If there is one thing that made each of us look like a fool when we played our first live game, it has to be the poker straddle.
After learning the game online, I, for one, didn't know how straddles work in Texas Hold’em, as they were never a part of the online poker games I played in.
However, straddle bets are quite common in live poker. In many games, a straddle is on practically every hand, turning the game into a three-blind situation very quickly.
So what is straddle in poker, and how do you use it? I am going to explain all of that and some more in this quick guide to straddling, which you should read before you sit down in a live poker cash game anywhere in the world.
What is a Straddle in Poker?
If you have learned how to play Texas Hold'em or Omaha, you know how blind bets work by now. The two players to the left of the button post the small blind and the big blind, and the action starts.
However, poker players are often gamblers at heart. So, it comes as no surprise they came up with a way to spice things up and make the games bigger.
A straddle in poker is another blind bet, which is made before the cards are dealt.
The main principle of the poker straddle is that you must post it before seeing any of your cards. Who can post it, and for how much depends on the game in question!
Traditionally, the player to the left of the big blind has the option to post the straddle bet. The usual amount they should post is 2x the big blind to keep consistent with the SB to BB ratio.
Many games also allow multiple players to straddle, and in some games, every player at the table can post a straddle in a progressive way. The next player would post 4x, the next 8x, etc.
There are other types of straddle in poker as well. For instance, you can post a Mississippi straddle from any position and for any value you choose.
In some games, a button straddle is allowed as well. This means the player on the button is allowed to post a straddle, and the rules of the game change based on that.
I will explain each of these straddle poker variations and give you an example of how they would work in the real world.
The Classic Poker Straddle
The most typical type of straddle in poker is one where the player in the first poker position (under the gun) posts the straddle.
This straddle is usually valued at 2x the big blind, and very few games allow for anything else.
However, in high-stakes games, it is common to see players post poker straddles to any tune they choose.
If you were playing in a $1/$2 game in your local casino and straddles were allowed, the UTG player would need to put in $4 (or $5 in some casinos) to activate the straddle. This has to be done before this player gets any cards.
The player to the left of the UTG may have the option to re-straddle. If they wanted to do so, they would need to post $8 (or $10) before getting any cards. This can keep going as far as the game allows it.
When a player posts the straddle, they become the last to act before the flop. If multiple straddles are posted, they will act as additional blinds. The player who posted the last (and the biggest) Texas Hold’em straddle will be the last to act before the flop.
Regardless of the straddles posted before the flop, action will flow naturally once a flop is dealt out. This means the small blind will act first, and the dealer will act last if they are still in the hand.
The Mississippi Poker Straddle
A Mississippi Straddle is yet another form of poker straddle you will encounter in some games. Unlike your classic straddle, this one allows any player at the table to place a straddle, regardless of their position.
This can make things wild and hectic, as re-straddling is also allowed sometimes. The player who placed the Mississippi Straddle will go last before the flop. This means the order or action must change. In some games, the straddle simply goes last, after the big blind, regardless of positions.
Having multiple Mississippi Straddles posted can make things quite hectic in terms of who acts when. Try to listen to the dealer, though, and you should be fine.
Games that allow Mississippi sometimes also allow the classic straddle, but you can't have both in the same poker hand. The UTG straddle is usually superior to Mississippi, which means if both are posted, only the UTG straddle is accepted.
The crazy thing with Mississippi Straddles is that they are often not limited in size. That means any player can post any amount before the cards are dealt, and they will get the last action before the flop.
The Sleeper Straddle
Another interesting type of Texas Hold’em straddle is the sleeper straddle. The sleeper is posted in the same way as Mississippi, but with one key difference.
While Mississippi goes last before the flop regardless, the sleeper waits for their turn. If any player between calls the blind or raises the sleeper is no longer active. When this happens, the player in the straddle can take any action they want as they're no longer bound by it.
On the other hand, if players in front of the sleeper decide to fold their cards, the sleeper becomes active and is now the new bet. The sleeper will get the chance to act last in this case.
Sleeper straddles are very common in high-stakes games. If you have seen recent seasons of televised cash games, you may have seen some big names like Rick Salomon post them quite often.
The Button Straddle In Poker
The button straddle is basically just a Mississippi Straddle, with the difference that only the player on the button can post it.
The amount one must post on the button can be determined by the game organizer, and it can be uncapped as well.
Once a button straddle is posted, things get a little interesting in terms of who acts when. Since the button is such a specific position, different games have different ways of handling things.
In most games, if a button straddle is active, the small blind will act first before the flop. This puts the players in the blinds in a situation where they are forced to fold most of their cards.
Some games will have action start with UTG, go all the way around the table, skip the button, and come back to it once the blinds have completed their action.
