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Why does the Dealer post the small blind and the other player post the big blind?

Normally the person to the left of the dealer will post the small blind then the second player to the left of the dealer will post the big blind.

So why does this switch when going heads-up?

Quote from Wikipedia

When only two players remain, special 'head-to-head' or 'heads up' rules are enforced and the blinds are posted differently. In this case, the person with the dealer button posts the small blind, while his/her opponent places the big blind. The dealer acts first before the flop. After the flop, the dealer acts last and continues to do so for the remainder of the hand.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Basically, as Wikipedia hints at, to make sure that a different player acts first before that flop than after the flop — just as in non-heads-up, where “Under The Gun” (the player after the Big Blind) acts first before the flop, and the Small Blind acts first after the flop.

In heads up, if the non-dealer would post the Small Blind and the dealer the Big Blind, then the non-dealer would act first both before and after the flop.

I guess it would be possible to “reverse” the rule, and instead “simply” let the dealer act first after the flop, but that would be a rule exception after the flop, so if someone would make a mistake in the order of play it would probably be more complicated to “clean up” or “reverse” that mistake after the flop than before it.

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Your answer doesn't address why the blinds are also different. This is to address the fact that dealing is supposed to be the inherent advantage, thus the dealer loses less money when he folds his starting hand (the most likely outcome in proper heads up play) –  Neal Tibrewala Feb 26 '11 at 8:01

The reason for the difference is tied to concept of blinds, which are simply mandatory initial bets to ensure there is some money at play for every hand.

In regular rounds (of three or more players), the small blind (one seat to the left of the button/dealer) is effectively the first bet (the small blind amount) and the big blind (two seats to the left of the button/dealer) is effectively the first raise doubling the first bet (to the big blind amount). Everyone else must at least call the big blind amount or fold, and the dealer is the advantaged position by going last and has the option to fold with no money played.

In the heads-up showdown (two players left), the dealer is still the advantaged position because the dealer only has the small blind committed at the outset of the hand, whereas the other player is already in with the big blind. Thus, even though the dealer "goes first" technically, it is the other player who has effectively "gone first" because they are in the pot with more money (the big blind) and the dealer can still fold without having to meet the big blind.

Net result, because of the unique rules for heads-up play, is that the dealer is always the advantaged position, and that would not be preserved otherwise.

Hope this helps!

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Nice response. I would add that while it does seem advantageous to see what the other player does first and while one can argue being SB and BB evens out quickly in the rapid play of hands, in practice in heads-up, correct play is often much more aggressive resulting in the SB being the power position in the preflop round. –  Joey Jun 25 at 14:29

The dealer will always get the advantage of being able to put pressure on the big blind, by possibly raising, before the big blind has any play.

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