In draw-style poker games, players routinely contribute a small ante to the communal betting pot before play begins. In flop-style poker variations such as Texas Hold'Em, however, there is usually no such ante required. Players are also allowed to fold their hands before placing any kind of bet. The solution to this problem lies in forced bets called the small blind and the big blind. Two players sitting to the left of the dealer, or at least the player holding the dealer button, must place pre-determined bets before any cards are dealt.
The player to the dealer's immediate left is required to place a nominal bet called a small blind. This small blind bet may be less than the table minimum for regular play. The player second from the dealer's left must place a larger bet, known as the big blind. This big blind bet is generally double the amount of the small blind, or at least the table minimum. These bets are called "blind" because at the time they are placed no cards have been dealt.
After the small blind and big blind bets have been placed, the player to the left of the big blind begins the actual round of betting. He or she can fold, raise the bet, or check the original bet. Play continues around the table, and the players in the small blind and big blind position have the same options as any other player. The purpose of the small and big blind is to guarantee a minimal betting pot, not to force certain players into overplaying their hand.
Since the role of dealer shifts after every round, a player may have to place a small blind and a big blind bet consecutively, but then he or she becomes the dealer and two other players become obligated. Some variations of flop-style poker games only require one blind bet, while others may have as many as three. If a player decides to join a game already in progress, he or she may be required to place a bet equivalent to the big blind during that round. During tournament play, the amount of the small and big blind may increase incrementally as players are eliminated and the stakes in general become higher.