Playing Straddled Pots Effectively
Even the best professional poker players tend to lose money in the blinds, so you'd have to be crazy to choose to become a third blind, right?
Before we start, let's make sure everyone knows what a straddle actually is.
A straddle is a blind bet made before the cards are dealt, that gives them an option to act preflop. Essentially, it doubles (or more) the stakes of the hand.
You don't see many online poker sites that even offer a straddle option, but it's very common in live games.
Today, we're going to look at the two different types of straddles, which are under the gun, and button straddles. It should be noted, that if you're playing in a three blind game the third blind is effectively a straddle.
Under The Gun Straddles
The UTG straddle is the most common type in live cash games, all over the world. While some poker rooms let you straddle more, it's most commonly going to be two big blinds. So in reality, it's a hand which is played with three blinds.
The first thing to remember, is that with an extra player in the blinds, it's much harder to steal the pot preflop. We have to consider this hwne deciding which hands to open raise with. A solid approach to this is open raising less to steal the blinds, and more towards getting value with the best hand.
The next thing to consider, is your position. Playing in the small blind against a UTG straddle is the hardest position on the table. Opening from the small blind is all that much harder, because we have an extra blind position to deal with. This means we need to tighten up our pre flop raising range vs playing against only the big blind.
At the same time, you also want to be taking advantage of your position in the small or big blind, and looking for opportunities to make a squeeze play and take the pot down right there.
When the button is the straddle, action starts on the small blind instead of under the gun preflop. Additionally, this gives the button the advantage of acting last on every street of the hand, including preflop.
Given the strength of the button position, this is going to make preflop stealing harder than normal. The button will always be getting a good price preflop, and will have position all the way in the hand.
With that in mind, we want to make sure that when we're opening preflop, we're doing it with a range of hands that play well out of position because we're not going to have position as often as we would like. Our hands like suited connectors lose a lot of value in these positions, but our broadway hands go up in value. Also, our preflop opens should be a little larger than normal, to reduce the equity of the straddle's call.
It's also important for us to three bet and squeeze with more of our range, because just calling let's the button continue in the hand and we have to act before them for 3 streets. The more we just call in this position, the more the button can raise and take the pot down.
It's often heard at the table that the "Straddle is good for the game". It is good, from an action perspective. Adjusting your strategy to match, and take advantage of the extra money in the pot, will make it good from your perspective!