Poker Terminology: Straddles

Most of our curriculum at Poker Power is geared towards poker tournaments, where a bunch of players (usually more than three tables full) play poker until eventually one champion wins all the chips. Tournaments are a popular way to play online but if you go to a friend’s place for poker night you’ll likely play a cash game instead.

The term “cash game” is a bit of a misnomer because it doesn’t refer to a game played for money, but to a poker game with no set end point where players can add more chips if they run out. Cash games function similarly to tournaments strategically, but one glaring difference between the two is that many cash games allow players to straddle. So, what is a straddle? Should you do it? How should you respond when other players do it? Read on to find out.

What is a straddle?

A straddle is an option given to players in most cash games. To straddle, the first player to act may post a blind twice the size of the existing big blind before looking at her cards for the benefit of acting last preflop. Some games let you straddle from any position at the table, or “double straddle” by posting a blind twice the size of the existing straddle before you see your cards.

Common misconceptions about straddles

Tons of players share the misconceptions that straddles are strategically wise, that you should not raise if someone straddles, and that nothing changes if someone straddles. Here’s the scoop on why these are simply not true.

A straddle is only different from blindly putting two big blinds in the pot if nobody raises your straddle. Any time you put chips into a pot before seeing your cards, you will be at a disadvantage. That’s not to say straddles aren’t fun, or that you can’t straddle if the rest of the table straddles, but straddling is not a strategically winning play.

You absolutely should raise any hand in the presence of a straddle that you would have in its absence. In fact, a great rule of thumb is to simply view the straddle as the new big blind of the hand. If, for example, the blinds of the game were 1(small blind)/2(big blind) you usually would raise to 6. When someone straddles, the new blinds are 1(small)/2(big)/4(straddle) and you can just raise to 12 to accomplish the same purpose (trying to win the chips in the pot.) By just calling someone’s straddle, you don’t build a pot with strong hands or give yourself a chance to win the pot uncontested.

Finally, a straddle does change the strategy of a hand if all else is equal. When a player straddles, the stakes of the game have been doubled and you can think of your stack as having half as many big blinds as it previously did. That makes drawing hands like small pocket pairs or suited connectors less valuable because it’s costlier to see flops and there are fewer chips remaining for you to win if you happen to make a strong, disguised hand. However, high cards and high pairs are even better when someone straddles because it’s easier to get all of the chips in the middle and you’ll have a great chance of winning.

That’s all there is to it. Now you can play against your next straddler with confidence in how to adjust your game. To learn more about the power of poker from our supportive teaching staff, consider enrolling in our free Poker Power lessons here. We’ll see you at the tables.

Poker Power is for educational purposes and does not permit gambling in our clubs. No poker experience is required.