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Strategies for Straddles

Straddles are becoming more and more popular as poker players want to juice up the game and get more action. Basically, a straddle is a bet that someone who isn’t in the little or bog blind makes before anyone sees their cards. The most common straddle is when under-the-gun (UTG) doubles the blind.

Most players, however, don’t properly adapt their strategies for straddles. They play the hand as if nothing has changed. So, by understanding straddle strategies, we can exploit these weaker players.

Let’s say that the big blind is 50 chips and the UTG player straddles for 100. The big blind (BB) is no longer 50. Instead, we need to start using 100 chips as our BB for all our calculations.

Bet Sizing Changes

The first thing that we need to change in response to a straddle is our bet sizing. Remember that most open raises are between 3x and 5x of the BB. If our BB is 50, then most open raises will be between 150 and 250 chips.

Once the straddle goes on at 100, however, we need to change our open raise sizing to reflect that change. That means that open raises suddenly become between 300 and 500 chips.

This is because bet sizing always relies on ratios and pot-odds. Chips do not have absolute value in poker. Since bet sizing is relative, we need to make bigger bets when the stakes increase with a straddle.

Stack Size Changes

Stack size is also relative because it’s measured in BBs. When the BB doubles with a straddle, then all stacks are immediately cut in half. If you had 50 BBs before the straddle, then you only have 25 BBs afterwards.

This has a huge effect on optimal play. It changes your preflop hand selection, for instance, because it’s harder to call with implied odds if there’s less stack to win after you hit your hand. This makes hands like low-pairs weaker because we can no longer effectively set-mine.

A change in stack size also affects your stack-to-pot ratio (SPR). This means that all-in thresholds are lower, and we should expect to shove more often in straddle pots. Having a smaller stack gives us less room to maneuver.

Most people don’t understand the big shift that happens from a straddle. By assessing the situation with this information, you can get a huge edge on the table next time you face a straddle pot.

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