In either case, the button straddle is live and not a sleeper. This means the value that is posted there becomes the new bet. All players must at least match it if they want to see the flop.
How Poker Straddles Affect the Game
So, now you know what is straddle in poker and what different types of straddles exist. But you’re probably still wondering, should I be straddling in my poker game? The answer to this question depends on who you ask and can be quite different.
If you asked a loose recreational gambler looking for all the action they can get, they would tell you to go for it.
On the other hand, a professional player will tell you that you should only straddle if other players are straddling even more, and it makes the game run wild.
In reality, posting straddles is not a very effective way to play poker. You are investing money with random cards, usually in a position that is not very lucrative (UTG).
What this leads to is players raising you with their good hands to amounts that are even bigger than they would normally be in your game. You get a better price to make the call, but you will have a completely random hand. This means that about 80% of the time, you will have trash cards.
The function of a straddle in poker is to make the game bigger, plain, and simple. While you could simply agree to make the game bigger, to begin with, a straddle poker game can be advantageous for the best poker players in the mix.
In most games, you will not be forced to post straddles, which means you can go ahead and avoid straddling while others are doing it. It is a sure way to print money in the long run, as long as other players are OK with it.
How to Adapt to Straddles on the Poker Table
If you are playing in a poker game with a lot of straddling going on, you will need to adapt to it, one way or another.
If you are the kind of player who enjoys the extra juicy action, you can go ahead and join the fun. Post straddles, Mississippi straddles, and button straddles, but expect some massive swings.
On the other hand, if you are there to make money, you need to adapt to others straddling. You will want to play very tight in early positions, as the blinds are now up, and you have a smaller stack in comparison.
Playing tight at a table with a lot of straddles is almost always a great idea.
Players who like to straddle also hate to fold, so even if you are playing very tight, they will still want to gamble with you.
If you can be at a table where you are folding 90% of your hands, raise under the gun over two straddles, and still get some callers, you are in a prime position to make piles of pure cash when you finally pick a monster like pocket Kings or pocket Aces.
One thing to remember is that chronic straddlers will tend to also be very aggressive. If you are holding a good hand like JJ, AK, or AQ and they re-raise you from their straddle, you should hardly ever fold. This, too, will produce some variance, but at least it will be the good kind!
Final Words on Straddles in Poker
While it may seem like a lot of fun, straddle poker is more about gambling than about skills. The more straddles are involved in a poker game, the more gamblish it becomes.
If you think about Texas Hold’em straddle from a perspective of an educated online poker player, you quickly realize that all it does is reduce the SPR (stack to pot ratio). The lower the SPR, the lower your edge as a good player, and the higher the luck element.
While straddling in low-stakes games you are playing for fun can be exciting, I would never recommend doing it in a game where you have actual financial interests and risks.
I have straddled in games where I shouldn't have over the years, and to this date, I still can't remember a single time straddles gave me a real theoretical advantage.
The moral of the story is to play in games where others are happy to straddle but avoid doing it much yourself.
Do remember, though, that if everyone else is straddling, you should throw out an occasional straddle as well, just to make sure people don’t resent you on a personal level (if you care about that at all).
Poker Straddle FAQs
To wrap up this extensive article on poker straddles, here's a few of the most important questions and answers on the topic, just in case you've missed out on something!
What is a straddle bet in Texas Holdem?
A straddle in poker is a blind bet made before the flop, similar to small blind or big blind. In all cases, the straddle must be bigger than the big blind. Who is allowed to post a straddle and how much they must post depends on the game you are playing in.
What is a Mississippi straddle?
A Mississippi straddle is a unique type of straddle bet allowed in some games. Mississippi straddle can be posted by any player at the table, except the blinds. The player who posts the Mississippi straddle will act last before the flop but in his own turn after the flop.
When can I straddle in poker?
Whether or not you are allowed to straddle in any given hand depends on the game you are in. In some games, any player can post the Mississippi straddle. In others, only the UTG player is allowed to straddle. Some games allow Mississippi straddle to be posted by the player on the dealer button.
Is posting a straddle a good decision?
A straddle is a blind bet, but unlike the SB and BB, it is optional. This means you don’t have to post it, and there is no valid reason you should put money into the pot before looking at your cards if you don’t have to. Straddling is basically gambling, and there is seldom a good reason to do it. I recommend not straddling unless the plan is to fire up the other players and get them to put in way more than you do.
Is straddle a raise at a poker table?
While a poker straddle does increase the effective bet, it is not considered a raise. A straddle is rather considered a third blind, so the player in the straddle can take action even if all other players only called their bet. This is a privilege that a raiser does not get.