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I am wondering if posting a straddle makes the game more fun, if it's a pure gamble or if it actually has any hidden strategic value (well, of course the straddeler gains a better position pre-flop by definition). But is it a sustainable behavior in the long term?

Basically, what I am asking is whether posting a straddle is good when playing for cash and not just for fun?

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What you exactly mean when you saying 'straddle' non native English seekers can have problem in thinking what you have on mind –  Svisstack Jan 24 '12 at 22:29
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For definition of straddle, see poker.stackexchange.com/questions/285/what-is-a-straddle-bet –  Jeffrey Blake Jan 25 '12 at 0:18
    
I've seen it numerous times in casinos that people straddle for fun, not realizing what they are doing. One time, a guy that was really shortstacked (12BB or something) straddled. Basically he makes his small stack even smaller... Straddle is risky, realize that the whole game changes! –  Valentin Grégoire Mar 31 at 14:35

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The standard straddle is, in general, a losing proposition. You're trading 2BB for the right to play last preflop. You'll end up playing larger pots out of position, which is a bad thing. You have to have a huge edge against your opposition to make up for the positional disadvantage.

Some special situations, where straddling makes sense:

  1. Trying to build an exploitable loose image. Be careful here, your image is probably not as important as you think.
  2. Trying to loosen up a table. If the table is extremely tight, straddling a few times can sometimes loosen things up.
  3. Round of straddles. If you can convince the table to do a round of straddles, you're not conceding the positional advantage. You're simply increasing the stakes. That's a win if you believe you have an advantage over the table.
  4. Special straddles. Button straddle and Mississippi straddles can be an advantage as you're not giving up position. The best straddle rule I've ever seen was at Planet Hollywood LV some years ago. They allowed a button straddle that guaranteed last action. The action proceeded around to the cut-off and then, regardless of the current action skipped over the button to the blinds. Play continued this way until all the action was complete. Then and only then, the button was given the option to fold or call (completing the action) or raise to reopen it. This was definitely a +EV straddle.
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This varies based on a number of factors. In many places, straddling is legal, but the straddle is not live - that is, the straddler does not buy position. In such a situation, a straddle is obviously a negative-EV move, since the straddler is giving up their opportunity to look at their cards before acting, in return for nothing.

In some cases, the straddle is live. Whether or not it's a good move in this case would depend on a number of factors, and I haven't done an analysis, but I'd hesitantly say that the answer is "sometimes". I've seen straddles used very successfully to steal blinds; the straddler will straddle on their turn, then make a re-raise when it comes around to them, often forcing out anyone who did limp in after the straddle. However, per Wikipedia:

Straddling is considered poor long-term strategy by most experts, since the benefit of obtaining last action is more than offset by the cost of making a blind raise. Because straddling has a tendency to enrich the average pot size without a corresponding increase in the blinds (and antes if applicable), players who sit at tables that allow straddling can increase their profits considerably simply by choosing not to straddle themselves.

A third case is the "button straddle", which I've seen allowed in most Vegas casinos. The player on the button may straddle for a fixed amount, two or three times the big blind; if they do, action starts on the small blind. Again, I haven't evaluated this systematically, but this seems like an obvious win to me: the player on the button gets to effectively raise the stakes only for the hand where he's in the best position to take advantage of it, and buys himself the best position before the flop as well as afterwards.

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3 handed, I think you should always straddle the button. It means:

  • Blinds will have to act first preflop
  • You get to act last preflop
  • You act last every street postflop

I haven't done any clever maths or anything so I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is +EV.

Forgetting this, other reasons you might straddle are:

  • Etiquette. Fish at the table straddling having a good time? Don't be a nit
  • Loosen the game up
  • Bordeom
  • Throws your opponents into playing a more -EV style (they can't adjust properly to effective half stacks)
  • Image building
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I think straddles are a great way to have fun at a poker table. And yes, they do liven things up conciderably, espcially if you can talk others into doing the same! ... "hey, I will do it if you will". I have had games where the entire table does a round of straddles. I love it. That being said, I think a small ball strategy is best, and sometimes the worst thing that can happen is getting a big pair when you straddle!

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My casino allows a 2x straddle anywhere but the button. Plus, you're allowed to either post w/ 1/2 a bb dead or straddle live when you miss the blinds (e.g., when you take a brake from the table). Dealers tend to encourage straddling, presumably b/c it builds bigger pots. The consensus of the regulars seems to be that straddling is always better than posting, although very few regulars are terribly math-based in their decision making. I consistently see players straddle w/ less than 70 bb. That has to be laughable.

Beyond EV, straddling can be a train-wreck for truly novice players or players who learned online. They already have trouble understanding when it's their turn, and straddles make that situation much worse.

The games I play rarely need to be livened up. A standard open is generally between 3x and 4x, even w/ relatively short effective stacks (<60bb); and opening for 6x doesn't raise an eyebrow. There are so many ways to exploit loose/passive tourists, so why would you want to bloat pots pre-flop so they can call you to the river w/ ace high?

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