What Is a Straddle in Poker & How to Approach Such Games
If you have been watching live high stakes cash games, or high stakes online cash games for that matter, you probably heard the term “straddle.”
The straddle is a term used for a voluntary blind that poker players put in the pot before the cards are dealt.
In this article, we will be breaking down straddle poker, and everything you should know on how to approach straddle poker games.
What Does Straddle Mean in Poker
In poker, a straddle is a pre-flop raise made before the hole cards have been dealt. By placing a straddle, the player is essentially introducing the third blind in that hand.
For example, in a 1/2 game, instead of having two blinds equal to $1 and $2, there is now a third blind of at least $4.
In most poker rooms, the standard straddle is usually x2 the big blind, but it can be higher.
It is important to know that the straddle increases the stakes and thus decreases the size of the stacks making them shallower.
If you take the above example, after the straddle is introduced into a 1/2 game, it effectively becomes a 2/4 game instead.
This means that the players who had a $200 or a 100bb (200 / 2 = 100) stake still have $200 but now the same stack translates to only 50bb. (200 / 4 = 50)
Types of Straddle in Poker
Straddle is an action that is in most cases exclusive for live poker, and the type of the straddle depends on what players at the table agree on with the approval of the poker room or a casino (if they are playing in one).
With that said there are two main types of straddle are:
- The UTG straddle
- The Mississippi straddle
The UTG Straddle
The UTG straddle is a straddle in which the Under The Gun player (the player on the direct left of the big blind) puts 2x the amount of the big bling (or more) in front of him before the players have been dealt their hole cards.
If the UTG player posts a straddle, instead of him, the player on his direct left will be the first player to act preflop. By posting a straddle, the UTG player effectively buys the opportunity to be the last player to act preflop.
If there are 6 players at the table, and the UTG player decides to straddle, he must put in the straddle in front of him before the cards have been dealt. The cards will then be dealt in the same order as usual.
The only change is, when the UTG puts the straddle, the HJ becomes the first player that should act preflop.
The Mississippi Straddle
The Mississippi straddle gives the player on the Button the option to straddle for x2 the big blind. If the BTN chooses not to straddle, the option goes to other players at the table counterclockwise starting with the Cutoff.
If one of the players at the table decides to place the Mississippi straddle, the pre-flop action will start with the player that is on his direct left.
If there are 9 players at the table, and the BTN decides to place the straddle, the first player to act preflop will be the SB, and the second player to act will be the BB.
Should I Straddle in Poker?
The short answer is no. Straddle is mostly associated with poker players that like the gambling aspect of the game and want to make things more interesting for the simple reason of increasing the stakes.
As we mentioned, the straddle decreases the sizes of effective stacks and makes the game play shallower.
Because of this, the variance will play a bigger role and the edge that good players have in the game will become lower.
What do we mean by this? Well, when the stacks are shallower, there is a lot less room to maneuver on each street because the stack-to-pot ratio is lower.
Depending on the overall stack sizes of the players at the table, in some instances, the straddle can impact the game so much that it becomes almost like the players are playing tournament poker.
There are a lot more all-ins pre-flop and on the flop. This takes away big decisions on the turn and the river from the game.
If you are a great 100bb player and you are playing against players that excel in short stack play, you should never straddle because you are putting yourself in a position where they will have an advantage.
Why Straddling Can Be a Good Idea in Poker?
With this said, straddling is not absolutely out of the question and there are some situations in which you will want to straddle.
When You Are Not Good at Deep Stack Poker
If you are much better at short-stack poker than at deep-stack poker, straddling can be a good idea.
By introducing a straddle, you will decrease or cancel the edge that other more experienced deep stack poker players have on you.
You will decrease the stack-to-pot ratio and make your life easier by having much less difficult decisions on the turn and on the river.
When There Are a Lot of Limpers at the Table
If you are playing at a table where there are a lot of limpers or loose passive players, straddling can be a very profitable strategy, especially if you can straddle from UTG.
In these games, straddling can help you isolate limpers and attack them with big raises.
If you are playing in a 6-handed game with a lot of loose-passive players you can utilize the straddle in the following way.
For example, you are UTG and you post a straddle, HJ calls, CO calls, BTN, SB, and BB fold.
Now, because you straddled the action is back to you, and depending on your poker hand, you can make an x4, x8, or x10 the raise to put as much money in the pot against weaker opponents as you want.
In this scenario, the straddle allowed you to buy the privilege of acting last pre-flop from the UTG position and to evaluate your hand against the action at the table before it is your turn to act.
However, you should also be aware that the straddle creates a strange dynamic and the players are less likely to fold when you attack them in straddle games than in regular games with two blinds.
When You Have Good Players to Your Left
This rule applies in games where you have the opportunity to post the Mississippi straddle because it allows you to buy the position pre-flop and see what will the players in the blinds do before it is your turn to act on the BTN.
For example, if you post a straddle, you will have the opportunity to see not only what the players in front of you will do, but also what actions will be SB and the BB make.
With this type of straddle, you are creating a dynamic in which the blinds will be forced to play much more straightforwardly because now you not only have position on them on each street after the flop but also before the flop.
With this said, if there are a lot of solid players at the table, the straddle will not help you to gain as much of an advantage and you should be thinking about changing the table.
If Other Players Are Straddling
Depending on the games and the stakes you are playing in some cases straddling might not be optional but required from the side of other players or the poker room.
If it is required by other players, in theory, you don’t have to straddle, but you should, especially if the games are good and you want to be invited to play in the game again.
In these situations, we advise you to work on your straddle game, because good games can be difficult to find, and you don’t want to miss these opportunities just because you don’t feel like straddling.
Additionally, if other players decide to through in a round of straddle or more, just go along with it. Don’t be the black sheep at the table, and keep everyone happy.
The social aspect of poker is extremely important in live games and you should try to get along with everyone on this.
Straddle might be a -EV play, but throwing additional blinds to stay on the good side of players in a good game is in your best interest!