If you’re just starting as a poker player or aren’t really into the nitty-gritty strategies and bets, the poker straddle play can leave you stumped and confused.
It’s a bet that can catch you by surprise and completely throw you off of your game, which is something you never want to experience at the poker table.
On this page, we’ll cover everything you need to know about a straddle in poker and help you decide whether this bet is something you should exercise when playing Texas Hold’em.
What is Straddle in Poker?
The poker straddle bet is undoubtedly one of the most confusing bets you’ll come across as a player. So, to start at the top, what is a straddle, and what purpose does it serve?
In simple words, a straddle is an optional blind bet you can make before the cards are even dealt.
When you straddle, you’re basically buying the big blind and doubling the stakes from the get-go. This makes the standard straddle bet two times the amount of the big blind bet, but the amount can be even larger than if the casino or poker room you’re playing at allows it.
However, aside from these base characteristics, the straddle in poker can consist of many different elements, depending on where you’re playing. The traditional straddle bet, one which you’ll run into most places, comes with these additional rules:
- It can only occur in flop games, in which all players use the community cards. The most notable examples are Texas Hold’em and Omaha.
- The bet can only be made verbally or put out before any of the cards are dealt. In some situations, this can be done after the cards are dealt but before the player has looked at the cards.
- The straddle acts as a voluntary third blind. Players that follow this bet can call, raise, or fold.
- The player who made the straddle poker bet can act again after looking at their cards, with the same betting options the big blind player would have if there were no straddle.
After the community cards have flopped, the action proceeds as usual. The preflop straddle has no ongoing effect on the game from that point on.
How Does Straddle Sizing Work
As we’ve briefly mentioned above, in most places, the straddle bet must be exactly two times the amount of the big blind bet.
There can be slight variations depending on where you play, but you should use this as a general sizing guide.
When you straddle and double the big blind, the player to your left can sometimes up the stakes and do a double straddle.
Again, depending on where you’re playing, this can go on across all poker positions until the straddle reaches the button.
Even in the most liberal of places, this is where the fun stops. The cutoff player will be the last one with the option to re-straddle.
So, if you’re playing in a $10/$20 game, and the first straddler makes his bet, the stakes increase to $40, or double the big blind.
The next player can then re-straddle up to $80. In line with that, the following player can triple straddle to $160. However, the triple straddle bet seldom happens, and even the re-straddle bet is a rare occurrence on its own.
Most Common Poker Straddle Situations
Although straddling is always the same play in terms of what it involves, there are varying situations you should know and be familiar with so that you can act accordingly. There are three main scenarios to remember:
- Under the Gun (UTG) Straddle – The most common scenario which allows straddling in poker. The player who holds the UTG position can straddle, but only if they place a bet before the dealer starts dealing the cards.
- Mississippi Straddle – In this scenario, a player can straddle from any position, provided they do it before the dealer starts distributing the cards. In such a situation, if there’s no re-straddle, the player who placed the straddle bet is the last one to act before the flop.
- Un-capped Straddle – As the name says, this scenario allows players to bet as much as they want to, as it removes the 2xBB limit for straddling. This leads us to another important part of this topic, straddling in No-Limit Texas Hold’em games.
Texas Hold’em Poker Straddle – The Trend of Straddling in No-Limit Games
Poker players who employ a poker straddle as a part of their strategy reason that the concept of no-limit games applies to all bets in the specific game, including straddle play.
This is a very radical method of thinking. That said, the popularity of this reasoning has led to some casinos allowing this practice, allowing players to straddle any amount. This includes the all-in blind bet.
As expected, aggressive poker players love the idea, while more conservative players think that this type of blind betting ruins the game by heavily emphasizing luck over skill.
If you like playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em games, this is something to keep in mind, regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself.
Under The Gun Straddle
As mentioned, under the gun straddle is the most common type of straddle poker bet you’ll come across. The rules for the UTG straddle are quite simple and straightforward, which makes it appealing to those new to the game and looking to spice things up.
This poker straddle bet is placed by the player sitting Under the Gun, i.e. the first player to the left of the big blind. Usually, the amount is two times the blind, but, as explained, it can be anything the players agree on and the casino allows.
The straddle is placed before cards are dealt, just like the blinds. When it’s in play, the action will begin with the player next to the straddle, and the minimum amount to enter the pot is the amount of the straddle.
All other betting rules remain unchanged, so players can still fold, raise, or even move all in.
The player next to the UTG (UTG +1) may have the option of re-straddling, doubling the original straddle amount. In that case, they get to act last before the flop, etc.
So, the idea behind the UTG straddle in poker is to pay extra chips blind for the opportunity to act last before the flop. Given the fact the big blind (that has this option naturally) is considered one of the worst positions at the table, the strategic value of straddling is questionable at best unless you have a table full of passive calling stations.
The Button Poker Straddle
The popularization of straddling in poker has made casinos and poker rooms introduce specific variations on which positions at the table can make the straddle bet.
It’s very rare to find a poker table that allows straddling from any position. That said, one of the most common variants for this type of bet is the button straddle.
If a table allows a button straddle, but the UTG player wants to straddle as well, the UTG position has precedence.
An important consideration when talking about tables that allow the button straddle is that such games can quickly get out of hand.
