A Look at House Rules: Playing/Dealing Off the Button
The BUTTON! Even though it's a small disc that moves from player to player around the table and just “lays” there — and never heats up the action like a massive stack of chips controlled by a maniac — the button is one of the most important pieces on the poker table.
The button designates the “dealer” in the hand or the player who acts last after the flop and is the most advantageous position a player can have while playing a hand. Let's explore the blinds, the button, players moving away from or into the blinds, as well as this idea of “playing off” or “dealing off” the button.
In order to get the button, you must pay the blinds. The blinds are key to starting the pot and the action; without those little pot starters there wouldn’t be any reason to send your chips out to battle unless you were dealt a big hand.
The reward for paying the blinds (and having to play from early position) is receiving the button (and getting to play from last position). The purpose of having blinds would be defeated if a player could keep changing seats at the table to escape posting them, so here’s the house rule that helps prevent that from happening.
What if you want a seat change and just paid your small blind (SB)? You can “play off” or “deal off” the button before you move. Depending on how many positions you are moving, you may have to post in the new seat or wait to take a hand. Or you may be entitled to be dealt right into the next hand once you play your button.
Let’s look at an example of “playing off” or “dealing off” the button.
Seating is always designated from the left of the dealer. Seat 1 is on the dealer’s left and seating runs in numerical order around to the dealer’s immediate right which is the 9 or 10 seat. (The maximum number of players designated by house rule may be 9 or 10.)
Most card rooms allow you to move a specific number of seats without posting the mandatory big blind (BB) to take a hand. The standard number is two, but check the house rules to make sure. For instance if you posted the SB in the 2 seat and want to move to the 9 seat, you would be allowed to play your SB, BB, and the button, then move to the 9 seat where you’re entitled to be dealt right into the next hand because you are “moving into the blind.”
If you are moving from the 2 seat to the 4 seat and a player isn’t standing behind you ready to take his or her seat, you can play the blinds and the button then wait for the button to go by the 4 seat before you move. Once the button moves to the 5 seat, you can move and be dealt into the 4 seat without posting a blind. However, if a player is waiting for a seat, as soon as you play your button you must move to the new seat because the new player is entitled to post right behind the button and take a hand.
If you move to the 6 seat, you are required to take the BB. This also depends on house rule. In some poker rooms you can “deal off” the button by playing the button and then immediately move to the new seat and allow the blinds to pass the new seat one time. You then can be dealt in behind the button without having to post a blind because you are reentering in the same position you left in. But keep in mind that this is a one-time shot — once the button moves around the table and you’re in the BB position again, you must post to reenter the game.
The phrase “Deal off” has a couple other meanings you might find helpful to know.
- When a player asks a dealer “Did you deal me off?” it implies that the dealer managed to trap the player in a hand by dealing him or her good cards, but ultimately dealt the winning hand to another player to bust the player asking the question.
- “I’m going to deal off, guys,” would be said by a player who just won a lot of chips with a good run and to notify the other players that when that player’s blinds come around, he or she is leaving the game. The winning player is giving a courtesy heads-up to everyone who is trying to win their chips back that they only have X amount of hands to do so.
If home games have rules regarding moving out of the blinds and “playing off” or “dealing off” the button, they are probably established by following poker rules posted on the internet since most big poker rooms never publish their house rules on their websites. (Incidentally, if you can find a poker room that has posted its house rules online, please post the link in the comments below.)
Check with your host if you have a question about someone trying to “blind hop” to keep from paying a blind. Blinds are meant to force everyone to put money in the pot during each round, and trying to avoid posting them is simply wrong.
Online poker has no seat change option. You are always a “new player” when arriving at a table and will have to post the blinds to take a hand. Leaving a game only to reenter in a different seat would put you at the mercy of the software. The only time you may have an option to choose is if multiple seats open at once.
Next we’ll continue to talk about more house rules associated with the button.
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