Home Poker - Tournament Blinds

Starting Blinds

The goal of defining the blind structure of a poker tournament is to regulate the length of the tournament. You don't want the tournament to end too quickly - or to last too long. Small tournaments (10 players) should last about an hour. Medium sized tournaments (10-25 players) should last 2-3 hours and large tournaments (50 or so players) should last 3+ hours until the very end.

A good rule of thumb is that the big blind should be about 1-2% of the starting stack size at the beginning of a tournament. This means that a tournament with a starting stack of T2,000 should have starting blinds at 10/20 at least and 25/50 at most.

Blind increases

Blind increases are usually 50-100% of the last blind and the blind intervals are usually 20-30 minutes. Near the end of a tournament the big blind should be no larger than 2-4% of the average stack. To most players that seems low but think about this...If the big blind is 5% of the average stack then calling a bet to the river (without ANY raises) means you will lose 30% of your entire stack, which is a lot just for a single, non-raised hand. If you watch the WSOP or the $500 buy-in Pokerstars tourneys, then you will see that the big blinds is usually no more than 2-4% of the average stack when it gets down to the final few players.

My opinion on blind structures is that the majority of blinds schedules are way too high and the tourneys end up being crapshoots at the end. Having the tournament turn into a crapshoot at the end means that luck ends up playing a biggest part than skill at the exact time when the most money is as stake. This has never made sense to me. Most tournament blind structures are set up so that they reward players who play intelligent, patient poker at the beginning of the tournament when there are no prize incentives to do so. Then, at the end of the tournament, when there are huge differences in prizes, players have to give up control of the outcome because they are forced to go all-in on every hand. In tournaments where the blind structure is too aggressive, the tone of tournament tends to play like a chess game in the beginning where players act cerebral - and a craps game at the end, where they are just rolling the dice and hoping they win.

(or the dealer for that matter) gets impatient and all the railbirds don't like watching all the folding - they want to see action - even if it means rushing you into making a move you don't want to. It also has to do with the fact that poker rooms ultimately make money by the hour and want the tourneys to finish faster.

Advice about blinds

  • At home games where you are having a series of mini-tournaments, the fast blind increases can be an asset because then everyone else will be sitting around waiting for the next game to start.
  • Most home games tend to be casual, and therefore there are fewer hands dealt per hour because of people talking and socializing. So the blinds may need to rise slower to adjust for this.
  • Aggressive players, who are generally better players, prefer the higher blind structures because they reward aggressive play (because the pots - relative to the average stack size - are much bigger). Although this is good for the aggressive players, it is not necessarily fair. Sometimes, during home tournaments, the aggressive players will ask to raise the blinds, but blinds levels should be at a reasonable level to allow the average player room to play.
  • Keep in mind that even when the blinds are going up at the same percentage rate, the compounding nature of those raises means that the blinds are going up exponentially.
  • It will take a few times to become comfortable with a blind structure.
  • There is one major rule you should use when hosting a tournament for the first time - if you aren't sure what the blinds should be then set them low! There is nothing worse than setting up a tournament that people look forward to enjoying but the blinds go up too fast and it becomes an all-in festival in a very short amount of time.
  • Keep in mind that if you want to slow down the rate of increase, you can lengthen out the time intervals instead of adjusting the blinds.

Sample Blind Schedule

Here is a blind schedule for a tournament with starting chip stacks of T2,000 and starting blinds of 10/20.

Party Poker Single-Table (SNG) Blind Schedule

Level Hour Time Small Blind Big Blind
1 1st 0:00-0:20 10 20
2 0:20-0:40 15 30
3 0:40-0:60 20 40
4 2nd 1:00-1:20 25 50
5 1:20-1:40 50 100
6 1:40-1:60 75 150
7 3rd 2:00-2:20 100 200
8 2:20-2:40 150 300
9 2:40-2:60 200 400
10 4th 3:00-3:20 300 600
11 3:20-3:40 400 800
12 3:40-3:60 500 1000
13 5th 4:00-4:20 600 1200
14 4:20-4:40 800 1600
15 4:40-4:60 1000 2000


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Game Structure - Blinds

HPG ADMIN on March 1, 2013