So I’m off to a good start in 2015. It has a lot to do with my grinder friends coming up with a brilliant idea for our game at Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL. In 2014, the 5/10NL game went almost everyday and we would consistently have 3-4 tables going on the weekends. The only problem was that we could never get a 10/25NL game going. We started the game maybe five times last year and it would never go for longer than eight hours. The times that it started it was because the Hard Rock was hosting a tournament series and the lineup would be stacked with all the sick players that travel the circuit to play big side games. Needless to say, the game was terrible. Then someone came up with a great idea…

We began by starting the game as 5/10NL and a few hours into the session we would convince everyone to add a mandatory $25 straddle under-the-gun. Now lately we’ve been starting the game as 5-10-25NL and having the poker board list it as 5/10NL. The effect has been tremendous. Before when we would try to get the 10/25NL game going the response we would get from people was, “Oh that game’s too rich for my blood.” Now people sit down thinking the game is 5/10NL, we tell them there’s a mandatory $25 straddle under-the-gun, and they always respond by saying, “Great, what’s the cap on the buy-in?” The difference in response to the game is almost comical. I feel like I need to call Dr. Tricia Cardner and ask her about the psychology behind this. It’s truly mind-boggling.

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Let me list the benefits of structuring a game like this so you can begin to understand how awesome this is…

1. The game doesn’t just play 2.5 times bigger than 5/10NL, it actually plays about three times bigger because the pot is starting with $40 in it instead of $15.

2. The poker board and Bravo list the game as 5/10NL so people continue to sign up for it at the same frequency.

3. The player pool is the same because people don’t realize how much bigger the game is playing.

4. The buy-in limits are $500-$5,000 and although some players don’t like that the Hard Rock is allowing smaller buy-ins, I personally think it’s awesome. My reasoning is simple. I never have and I never will see a good short-stacker in a live cash game. Every single one of them plays too loose. Even the nits play too loose with 20-30bbs. And even if someone knew how to play 20-30Bbbs, why would he? You’re almost always going to have a higher hourly when stacks are deep. You just have so much more maneuverability.

5. I also think the diverging stack-sizes cause really good deep stack players to make mistakes. They consistently 3-bet from the button when 2-3 of the blinds have perfect re-shoving stacks. It’s a complete disaster when you 3-bet A2s and have to call-off a shove from the blinds. I love the buy-in limits. Keep the short-stackers coming.

6. Putting the straddle under-the-gun instead of on the button is way better. We used to try and straddle the button to $25 and it was the worst. The button straddle adds a certain amount limping into an optimal strategy. It also incentivizes short-stackers to limp-raise more often. In turn, this forces me to isolate less often. Consequently, I win less money because I can’t force bad players into tough situations as often as I’d like. I also can’t open-raise as often because I’ll frequently be out of position against the button who just so happens to be the biggest blind that will be defending at the highest frequency. It sucks.

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7. On the other hand, if you put the straddle under-the-gun something awesome happens. Bad players defend the blinds way too often. I won’t get too elaborate but if I had to estimate I would say the small blind is defending about 3x too often, the big blind is defending about 2.5x too often, and the BB is defending about 2x too often. The other hidden element is that when the SB defends it increases the optimal defense frequency for the straddle by a huge margin. This allows me to make a create a bunch of multi-way pots where I’m in position, with initiative, card edge, and skill edge, when stacks are often over 200bbs deep. I salivate just thinking about it.

8. The straddle is considered a blind thus allowing for a button straddle. As I’ve said many times before, button straddles are very -EV if you’re playing against decent players. Sure you get to apply a huge amount of pressure to three positionally disadvantaged players. The only problem is that you’re unnecessarily exposing 2bbs to eight other players every hand. Think about that for a second. You have to win 200bbs/100 just to breakeven from the button. I’m so happy when there’s a button straddle and I’m in the cutoff. The button does all the work for me. He gets the three blinds to fold and then he has to figure out how to play a range of 100% of hands against my open. Sure he has position and stacks are deep but he’s still at a huge disadvantage even if I open 70% of hands. I risk $150 to win $90, he looks down at a bottom 25% hand and instantly mucks while I just print money. It’s awesome.

9. The last benefit is something that is very counter-intuitive. If 2-3 fish are sitting right next to each other, you actually want them to your left. Think about how things play out. If the fish are to your right and they’re limping too often, naturally you’re going to want to isolate from the button. The only problem is that now they’re protected by three guys in the blinds that are going to barrage you with 3-bets if you get too far out of line. Now compare that to having the fish on your left. If the cutoff and hijack get out of line you get to wack them with a 3-bet. If they fold you get three fish all to yourself in position. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.

10. Most importantly, this will more than 2.5x my 5/10NL win rate provided the players remain the same.

To recap, I strongly suggest adding a mandatory straddle under-the-gun, especially if you can convince everyone to add-on so the game has the same amount of big blinds. If you can grasp the strategic difference between games and handle the bigger swings, you will surely reap much bigger rewards. If you have any questions I’m happy to help. Just go over to CheckShovePoker membership and sign up for a free account to to get unlimited access to our forums where you can chat with 15+ CSP Team Pros as well as all of our subscribers. For now, I have to get back to the Hard Rock. Good luck!

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