Poker Straddle – Learn Everything You Need to Know
Last Updated: October 4, 2023
Checked by: Tadas Peckaitis
Live poker players love to use poker straddles to spice up the action and make the game bigger as the night progresses. Coming from an online poker background, most players aren’t immediately familiar with poker straddles, as they used to not be available in online poker games at all.
More recently, the best online poker sites have introduced the straddling option, while some live games see players post a straddle nearly every hand.
In this article, you will learn what is a straddle in poker, when you can post a poker straddle, how it affects the game, and whether or not you should be straddling the next time you play.
What Is a Straddle in Poker?
A straddle in poker is another blind bet made before the cards are dealt, doubling the big blind.
The straddle is not a part of the original poker rules, and it is never applied in poker tournaments or forced upon players in regular cash games. Instead, players in many cash games are allowed to post the straddle at their own convenience, with the value usually set at 2x the big blind, and only the UTG player given the option.
In many live poker games, players past the UTG can post further poker straddles, doubling the blind each time. Other players at the table, such as the one seated on the dealer button, may be allowed to post Mississippi Straddle or other bets to spice up the action before the cards are dealt.
The key thing to know about the straddle in poker is that it must be posted before the player posting it has seen any of their cards, effectively making it just another blind bet.
The Classic Poker Straddle
In most live poker games, the player sitting to the left of the big blind (UTG) can post a poker straddle, doubling the big blind and buying the option to act last before the flop.
The value of the first straddle is set at 2x the big blind, although high-stakes players sometimes allow UTG to post any amount they want, as any additional money in the pot is good for everyone else at the table.
If you play in your local $1/2 game, you may see the UTG player posting a straddle for $4.
Further poker straddles can also be posted, with UTG+1 posting $8, UTG+2 posting $16, etc. In each game, the game host decides how many straddles will be allowed and their size.
When you play private cash games, you may be able to negotiate straddles to set them up in a way that works best for you, while casinos will usually have premade rules for straddling.
The player to the left of the last poker straddle acts first before the flop, but it’s important to know that all postflop action proceeds as if no straddles were posted in the first place, with the small blind always acting first and the action following clockwise based on poker positions at the table with active players.
The Mississippi Poker Straddle
Poker players love action and gambling, so the Mississippi Straddle was invented, allowing any player at the table to post a straddle. This means any player can post a straddle each poker hand if they choose to do so.
Once a Mississippi Straddle is posted, the player who posted it usually goes last before the flop, regardless of their position at the table. Yet, the postflop action order never changes from the game's original rules.
Some games also allow players to re-straddle over the Mississippi Straddle, which can cause absolute chaos in terms of who goes when. Listen to your dealer and remember not to act out of turn when playing in games with Mississippi.
In most cases, the size of the Mississippi Straddle won’t be limited, meaning you can post anything you want at any time, other players will get the option to raise you to any amount they want, and you will act last and get all the action you could have ever wanted.
The Sleeper Straddle in Poker
Like the Mississippi, the Sleeper straddle can be posted by any player at the table, with the key difference being that the Sleeper only becomes active if all players in front of it fold their cards.
For example, if you post a $20 Sleeper in a $1/3 game in the Hijack, your Sleeper will only be active if all players fold to you. If one of the players in front of you calls the $20 or makes a raise, you can take your $20 back and act any way you want.
On the other hand, if all players fold over to you, your $20 is now active, and the players behind you must now decide how to act against your bet, with the action coming back to you to act last after the big blind.
In games that allow both the regular poker straddle, Mississippi Straddle, or Sleeper Straddle, the host must decide which straddle goes first in case multiple players want to post in the game hand. In most cases, the regular UTG straddle goes first!
The Button Poker Straddle
The Button Straddle is another type of poker straddle that can only be posted by the player holding the dealer button. In many ways, the Button Straddle is the same as the Mississippi Straddle, but some games only allow the button to post.
When the Button Straddle is posted, the small blind goes first. This puts the blinds in an even worse position than usual and really forces them to play extremely tight.
The value of the Button Straddle can be capped or uncapped depending on the game host, with uncapped Button Straddles being very popular in some high-stakes poker games.
How Poker Straddle Affects the Game
So now that you know what a poker straddle is, you may be wondering why players post it, its purpose, and whether or not you should post straddles yourself.
A straddle in poker aims to make the game bigger, plain, and simple.
There is no real reason to post a straddle other than to force everyone to play for more money without knowing what cards you are holding.
While making the game bigger can be good in some ways, the player posting the straddle is putting himself at a serious disadvantage, posting 2x the big blind or more without looking at his cards.
If you were to regularly post straddles in poker, you would quickly put yourself in a position where you are bleeding tons of chips with random cards, which is something many recreational players often do.
The actual effect of the poker straddle on the game can vary a bit depending on the table layout. In some games, players start limping more when the straddle is on, while in others, players will aggressively go after the dead money in the pot.
With the big blind effectively doubled, the poker straddle can never really make the gameplay smaller, and it is always a tool to increase the overall action at the expense of the player posting the straddle.
How to Adapt to Straddling in Poker
In games with a lot of straddling, you must learn to adapt one way or another. While many players think the best way to adapt to such games is by posting a lot of straddles yourself, the exact opposite is true.
The most profitable way to adapt to a splashy game with a lot of straddling is to play much tighter than you would in a regular poker game.
Playing a loose and aggressive style can also work, but remember to keep stack depth in mind, as straddles make the stack-to-pot ratio much smaller, requiring a very deep stack to play loose before the flop.
You should always remember that players who post a lot of straddles in poker typically aren’t fans of folding in general, which means stealing chips from them won’t be easy, while value-betting them will. This calls for following a basic poker strategy to have the best results.
Some live poker tables where a lot of straddling and re-straddling is happening won’t care how tight you are playing, and you will be able to get away with playing only your premium hands and still getting action when you do get them.
Always pay attention to table dynamics, look out for action players and adapt to their play, and do your best to exploit all the infinite amounts of dead money being thrown around the table.
Should I Straddle in Poker?
The final thing to consider is whether or not you should be posting straddles yourself.
While it might look fun, the simple answer is that you should not post poker straddles in most situations.
If you can play in a poker game where many or most players are straddling and you don’t have to, you will be printing money simply by not putting in those forced bets that everyone else is posting.
In some games, especially private ones, there may be some pressure on you to straddle, and the right thing to do is post some straddles to appease the rest of the players.
The thing to remember about straddling in poker is that there is hardly a way to be profitable in the hands in which you post the straddle, regardless of how bad everyone else may be, so avoiding the straddle is the best thing to do.
Not only does the straddle force you to post two big blinds before looking at your cards, but you are also doing it from the worst position possible, which is an even bigger problem.
If you want to post some straddles and get some action going, at least try doing so from the button if the game allows it, as this will give you some postflop advantage and allow you to pounce on the limpers in games where many players like to limp over the button straddle.
Final Words on Straddles in Poker
A poker straddle is a commonly seen voluntary preflop bet that spices up the action and increases the size of the pot.
Straddles are a big part of private cash games, and you will often see them posted in any deep stack games, but you should try to avoid posting them yourself.
Always remember that putting money into the pot blind is not the optimal way how to play poker, and keep exploiting players who do so for no apparent reason whenever you can.
If your goal in poker is to make money, look at straddles as a losing play, and only post straddles to appease your opponents and make sure you don’t lose a seat in a profitable and juicy game.
Poker Straddle FAQ
We have looked at the concept of poker straddle in every imaginable way, and now it’s time to wrap it up. Here are the quick answers to some key questions you may still have about straddles in poker.