A Look at House Rules: More Button Rules
Our last article in this series was focused on “Playing/Dealing Off the Button,” but house rules governing the button can be a lot more confusing concerning who gets it in certain games and who has to post blinds in what position — even if it’s between the blind and button. Now that we’ve started out with a statement that sounds confusing, keep reading to find out why different rules apply in different game formats and other variables you might encounter in different poker rooms regarding the button.
Forward moving button
A “forward moving button” can be a bit confusing, but essentially the format mandates that the button will always move forward to the next player. That means there could be two small blinds (SB) or two big blinds (BB) or any combination that allows the button to keep moving. Here are a few examples and we’ll try hard to keep from confusing ourselves as we go through this:
Let’s say the 2 seat is the button, the 3 seat was the SB and goes bust, and the button moves to the 4 seat. In this case the 4 seat must now post the SB on the button while Seats 5 and 6 both post a BB. On the following hand, the button moves to the 5 seat who posts the SB, the 6 seat (who posted a BB last hand) now posts a SB, the 7 seat posts a BB. At the end of this hand, when the button moves forward, the blinds will return to normal with a SB and a BB. Everyone must satisfy the required blinds, yet the button must continue to move forward — it’s not quite as confusing as it sounds once you see it in play.
A “dead button” is standard in tournament play, but may vary in live cash games like Texas hold’em, Omaha, deuce-to-seven triple draw, and other games that use a button to designate the dealer of the hand.
In the event of a dead button, each player must post the SB and the BB each round of the table. If a player leaves the game (or goes broke) after paying the SB, the button will move to that player’s seat and is considered “dead” which means the player who had the button in the previous hand will have the button for the second hand in a row. A player could have the button for a number of hands if the blinds continue to go broke or leave the table after playing their blind hand.
What happens if the player who posted the BB goes broke or leaves the game? For example, say the 1 seat had the button, the 2 seat paid the SB, the 3 seat goes broke or leaves, and on the next hand the button moves to the 2 seat. A new player — or a player moving from another seat — into the 3 seat would post the BB to take a hand and there would be no SB. Then on the following hand the 2 seat would have the button again, the 3 seat would post the SB, the 4 seat would post the BB, and the progression of the buttons and blinds would be satisfied per house rule. Keep in mind that if both blinds left or went broke, the 2 seat would have the button three hands in a row as the players in front of the button pay and play their blinds.
Posting between the button and the blind
In some poker rooms, new players (or players moving to a new seat at the table) may post in between the button and blind to be dealt immediately into the game. This happens when players are anxious to play right away, such as in a game with a big jackpot where players want to make sure they get a slice of the pot if the jackpot hits, or if the game is exceptionally juicy.
Here’s how it works: Seat 2 has the button, Seat 3 goes busto in the SB, and a new (or moving) player takes the 3 seat immediately afterwards. The 3 seat can opt to post the BB between the button and the blind; meanwhile the 4 seat will post the SB, and the 5 seat the BB. The new player in the 3 seat then will be first to act in the hand on each street if they continue with the hand. Once the hand finishes, the button moves to the 4 seat.
Tip: Posting between the button and the blind is a good play because you are going to get two hands for your BB instead of the one you would receive if you waited for the button to pass.
The button in heads-up play
In heads-up play, the button always posts the SB and the other player posts the BB. The button then acts first before the flop, but then gets to act last on all streets after the flop.
Many players (even experienced ones) appear to be confused about who gets the button initially when a three-handed game drops to heads-up play. The thing to remember is that NO player has to post the BB blind twice! If the 4 seat was the BB when the 3 seat was the SB and went broke or left, the 4 seat acquires the button and the SB.
Buying the button
“Buying the button” is an option that, again, depends on house rule. Here’s the deal: if the 2 seat had the SB and the 3 seat leaves the game after paying the BB, a new player in the 3 seat can “buy” the button by posting both the SB and the BB. Going forward, the 2 seat has the button and the SB is dead and brought into the middle, leaving the live BB in front of the 3 seat. The 3 seat is then first to act on all streets in the hand as long as that player has cards. Once the hand completes, the button moves to the 3 seat, the 4 seat posts the SB, and the 5 seat posts the BB.
Drawing for the button
Any time a new cash game starts, the button is decided by either allowing the players to draw for high card or by the dealer giving each player one card face up on the table with the high card determining the button.
In the case of a new game, the player in the SB will escape that one round without posting the BB. Each player is dealt in without penalty of the blinds until the arrival of the button comes to put them in the blind positions. If any player hasn’t taken a hand to that point, when it is their turn to post, he or she is given a missed blind button and must post both blinds to take a hand or wait for the blind position on the next round.
As with other rules, home games have their own set of rules concerning the button as determined by the host, and your best bet is to check with the host if you have any questions about the button.
Online poker may have a differing sets of rules governing the blinds and the button, depending on the site. For example, although we're focusing on cash games in this series, PokerStars uses a “forward moving button” rule in its tournaments, while PKR Poker currently will have a “dead button” on the hand following one in which the SB busts and no new player has been moved to the table. Once you’ve taken a seat in an online poker game, you’ll soon be able to observe the blinds and the button requirements.
Next up we'll turn our attention to differences between house rules for high-limit games and those for the rest of the room.