What is a straddle in poker, when is it used, and how is it done? If you’ve ever been at a poker table and someone threw this term out but you didn’t understand it – don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Straddle is a pretty confusing subject for a lot of newcomers, which is why we’re breaking it down. We’re going to see who plays it, why, and when, and whether it’s something you should incorporate into your strategy.
What Is a Straddle in Poker?
So what is a straddle in poker? Well, the basic concept is that the straddle is an optional blind bet. That means that it’s made before the cards are even dealt.
While it seems straightforward now, straddle has many different variations of it, which is why it so often trips up new players. Not only that, but different casinos might not have the same rules for this type of bet. So let’s take a closer look.
The straddle happens in flop games or in poker variants in which there are community cards that all players use to make their hands. These are usually in Texas Hold’Em and Omaha Poker.
The option to make a straddle bet is given to the player who would otherwise be the first to act. That means it’s the seat to the immediate left of the big blind.
In order to make a straddle bet, a player has to either put out or verbally announce it before any cards are dealt. At the very least, they have to do it before looking at their hand.
When it comes to the size of the straddle, it should be twice the amount of the big blind. So it effectively acts like a third blind, meaning that it sets a new limp-in level. So in a game of $5/$10 No-Limit Hold’Em, the straddle would be $20. Players following the one that made the straddle have to either call the $20, raise, or fold.
Since the straddler made the bet without having seen their cards, they get another chance to act after looking at their hand. The player’s options are to check, fold, or raise – depending on what action has gone before.
Once the flop is over, the game goes back to normal.
The Straddle in No-Limit Games
As long as you think of the straddle as an optional third blind, everything should make sense.
Unfortunately, we can’t truly answer the question of what is a straddle in poker without taking a look at the variants, the most common of which is the button straddle.
But first, let’s consider what happens to the straddle in no-limit games. In these types of games, some players reasoned that the no-limit concept should be applied to all bets, even the straddle.
As a result, some casinos now allow the straddle to be any amount, up to and including an all-in blind bet.
The Button Straddle
The button straddle, another common variant, can get pretty confusing because it can wreak havoc on the usual order of play. If in play, the button straddle takes precedence over the under-the-gun straddle. That means that the dealer pushes the button straddle bet back to the player before passing out the cards.
Given the potential confusion the button straddle can bring, some casinos have devised methods for handling it. For example, in some places, the button straddle rearranges the order of play from the start. That means the first to act is the small blind, then the big blind, and finally it goes around the table to the button.
In other casinos, you might find that the use of the button straddle option means that the under-the-gun player starts the action. Then, the action proceeds clockwise as usual, but skips the button, goes to the two blinds, then back to the button. If the button decides to raise, then the action goes around the table again.
How and When to Deal With Straddling
There are three specific scenarios when you might need to know what is a straddle in poker and how to deal with it.
#1 The Mississippi Straddle
All players can straddle, provided they do it before the cards are dealt. If no one re-straddles, the player who placed the straddle bet is the last one to act before the flop.
#2 The Under-The-Gun Straddle
The most common straddle in poker, the under-the-gun player has to place the straddle before the dealer hands out the cards.
#3 The Uncapped Straddle
The uncapped straddle scenario removes the 2x BB rule and allows players to bet as much as they want. It’s specific to no-limit games.
Why Straddling Is Sometimes a Bad Idea
When a player straddles, their overall expected value goes down for that hand.
Placing a blind bet with an unknown hand goes completely against the principles of a winning poker strategy. That’s why this type of bet, in many casinos, is only allowed from under the gun.
Another issue with straddled hands is that they cut stacks in half when it comes to the number of big blinds.
When Straddling Works Out
One thing to know about the straddle is that it’s not something to be done recklessly or impulsively. That’s because, as we said, it goes against the principles of winning poker strategies.
With that said, there are certain scenarios in which straddling could have its benefits. For one, if you’re playing at a loose passive table, which means that your opponents are prone to calling loose preflop and then folding aggression post-flop. In this case, you could use the straddle to build a big preflop pot.
Another time when a straddle makes sense is if everyone else at the table is doing it. The upside of it is that you’ll be playing at an action-packed table and have plenty of opportunities to win money. The downside is if you’re not used to that type of play, it might put you out of your element.
To Sum Up: What Is a Straddle in Poker?
Hopefully, we’ve given you the answer to the question of what is a straddle in poker and why it’s one of the more polarizing types of bets in casinos all across the world. It is a daunting concept at times, but it’s all part of the live poker experience.