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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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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
    
Reverse the rule and let the dealer act first after the flop? The button is supposed to be the position of power. Acting first is not preferred. – Paparazzi Feb 19 at 18:06

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 '15 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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Let's accept the dealer should be last to act post flop. Otherwise the button would be the non-button.

You have two blinds - sb and bb. The button has to be one.

The sb is 1/2 the bb and are forced bets to start the action and that is the order of the action. It would just make no sense to have the bb before the sb. That would violate betting rules and mess up the game in a lot of ways. The sb is a 1/2 bet and the bb is raise to the standard bet.

Preflop let's say the bb acted first and it was folded to the bb. The bb could just raise 1 bb and give the sb 4:1 pot odds on a steal. Acting first would give the bb too much power. It balance of power between the blinds and also consistent with the rules of betting in general. If you took this to heads up and bb bet first a small raise would give the sb terrible odds and the sb would be forced to play extremely tight - it would be a messed up boring game that would take forever.

So now it comes down to who is the sb? Preflop bb must be last to act for reasons given above. As far as the button is concerned a 1/2 bet (sb) is less committed (forced) which is good but giving up last to act preflop is bad.

So down to why give the button the sb? It is good for the game. You want action and it creates (fair) action. The button does not want to fold preflop because the button has position post flop. By folding the button is giving up position. If the sb was not the button you would have a lot more folds to the initial bet preflop - why invest more money in a pot when you are going to have to play out of position - just get out cheap and wait for the button. I know it sounds strange but giving the bb to the button would give it too much power (even though it would have a forced full bet).

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