms skip over the blinds and have action proceed from UTG to UTG+1, etc., around the table to the cutoff.  After the cutoff, the action goes to the small blind, then the large blind, and then, finally, to the button.

button straddle

Still other rooms have the action after the Button straddle start in the 3 seat but continues the action until it is reaches the button, and has the button act before the blinds, giving them last action.

None of those procedures are more correct or wrong than the others.  It is just a matter of preference.

Make sure you understand how this works where you are playing.

Mississippi Straddle

The term “Mississippi Straddle” is often used to mean that the room allows a Button Straddle.  But in its most literal and technical sense, it means something more than that.  

A Mississippi Straddle is a set of rules that allow for a few different types of straddles

Generally, it allows for the following.

  1. Players in any position but the natural blinds may straddle. 
  2. When more than one player wishes to straddle, priority is given to the button.
  3. Thereafter, priority is given, in declining order, to each seat to the right of the button: cutoff, highjack, lowjack, etc.
  4. Though the minimum straddle is double the big blind, a player electing to straddle may straddle to any amount.

misssissippi straddle

Straddle Amounts 

Different poker rooms have different limits on the amount of the straddle, as well as on the ability to re-straddle.  Typically, straddles are limited to a fixed amount, generally twice or nearly twice the big blind.  In $1/2 games, this amount is usually either $4 or $5. 

In $2/5 games, it is always $10.  In $10/25 games, it’s $50.

straddle amounts

In some rooms there are much larger limits, as the house does not restrict the straddle to just double or nearly double the big blind.  For example, I’ve played in rooms with a $1/2 game and a $100 limit on the straddle.  Others, it’s $20.  In some private games, it’s $50.  


Some rooms allow the straddle to be re-straddled. 

This would be the equivalent of a voluntary fourth blind.  A re-straddle may itself be re-straddled, in some rooms all the way around to the blinds.  Typically, re-straddles are double the prior straddle or re-straddle.  But in some rooms, crazy arrangements allow the re-straddler to go up to any amount.

I played in a $2/5 game with an under-the-gun-straddle of $10, a re-straddle in the 4 seat of $20, a 5 seat straddle to $50, a 6 seat straddle to $100, and a 7 seat Wildman who said, “screw it” and then shoved in his entire stack of $700 as the final straddle! 


He got two callers, as it turned out, including someone with AA, and then proceeded to win the hand when his T3 turned into trip Tens!

Blind Raise

Sometimes, with a room that only allows an under-the-gun straddle, subsequent players wish to re-straddle.  They cannot.  But what they can do, and what they sometimes elect to do, is place a blind raise.  The blind raise works to raise the bet

A blind bet is the same size as a straddle, but, unlike a straddle it does not have the ability to raise if it is not raised.  

It is not “live”.  (Sometimes, straddles are referred to as “live straddles” to distinguish them from blind raises.  The term “live straddle” is really redundant, since, by definition, a blind is live.)

blind raise

Here’s a very simple example of a blind raise  

The poker room allows only one straddle, from under-the-gun.  A player places it.  It’s $5 in this $1/2 no limit hold’em game.  The next player asks the dealer, “May I re-straddle”?  The dealer informs him that he may not, as the room only allows one straddle per hand.  “OK, then I’ll just blind raise to $10”, he says, placing $10 in front of him. 

The dealer deals the cards.  The player in the 5 seat has first action.  He may call the blind raise, fold, or raise.  He folds.  Two players call it as does the straddler.  There is no further action, as the blind raise does not have an opportunity to raise.   If he had been allowed to re-straddle, he could raise. 

Why Straddle?

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a good strategic reason to straddle.  Everyone knows that being a blind is disadvantageous. 

You’ve got to put money in the pot without looking at your hand.  What could be good about that?  Why then would anyone want to do so voluntarily - especially if they are in early position, as they would be if they straddled from under-the-gun?

Yet people straddle regularly.  Why?

There are a few reasons, some psychological, some practical.

Some people like raising the stakes, even if the burden of that increase falls disproportionately on them.  Why do some people play roulette or shoot craps?  They know there’s a built in house advantage.  But they are drawn to gamble for whatever reason - and they eagerly indulge that desire.

A straddle is exciting for some poker players, as it raises the stakes, increases risk, and makes the game less of a grind.  Fair enough.

But there are practical reasons for straddling as well.  

It can help give opponents a mistaken image of you.  This is especially true if you are an extremely tight player.  By straddling, you may present yourself to be more of an action player.  As such, you may be more likely to get action when you actually have a very strong hand.

Straddling can also loosen up a rocky game.  It tends to be contagious. 

You straddle and others straddle when they’re under-the-gun.  Pretty soon everyone’s straddling, raising more freely, and calling more freely.  That’s the theory anyway.

There are circumstances when blinds are missed that may cause confusion at the table.  

Here are some standard ways of dealing with so these situations that actually arise quite frequently.

Missed Blinds

There are a few circumstances, in tournaments and cash games, that result in blinds being missed.  

