How Poker Antes Should Change Your Tournament Raising Strategy

Do you open roughly the same range from each position regardless of antes? If so, you are making a costly mistake.

Many players leak chips by failing to adjust their preflop ranges when there’s dead money to go after. With antes in play, the pot is roughly 40% bigger preflop. This means we need to play much looser than we do when there are no antes in play. 

Today we’ll go through some examples to see how our open-raising range changes from early, middle, and late positions, depending on whether antes are in play or not.

Don’t treat the ranges below as if they are set in stone–no ranges are. Instead, use them as a guide when building your own preflop strategy.

Antes vs. no antes: the math

If there is a standard ante in play and we open for 2.25bb, we need to pick up the pot less than half of the time to show an immediate profit.

To show why we should be opening looser with antes in play, let’s look at an example:

9-Handed Poker Tournament. Blinds 250/500/50.

Hero is dealt two cards on the button
folds to btn. Hero raises to 1,125.

Before we raised, the pot was 1,200 with the blinds and antes (250+500+450), and we are only risking 1,125 with our raise. Therefore, our open needs to take down the blinds 48.4% of the time to make an immediate profit (what we are risking/total pot). And this doesn’t account for the times we win the pot postflop.

If there were no antes, the total pot would be just 750 chips. Therefore, our raise would need to work 60% of the time to make an immediate profit. This 10.6 percentage point increase is quite the difference, and should drastically impact how we think about our open-raise range.

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Now, let’s take a look at some specific ranges.

Note that the ranges we will be looking at are for low-to-mid stakes online tournaments or standard live tournaments, and they don’t account for specific adjustments we can make depending on our given situation (the players behind, who’s in the big blind, etc). We are also assuming a 30bb+ effective stack size.

Early position range example: UTG1

Let’s start with how our early position range is impacted.

From UTG1, we are opening approximately 10% pre-ante (see below). This is a very tight range, but necessary so with no antes from early position. This is similar to a cash game environment where antes are rarely present.

When antes come in to play, we can nearly double our opening range, to approximately 20% of hands. We are now opening all the suited aces, all pocket pairs, and some more suited connectors and offsuit broadways.

Middle position range example: LoJack

From the LoJack we want to open ~16% of hands pre-ante:

Once there are antes, we can profitably open ~28% of hands, including all broadways and many suited gappers. Here’s a reasonable example of such a range:

Late position range example: Cutoff

Finally, here’s a reasonable cutoff raising range with no antes (26% of hands):

Now, take a moment to consider which hands you might add in to this range with antes. Once you’re finished, click “Show” below to see what I came up with

Spoiler InsideSelectShow

Adjusting ranges with information

Again, these range recommendations don’t account for our opponents’ particular tendencies. Here are 2 questions you should always ask yourself before putting in a raise:

  • Who are the players behind?

If there are tough, aggressive regulars behind, we will need to adjust and tighten our range. Tough players will be the quickest to realize we are opening too loose and punish us by increasing their 3-bet frequency.

On the other hand, if the players behind are weak and passive, we can loosen our opening range without much concern of facing a 3-bet.

  • Who is the player in the big blind?

If the player in big blind is weak or passive then we want to loosen up and take advantage of them folding too many hands. Against loose and aggressive players in the big blind, tighten up and consider using a slightly larger open size to make their pot odds worse.

Button and big blind antes

Button and big blind antes are a hot topic. Many tournament formats are moving toward this style, and many professionals approve. There is some debate about whether the ante should be paid by the button or the big blind, however, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.

A button or big blind ante is simply where the button or big blind posts the entire ante for the table. This is done in lieu of the tradition way of collecting antes, where each player posts 1/9th of the total ante (assuming a 9-handed game) each hand. There are two major advantages to having the button or big blind posts the entire ante:

  • it reduces the need for smaller chip denominations
  • it speeds up live tournaments

How should we adjust our strategy if we are playing in this type of ante format? It might seem like it needs to change, since just one player is posting the entire ante each hand.

The truth is, when playing 30bb+, our strategy does not need to change much. The pot size is still exactly the same, and we are still posting the same amount in antes each orbit. Therefore, our open-raise range should remain roughly same in either ante format.

There is one spot to adjust, though: when we are playing with a short stack. We may need to loosen our shoving ranges depending on stack-size and if the full ante is approaching. For example, if we have 10bb and the big blind/big blind ante is approaching, then we may want to loosen our shoving range before this to avoid 20% of our stack being committed in one hand before even being dealt any cards.

There is likely some meta-game to be aware of as many players are not familiar with this format yet. You should look for and exploit players who are over-adjusting. For example, you may realize the button or cutoff is now opening way too loose with a big blind/button ante in play. You can take advantage in the blinds by increasing your 3-bet percentage.


To sum up: try to differentiate your ranges into pre-ante and post-ante, because it does really make a difference. And don’t be a nit when antes come into play. Go after that dead money!

As always, I’m happy to review and discuss today’s topic in the comments below. 

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Your everyday MTT grinder from Toronto, Canada. Also happens to play professional lacrosse.



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