Straddle is a blind bet that players voluntarily put in before the cards are dealt in the game (different from the mandatory blind bet required by the rules). In fact, the player who makes this type of investment and play a straddle actually acts like the big blind. Usually, one needs to put in double the amount of the big blind to complete this move. You can certainly put in more if it is allowed in your poker game, and theoretically, there is no cap.
Imagine that you are hosting a $5/$10 no-limit poker home game. Before the cards are dealt, the player at the UTG seat now puts $20 in chips in front of him, then the dealer will remind everyone by announcing that a live straddle is ‘in play’. In this case, the $20 straddle is two times the BB. The UTG player now acts like the actual big blind.
Originally you only need call $10 to see the flop, now you need to double your bet for it, which results in the growth of the pot. As the UTG player straddles, nothing is different for the way pre-flop betting round proceeds except that the UTG player acts as if he was a big blind. The player sits to the left hand side of him will act first and has the option to call $20, raise, or fold. Others act in turns with the UTG player last to act. Proceeding into the post-flop, action is the same as under normal circumstances.
COMMON TYPES OF STRADDLE
Be aware to check the rules for straddle when you play in a poker room. Some only allow UTG players to straddle, while others are more flexible with it that players from the button or even any position can straddle, which is called Mississippi Straddle.
In some places, you could even play triple, quadruple, or even multiple straddles. We call it un-capped Straddle. For example, if the UTG player puts in $20 for a straddle, the player to his left can double it to $40, and so on.
These types of straddle would change how the preflop actions are performed.
If the player from the button position does straddle, the pre-flop action will start from the player to his left, who is the original small blind player. Players in the small blind must first choose to call, raise, or fold, followed by the big blind player. Other players would act in turn. If no player raises before the flop, then the button straddler will decide whether to check or raise.
If someone raises in front of the button straddler, then his straddle is disturbed, and the button straddler will act according to his normal position.
Now that you understand what a straddle is, let’s discuss why some people say that straddling is bad in poker.
To put it simply, at this point you have no idea what your hand is, but you voluntarily put in more chips than you have to. This is contrary to the principles of all poker strategies. Choosing a starting hand is one of the most important aspects of poker strategy, especially in positions like the under-the-gun. Think about the unnecessary investment you make, and then only to find out you are dealt 82 or Q3, a starting hand that you would never play. Your expected value (EV) for this hand is lower.
By playing a straddle, it also cuts the effective chip stack in half, and the deep-stack game quickly becomes short to mid stacked. For example, under the situation where you have $2000 in chips, if the blind level is $10/$20, then you have 100bb, but if the straddle reaches $40, your chip stack now only equals 50 bb, while the game level actually becomes $10/$20/$40 .
You need to understand that a 50bb game needs a different strategy from a 100bb game. From the choice of playing hands before the flop, to the logic of the action after the flop, it is more challenging for players at the table.
In theory, you can choose not to straddle ever. But if you do want to make such move, under a few circumstances, it is acceptable.
For example, if your table is loose and passive. There are a few loose pre-flop players at the table, who always like to call but they are not aggressive players and will choose to fold if they do not hit any profitable hand post-flop. Then through straddling you can effectively build up the pot and lay a good foundation for post-flop operations. In this case, your win rate does not need to be high, and it can still be profitable in the long run.
The disadvantage of this approach is that loose players usually like double or even triple straddles. Your straddle builds a bridge for them. As the pot has been made massive, the situation puts limit on how you could play the game.
Of course, you may also straddle if every player at your table is straddling. In this case, the level and depth of the game have objectively changed. You could go with the flow. Looking at the good side, it shows that this table is very dynamic and has more opportunities to profit from it. The downside, however, is that as the deep-stack quickly becomes short-stacked, it is very likely that in the flop or even pre-flop, a single move could make you lose your chips very quickly.
If all the players play with a super tight style, your straddle is basically like a touchstone. You may easily determine that the ones who decide to call you are the ones with decent hands. At the same time, your way of increasing the game level also limits the way the others could play the game.
Nevertheless, choosing not to straddle ever is definitely better than doing it very often.
How Does a Poker Straddle Affect the Game?
In order to make the table more active, some players might choose to straddle. However, if there are players who are tight, this type of move will make them more cautious by pushing them out of their comfort zone. This happens to some experienced players as well. Some online players might feel very uncomfortable when someone straddles in a live game because this is not something they would do in an online game.
After someone straddles, most players would choose to fold their hands even with mid-range hand strength. When you face a straddle, it is difficult to develop a specific strategy to play against it, but it is an almost inevitable game element in live cash games. Generally speaking, we suggest not to initiate this play. Still, we need to understand what it is and how it can affect our game.