A player may be away from the table when their hand is dealt, they may have left the game permanently, or they might be missed by mistake. 

missed blinds

Let’s look at them each in turn.  

Missed Blinds, Away from the Table Temporarily: Cash Games

When this happens in a cash game, the large blind just proceeds to the next player in rotation around the table.  The player who missed their large blind gets a small button, marking the fact that they have missed their blind.  

When they return to the table, they are given an opportunity to post their missed blind or to wait for the natural big blind to fall on them.  

If they have missed both the big blind and the small blind, frequently the case, they may post both blinds if they want to get a hand before they are the natural big blind.  

This is known as “buying the button” as it gets them to be the button on the next hand. Their blind is live; as they may raise if the pot has not been raised when the action comes to them.  

Missed Blind, Away from the Table Temporarily: Tournaments

In tournaments, an absent player with an active stack, has their blind posted in their absence.  Their hand is dead, but their stack is diminished, with the blind being put into the pot.

Missed Blind: Knocked Out or Otherwise Permanently Leaving the Table

In both a tournament or a cash game, if a player leaves the table permanently when it is their turn to post the small blind, their blind is just absent from the game.  

It is called a “dead blind”; their hand is skipped on the deal, and the pot is just short the amount of their blind.  

If the player who would be the big blind permanently leaves the table when it would be their turn to post a blind, then the blind just advances to the next player. 

There can be no “dead big blind”. 

Incorrect Posting of Blinds

Players sometimes discover that the button has been moved twice, or not at all, and the incorrect players posted the blinds.  

This actually happens fairly often especially when new dealers are in the game, as players sometimes try to help them by moving the dealer button.  

Losing players sometimes clamor for a re-deal, or even the redistribution of the awarded pot. 

Neither of these actions should be taken.

If the button has moved either too quickly or too slowly, it should be corrected immediately if possible.  

If it is not caught before there is significant action, however, then the hand continues to its conclusion.  It is not a misdeal.  

Why Are Blinds Important in Poker?

Blinds insure action in two ways.  On the one hand, they replace the ante, by providing seed money for the pot - something for players to compete over.  

If there were no money in the pot, the game could easily become unbearably tight.  In addition, a blind, unlike an ante, forces betting right away.  

It requires of all players that they either play or fold. 

Players may not check and stay in the hand.  This too tends to move people toward more action.

What Are Escalating Blinds 

Cash games typically have established blinds that do not change over the course of a playing session.  

A $2/5 game stays a $2/5 game indefinitely.  

The only exception is if all of the players agree to change the blinds, as they might change the limits in a limit poker game.  This is extremely rare in public poker rooms, though I have seen in one or two times over the course of 30 some years of play.

Poker tournaments, on the other hand, have built in escalation of the blinds. 

All tournaments have them, ensuring that the tournament will eventually end.

There are well established algorithms that determine exactly how the blinds go up, in order to have the tournaments end at a roughly predictable time.  

All reputable tournaments should have the blind escalation sheet available for review before the tournament begins, so serious players can plan their strategy accordingly.  A tournament that doubles the blinds every 15 minutes requires a very different strategy from one escalating more slowly, with longer periods of time for each level.

Big Blind Poker Strategy

A player’s position helps determine their strategy and tactics at the poker table.  

The blinds are unique among all of the positions, in that their betting position changes as the hand progresses.  They have last action pre-flop; but they have first action thereafter.  They have attributes of late position, in that they get to see the action of their opponents before they have to act pre-flop. 

big blind poker strategy

But they have to be concerned about their positional disadvantage once the flop hits.  

Please review our guide to positions in poker, if you would like more information about what strategy considerations there are in playing from the blinds. This includes the blinds.


Understanding poker blinds is crucial to mastering the game.

With insights from this guide, you've just scratched the surface. To delve deeper and truly elevate your poker skills, read more of my articles in the Poker Academy.

There's a wealth of knowledge waiting for you. Dive in and become a better poker player.

Was this guide helpful?
Ashley Adams

Ashley Adams

Professional Poker Player

About Ashley Adams

  • Author of 3 poker strategy books, including "Winning Poker in 30 Minutes a Day" (D&B Poker, 2020) and Winning No-Limit Hold’em;
  • Over 5 decades of playing poker, starting in 1963 and turning pro in 1993;
  • Prolific poker writer with over 1,000 poker articles to his name for well-known publications like 888 and PokerNews;
  • Has played poker in all 50 US States and 27 countries;
Read full bio
Vlad Mihalache

Vlad Mihalache

Online Gambling and Slots Specialist

About Vlad Mihalache

  • Accomplished content strategist and editor with over 6 years of experience in the iGaming industry;
  • Specializes in blackjack strategies, slots, and gambling addiction;
  • Online gambling expert with 2500+ articles written and reviewed;
  • Strong advocate for responsible gambling with comprehensive knowledge of gambling trends and addiction.
Read full bio
Read All Poker Guides