In poker, there is a great deal of terminology that can sometimes be hard for a new player to completely grasp. In our continuing poker strategy series, here we focus on explaining just what a poker straddle is.
In Texas hold’em, a straddle is a blind, forced bet usually made from the UTG player although some casinos will allow a straddle from any position. This blind bet is usually 2x the big blind and instead of the big blind acting last the live straddler has taken that position. Alternatively, think of a straddle as a blind min-raise from the UTG position who then gets to act last pre-flop.
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What It Means to Straddle
Not all casinos and tables allow the option to straddle so make sure to check the house rules before playing. When playing on a table with a consistent straddler, realize that he is looking to increase the amount of gamble involved on the table.
Benefits of Straddling
While quite often straddling is an unnecessary gamble out of position, there are a few table conditions that make it a good option.
First, when you are playing on a table full of tight players, a straddle will many times catch them off guard and take them out of their comfort zone. Raises and pots become large and when pots become large a player’s mistakes become magnified.
Another benefit to straddling is that it will lead to a more relaxed and loose atmosphere on the table. A consistent straddle puts everyone more in the mood for gambling and the excitement of a larger pot size brings players into the hand that would have otherwise folded.
Additionally, many live players directly correlate a live straddler with a gambling player. By straddling, you may convince your opponents that you aren’t as tight as they first thought and they might pay off your value hands more.
Defending Against a Constant Straddler
Depending on your position, playing against a constant straddler can be a big pain. If the straddler is directly to your right, you will have to play tight while in early position.
Without the knowledge of how your opponents will act, you are forced to not get involved with a lot of marginal hands while being out of position. Since your effective stack has been cut in half, playing out of position becomes even more marginal than before.
Alternatively, if the constant straddler is to your left then you have an advantage. You will be able to see how the rest of the table has reacted to the straddle and you can make a profitable blind steal and straddle steal if folded around to you.
Otherwise when facing a straddle you should not change the way you normally play. However, be willing to adjust your play based on each hand and situation but do not let the overall straddle effect your own mind as much as it will your opponents.
When You Should Straddle
You should be willing to straddle when you want to increase the amount of action on the table. Straddling should help improve upon your opponent’s perception that you are a tight player and pay off your value bets more frequently.
In addition, when stacks are deep relative to the blinds, the potential pot size can become significantly large. The potential cost caused by paying a double blind is reduced because of the larger stacks on the table.
When You Should Not Straddle
There are two main reasons to not straddle: the game is already extremely loose or the effective stacks are small. When playing in a loose game, the need for straddling is no longer there. The players wont give you any more action because they are already playing poorly.
When stacks are already small to begin with, a straddle will make the effective stack even smaller. When you do raise, you will feel more pot committed and stack off with a wider, more marginal hand range. Alternatively when you have a short stack, the percentage a straddle costs your stack is higher. Your maneuverability post flop will decrease and you will be forced to go all in with a wider range of hands.
Finally, you will want to not straddle any limit or structured betting game. The capped betting in limit games prevents you from profiting the most from your straddle. In limit games, a straddle that is 2x the big blind is equal to 1/13 the effective stack on the table.
Alternatively in no limit games, a straddle that is 2x the big blind will be as small as 1/50 the effective stack on the table. This means that the cost of straddling a limit game compared to a no limit game is significantly higher. Realize that when an opponent does straddle a limit game that he is to gamble and likely doesn’t know how to play.
In conclusion, not all straddles are losing plays even though at first glance many players assume they are. Use the straddle on the right table and see your action increase and never straddle a limit game. Also hope for a good run of cards directly after straddling to win big pots while your opponents think less of you.