Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: The Ante Effect

Texas Hold’em is a game played in several different formats, including Limit, Spread Limit, Pot Limit, No Limit and No Limit with a cap. Any of these variations can also include an ante.

Playing with an ante changes the game significantly and necessitates a change in playing strategy.

The reason for this is quite simple: Adding an ante to the mix creates looser action and opens up the range of starting hands. Antes make poker more exciting to play and to watch. On GSN’s High Stakes Poker, for example, players toss in $300-$600 blinds plus an additional $100 ante to get started.

Now, you might not be playing on television anytime soon, but you may find yourself at a game where antes are the norm. If that’s the case, you’ll need to adjust your game.

Tournament players are more accustomed to playing with an ante. They know that antes promote faster action which makes an aggressive style of play more effective. When these players sit in an ante-less cash game, however, they sometimes try to use these same fast-and-easy tactics. That’s a mistake because looser play generally doesn’t translate well from tournaments to the cash game arena.

The same holds true in reverse. In a cash game, a conservative approach might do well for a player, but that same strategy will almost certainly keep him out of the winner’s circle in tournament play.

So how can you be successful at both the ante and no ante forms of No Limit Hold’em? Well, it comes down to math and pot odds.

Let’s take a look at a simple example.

In a No Limit game, the blinds are $400-$800 and there’s no ante. You’re holding 7d-8h sitting in the big blind. A player from late position raises the bet to $2,400; it will cost you $1,600 more to call.

Obviously, this isn’t a great starting hand. You are, however, getting some pot odds since you already have $800 invested. It will cost you another $1,600 to win $3,600 which calculates to 2.25-to-1 odds on your money. Those odds aren’t terrible, but your real concern is that you’ll have to play the hand from out of position. As a result, the correct play would be to fold.

Now let’s examine the difference an ante makes.

Exactly the same situation, only this time there’s an additional $100 ante posted by each of the nine players at the table. The raiser makes it $2,400; you have to call $1,600 to defend your blind. In this case, the additional antes have changed the pot odds significantly. Now you stand to win $4,500, putting your pot odds at closer to 3-to-1.

It’s the players who pay attention to this seemingly small detail that will make better fundamental poker decisions and win more money.  

When antes are in play, there’s simply more incentive to defend your blind with marginal hands. There’s also an increased financial reward for playing aggressively to try to steal blinds and antes.

Here’s another way to look at the glaring difference between playing with or without an ante. Try calculating how much it costs to play a lap around a nine-handed table.

With no ante and $400-$800 blinds, it costs you $1,200 to see nine hands. Add an ante, however, and it will cost you $2,100 to play that same number of hands.

Do the math. Antes create much bigger games and serve to punish tight players and reward the aggressive ones.  


Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.


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