If the straddler is to have the last opportunity to raise, this can create chaos and disrupt the usual order of play. To ensure order in the games, casinos and poker rooms often have specific side rules for such situations:
- The action starts with the UTG player. It continues clockwise but skips the button player and jumps to the two blinds. Only then it comes back to the button for the player in this position to make a move.
- When the button player straddles, the order of play is rearranged from the beginning. The small blind is the first to act, then the big blind. After this, the action goes around the table to the button.
The button straddle poker bet sometimes draws in more obscure rules and variants, but these are mostly found in high-stakes games.
For beginner and casual players playing small to medium-stakes tables, you should only keep in mind the two procedures mentioned above if you find yourself amid an unexpected button straddle bet.
The Mississippi Straddle
Contrary to the traditional under-the-gun straddle, the Mississippi straddle is not only limited to the player in the first position. Instead, this type of straddle can be made from any position at the table outside the blinds.
When a Mississippi straddle is in place, the player on the straddler’s left side is the first to act. When the button makes the Mississippi straddle bet, the player on the small blind position is the first to act. Same as with the classic poker straddle, this bet is live and not considered a blind raise.
Pros and Cons of Straddle Poker Bets
Like any play in poker, the straddle has its pros and cons. It’s up to the players to decide whether the advantages outweigh the drawbacks and if they should go for the straddle.
With that said, to help you decide whether straddling is something you should avoid or engage in, we want to highlight the biggest pros and cons of this action.
Pros of Straddling in Poker
Let’s start with the positive side of this tactic, as there are several reasons you should consider straddling in poker.
The most notable one is, of course, if you find yourself at a loose-passive table. This means that your opponents will often call a loose preflop, but fold if you put the pressure on them postflop.
This is a great way to build a massive pot and then walk your way into a nice win by taking advantage of a passive opponent.
However, this nail-biting strategy can easily backfire and lead to substantial losses.
Another pro of straddling is that you can use it in your favor when everyone is straddling and when everyone is playing tight.
When it comes to the latter, straddling at a tight table can potentially help you tilt players and take their money by shifting them from their element.
On the other hand, if everyone is straddling, you joining in on the action will perhaps create opportunities to win some big pots, especially when you’re lucky enough to get dealt powerful hands like pocket aces.
Cons of Straddling in Poker
Straddling in poker comes with one significant drawback that you should always be aware of. When you straddle in poker, you’re effectively bringing down your hand’s expected value (EV) and decreasing your winning odds.
You’re going against the primary principles of optimal poker strategy, putting a bet in with a hand you haven’t even seen.
Solid hand selection is the difference-maker in poker, especially if you’re in an early position. With that in mind, in some poker rooms, straddling is not allowed in any position except under the gun.
This position requires the tightest hand selection if you want to come out as the winner. Of course, it’s easy to be optimistic and expect a strong pair, but this simply isn’t the case in most situations. You don’t want to straddle from this position and end up with a garbage hand.
Additionally, by straddling, you’re effectively decreasing the stack-to-pot ratio. This makes the game play shallower, which often decreases the edge the good player has over the opposition. The shorter the stacks, the less room for big mistakes there is.
How to Win Against a Straddling Opponent
The bulk of this page was aimed at helping you understand what is a straddle and how to use it. But what if you find yourself on the opposite side of this bet against an aggressive opponent who likes to straddle often?
Here are a few useful tips you need to know on how to adjust your game when facing a straddle:
- Raise Proportionally to the Straddle – as the new straddle is effectively just the big blind now, raising proportionally to it will give you a good price on your raise and put the straddling player out of position.
- Adjust Your Postfop Strategy Depending on the Stack-to-Pot Ratio (SPR) – When a straddle is on, the number of your big blind bets you have in your stack practically halves. This automatically means that you should adjust your play to achieve the optimal strategy for the new SPR.
- Play with Tighter Raising Ranges – Depending on how many players are left to act after the straddle and how many of them have a position on you, tightening your raising ranges and waiting for premium poker hands can be the best course of action.
Besides utilizing one or more of these three strategies, you can also adjust your preflop game in a few different ways. These include:
- Carefully pick hands that will fare well in a low preflop SPR.
- If the preflop SPR is low, consider using a smaller open size.
- Always pay attention to how many players are left to act before making your bet.
With these adjustments in place, you should do just fine against opponents who love to straddle, even if they’re much more experienced.
To Straddle or Not to Straddle in Poker?
Straddling in poker is an action that changes the game dynamic significantly. Many players will get out of their elements. Some will get hooked on the action, while others will often fold marginal to decent hands.
One thing is sure; this strategy is much more effective when you’re playing at a live poker table than when playing online.
With the tips and examples we shared with you on this page, you now know everything there is to know about a poker straddle.
Moreover, since many casual poker players aren’t familiar with what is a poker straddle, you’ll have an advantage over them that will hopefully bring you some nice wins.
However, remember that making smart decisions is the key to being a successful poker player in the long term. And, when it comes to intelligent plays, straddling is certainly not one of them in the vast majority of situations.
Straddling is not really a profitable bet in poker since it’s essentially a blind bet. And, when you make blind bets, you’re not playing in favor of your hand’s EV.
For this reason, you should always be completely sure and have sound reasoning for straddling whenever you want to go for it.
If this heart-pumping tactic sounds too stressful or risky to you, maybe you should avoid straddling altogether.
We want to leave you off with one crucial poker tip – if you’re not sure of what’s the best course of action, never straddling at all is always the better choice than straddling too often!