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Buying the Button

Buying the Button
By Loki Luchs of

In poker, you find many strange rules. Some casinos (not as many as 10 years ago) still have a rule that you can not check raise. In one Louisiana river-boat, they penalized you if you were caught bluffing. (I was smart enough to leave before I found out how they enforced this rule. Stupid river boats…) However, most rules that I've seen do make sense when you break down the theory behind them. One of the rules that I really support is called buying the button.

If you get up from the table in a casino, you are very likely to miss the blinds. Smoking cigarettes, going to the bathroom, fielding calls from the Mrs., just getting up and going for a once around the casino are all situations where you are bound to occur as you play. The rule in most casinos is that if you miss the blinds while you are away from the table, then you have to pay them in full (the big and the little) when you return. The big blind posts you into the hand, but the little blind will go dead into the pot. This re-post rule is to keep the cheap-players (and there are a surprising number of them) from going to the bathroom every time the blind gets near. If they don't pay their blinds, they don't get to play. It's a simple enough solution. There exists a further rule that you can't post on the button, so you have to post at the seat-nine "cut-off."

Buying the button is a very simple concept; you missed the blinds, the button is right in front of you and you want to post so that you get the full number of hands from the time that you post onwards. Instead of posting in the cut-off, you play the first hand as a single blind. Your small is dead as always and your big is the post. This gets you your big blind hand AND a hand that you're allowed to play on the button for the same price you would pay for posting in the cut-off. It's a slightly lower value than if you had made it back to the big blind, but the overall price per hand is better.

If you're posting in a 10/20 game, you're basically paying a small blind of $5 and a big blind of $10 for ten hands. At a ten person table, you're seeing 10 hands for 15 dollars, therefore, each hand costs $1.50. If you are posting in the cut off, you're only getting 7 hands for $15 and are therefore paying over $2 a hand for the rest of the round. While this doesn't seem like a huge difference, over the course of twenty years of playing, it quickly accumulates to an overpayment of several thousand dollars per hand. When you buy the button, however, you will get to see 9 hands for $15, which is about $1.66 per hand. You get to play right away, still get to have your button, and aren't overpaying on the price per hand. If you've never seen this rule used, be sure to ask your card room manager or the players in your regular home game if you can buy the button!


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