Good morning! Welcome back to the podcast. This week, our host James “SplitSuit” Sweeney is going deep on straddling, breaking down strategies for playing vs. them, and deploying them yourself.
We’ll discuss what straddles are, what they are meant to accomplish, and the finer points of playing those blind raised hands we all love so much.
Make sure to listen to the first few minutes of the podcast, because Sweeney discusses a very special deal for Red Chip Poker podcast listeners. Then he cites a Tweet from listener Liam Grant who suggests a podcast on straddling, and we dive right in…
What is a Straddle in Poker?
For those who are unfamiliar, a straddle is basically an extra big blind put in before any cards are dealt. There are a few different kinds of straddles, the most common being an under-the-gun straddle. Before the cards are dealt, the person first to act preflop pushes out double the big blind. So, if you’re playing $1/$2, typically that person’s going to put in $4.
Poker Straddling Strategy
It’s important to understand that a straddle affects the game in a major way. Specifically, it changes the effective stakes in the game for the entire hand. In a $2/$5 game where a player straddles to $10, players are now effectively playing $5/$10.
In changing the effective stake of the game, you’re also changing the effective stacks in the game. In a $2/$5 game, if players have $500 in front of them (100BB), when the straddle is on, that stack becomes only 50BB. That’s a massive change in dynamics.
The thing is: Most people don’t realize this. It’s an area wide open for exploitation. And because you now recognize this, you can take a significant edge in these situations by planning ahead.
Typically, the players who you see straddling are “action” players who want to liven up the game and gamble for bigger stakes.
But does it make strategic sense? One can clearly see that a blind min-raise from basically the worst position is not the work of a strategic genius.
Typically this is just a sign of someone in gamble mode. It’s important to pay attention, identify the situation, and understand you are playing for double stakes.
What is a Button Straddle?
In this straddle scenario, instead of the under the gun player placing the blind bet, the button places two times the big blind across the betting line prior to the deal. The other change: Typically, the action starts on the small blind preflop, rather than the under-the-gun player.
The button straddle is a straddle of a different color. After all, you’re in the best position at the table, instead of the worst. That said, there are plenty of players that button straddle without understanding it changes effective stakes and stacks.
What are the Rules on Straddling?
When in doubt, ask the floor and the dealer about what the rules are on straddling. You’d be surprised at how much the rules vary from room to room. A word to the wise: Even before you see a straddle bet hit the table, ask someone who works in the room what the rules are exactly.
Case in point: “Ultimate last action”. Some players have never heard of this because only some rooms offer it. But if they do offer it, you better know. Believe it or not, under these rules, the button gets to act last… dead last. Action will skip the button until all other players have made their raises and calls. Players could 3-bet and 4-bet and 5-bet and go all-in, and only after their action was over would the button have to make a decision.
Stay frosty on straddling rules. There are all sorts of different rules in all sorts of rooms.
Related Article: Why Should I Straddle in Poker?
When to Straddle
Sweeney advises against straddling in the general sense. After all, if you have the strategic advantage over your opponents playing deep-stacked poker, why would you minimize that edge by raising the stakes and effective stacks? And remember, you’re typically under the gun. In general, avoid it.
That being said, there are a few major situations where Sweeney likes to straddle:
Straddle and Attack
In a situation where (1) you know there will be a bunch of limpers and; (2) you know those limpers will fold to a raise most of the time, you might consider straddling.
For example, you’re playing $2/$5 and straddle to $10, you get a few limpers, you pound it up to $100, and everyone disappears in a cascade of folds.
When your opponents are limp-folding too much, go ahead and straddle. But be careful: Straddle pots create a weird dynamic in which players tend to hate folding preflop. Don’t just bloat a pot preflop from early position with random cards.
Keep in mind that many players tend not to believe straddle players when they raise. That may be because many players realize straddling is often a sign the player is in “gamble mode”, but more often than not — completely illogically — they think the straddler is incapable of having a big hand. Doesn’t make sense, but this attitude emerges with startling frequency.
Button Straddle with Solid Players on Left
Take a situation where you decide to button straddle, and the small blind and big blind are both good players. In that situation, you’re forcing those good players to act first. When there are so many players in front of them, they’re not likely to get out of line. So, you’re essentially removing the better players from contention with a blind bet.
This is certainly not the most common situation, but when you do find it, you should seize the opportunity.
If the table wants to do a round of straddles, Sweeney advises you smile, throw your extra chip in, and enjoy the ride.
Yes, a straddle is typically -EV. It changes the game to stakes you may not be rolled for. It changes the stacks to possibly minimize the skills you bring to bear on the table. But think about the benefits of keeping everyone happy and in gamble mode. Don’t become the target because you’re being the wet blanket.
Unless the straddle is on every hand, all night and you’re not properly rolled, then just roll with it.
Related Video: Why Should I Straddle in Poker?