So far this year I’ve been playing almost entirely no-limit hold’em almost entirely at Lucky Chances Casino, near San Francisco. This area of the country lays claim to lots of things that have never existed anywhere else, such as The Golden Gate Bridge, Jerry Garcia, and the triple blind structure in their no-limit poker games. I intend to write blog posts about no-limit hands I’ve played or watched, so in this post I am going to describe the blind structure for future reference.
The Bay Area’s Three-Blind Structure
The three-blind structure has a small blind and a big blind, posted by the two players left of the button, just like every other hold’em game. And it has an additional small blind that is posted by the player on the button. The minimum opening bet is the sum of the blinds. (This means there are no free plays from the big blind.)
Here are the four main no-limit blind structures you’ll find today in the Bay Area:
$1-1-2, minimum opening bet is $4
$2-3-5, minimum opening bet is $10
$5-5-10, minimum opening bet is $20
$10-10-20, minimum opening bet is $40
Any player can put out a “kill” before the cards are dealt. The amount of the kill is double the big blind. When a pot is killed, the minimum opening bet doubles. For example, in a $1-1-2 game, the kill amount is $4, and if a pot is killed, the minimum opening bet is $8.
The player who posted the kill is last to act before the flop, meaning the action skips over him and comes back to him. It used to be that kills were allowed from all seats at all casinos. Now there are some casinos that do not allow the button to post a kill.
Some casinos allow two kills. For example, in a $2-3-5 blinds game, one player could post a $10 kill, and another player could post a $20 kill. When that happens, the minimum opening bet is $40, and before the flop, the $10 kill is next to last to act, and the $20 kill is last to act, no matter what their actual seats are.
Let’s say the game in nine-handed, and there is one kill out, posted by the player in the cutoff seat. The player under-the-gun opens for the minimum, and the next player raises. The next three players fold. The action now skips over the cutoff, and the button is next to act. Let’s say the button folds, the small blind fold, and the big blind calls. Now it’s the cutoff’s turn, and after that, the action goes back to the original order of things for the second round of preflop action, which means the action does not go to the player left of the cutoff, which would be the big blind, but rather, it goes to the opener. Yes it’s a little bit complicated. But then, so was Jerry.
How and Why?
How did it get this way, and why has it stayed this way?
I don’t know how the three-blind structure came to be. But I do know when. A really long time ago. Long before California legalized hold’em in 1987. I do know why it has survived the last 20 years. I’ll write that up down the road.
Does this structure mean that in say 1-1-2 when you buy in for $200 that you are really playing a 50BB stack instead of 100BB's? Or in 10-10-20 that a 2k stack is 50BB's?
In theory. Yet no, in practice.
Using 1-1-2 as an example, it's more like your stack $200 stack is about 60BB, because it costs less on average to see the flop in a Bay Area 1-1-2 game than it would cost in a normally structured $2-4 game, and because it costs $4 per round in blinds in a Bay Area 1-1-2 game compared to $6 per round in a normally structured $2-4.