Imagine you’ve been playing online poker for some time, and now you want to test your skills at a live Texas Hold’em poker table in a casino. Everything is going just fine and you’re having a good time when suddenly, the dealer says, “straddle.” You notice that the “under the gun” player (to the left of the big blind) has placed a bet, and the dealer hasn’t even dealt the cards yet.
How are you supposed to react? Don’t worry! Poker straddles can be confusing to the uninitiated player, but they’re fairly easy to come to grips with. Keep on reading to learn all you need to know about straddle bets in poker, including tips on when straddling can be to your advantage.
What is a poker straddle?
A poker straddle is essentially an optional blind bet. The small blind and the big blind are forced bets to ensure that there’s money on the table. They’re called “blind” because the players in those positions are betting money before they even see their cards. That’s partly why they’re considered to be among the worst positions in Texas Hold’em poker. A straddle bet, on the other hand, is when a player actually chooses to raise blind.
The right to straddle is typically reserved for the player under the gun, immediately left of the big blind. (Some casino house rules allow straddling from different positions.) The player has to put out or announce their straddle bet before the cards are dealt.
A straddle bet is double the big blind. In a $2/4 No-Limit Hold’em game, a straddle bet would be $8. After that, players must call, raise or fold that $8. Eventually, the action returns to the straddler, who gets to be the last player to act before the flop. The primary effect of a straddle bet is to increase the size of the pot. After the flop, play continues as usual.
Is it a good idea to use a straddle bet at all?
So why would you even want to make a straddle bet in the first place? Conventional wisdom states that blind bets are best avoided if you won’t want to lose money. Think of it this way: Straddling reduces your overall expected value (EV) in that specific hand. That’s simply because you’ll lose money on average, the same as the small blind and big blind lose money on average.
Betting blind from an early position goes against all poker strategy principles. Playing to win from under the gun typically demands a tight hand selection. Consider that in Texas Hold’em poker, the majority of hands should be folded before the flop. If you straddle before you’ve even seen your hole cards, what you’re really doing is gambling blind while increasing the stakes of the game.
Are straddle bets a good idea? Short answer: No. Blind raises will lose you a lot of money in the long run. But there are reasons to straddle nonetheless.
When to straddle in poker
Conventional poker wisdom aside, there are some solid reasons to make a straddle bet. The first is to buy yourself into a better position. If you’re under the gun and you want to play the hand, you’ll have to match the big blind in any case. Straddling allows you to be the last instead of the first to act preflop. Doubling the blind is the price you have to pay for getting out from under the gun and gaining information on the other players.
Straddling can also be useful at a so-called loose-passive table. That’s when your opponents almost always pay to see the flop but tend to fold to aggression after. Against opponents like that, you can use a straddle bet to build the pot preflop and bet aggressively against them postflop. You need to have pretty solid nerves for this approach, though, because the already big preflop pot means your postflop bets will have to be even bigger. If you’re going to get involved in such big pots, it may be wise to consider hiring a poker coach.
Another reason to straddle is when everyone else at the table is doing it, provided you have the appetite for so much action. Conversely, if you’re up against a bunch of extremely tight players, straddling can be a means to shake some action out of them.
Where you won’t get a chance to straddle is in tournaments. As a general rule, neither live poker tournaments nor online poker tournaments allow straddle bets.
Playing straddle bets in no-limit games
In some casinos, the “no-limit” concept applies to all bets, including poker straddles. This means that straddles are uncapped, so you can bet any amount. You can even go all in, completely blind. It’s a guaranteed method of generating tremendous action at a No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker table.
The downside is that it massively boosts the element of chance, turning the poker game into a crapshoot as players with the biggest stacks vie to see who will shove the most and act last preflop. You could say that it’s the poker equivalent of playing chicken. You may as well be playing online slots or other chance-based online casino games.
That said, aggressive players who raise blindly without limit tend to burn through their stacks fairly quickly. Either that or they get lucky and play more cautiously to protect their huge stack. If you come up against such maniacs in a no-limit game, always remember that, unlike them, you get to see your cards before you decide to call.
Straddle the gap to premium live poker online at BetMGM
Online poker has come a long way from its humble origins, as you’ll soon discover when you register at BetMGM. Our sophisticated gaming interface makes for seamless games of Omaha, Seven Card Stud, and Texas Hold’em poker, both with and without limit. Enjoy dozens of different daily and weekly live poker tournaments with buy-ins to suit all pockets and exchange poker tournament tips with like-minded players.
Also interested in online casino games? Our online casino is always at your disposal, with a broad range of online slots and casino table games such as blackjack and roulette, including the latest live dealer variants.