An ante is a forced bet in which all players put an equal amount of money or chips into the pot before the deal begins. Often this is either a single unit a one-value or the smallest value in play or some other small amount; a proportion such as a half or a quarter of the minimum bet is also common. An ante paid by every player ensures that a player who folds every round will lose money though slowly, thus providing all players with an incentive, however small; to play the hand rather than toss it in when the opening bet reaches them.
Antes are the most common forced bet in draw poker and stud poker but are uncommon in games featuring blind bets see next section. However, some tournament formats of games featuring blinds impose an ante to discourage extremely tight play. Antes encourage players to play more loosely by lowering the cost of staying in the hand calling relative to the current pot size, offering better pot odds. With antes, more players stay in the hand, which increases pot size and makes for more interesting play. This is considered important to ensure good ratings for televised tournament final. Most televised high stakes cash games also use both blinds and antes. Televised cash games usually have one of the players pay for everyone, normally the dealer, to accelerate play. If there are six players for example, the dealer would toss six times the ante into the pot, paying for each person.
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In live cash games where the acting dealer changes each turn, it is not uncommon for the players to agree that the dealer or some other position relative to the button provides the ante for each player. This simplifies betting, but causes minor inequities if other players come and go or miss their turn to deal. During such times, the player can be given a special button indicating the need to pay an ante to the pot known as “posting”; see below upon their return. Some card rooms eliminate these inequities by always dealing all players into every hand whether they are present or not. In such cases casino staff or neighboring players under staff supervision will be expected to post antes and fold hands on behalf of absent players as necessary.