The straddle is a strategy occasionally used in poker. Before the cards are dealt, the under-the-gun player makes a double Big-Blind bet. In effect, the player is raising the blinds without seeing his hole cards.
Illustration: In a $3-$6 game, with the Big Blind at $3, the straddle bet would be $6. I’ve seen the straddle used on several occasions. Personally, I think it’s a “dumb” strategy, and would never use it.
Most recently, I saw it in a limit game at a casino that has no Small Blind – only the Big Blind. A new player was seated just to the right of an aggressive player who we’ll call Mad Merton (MM).
When the blind got to the new player, MM made a great display, leaping to his feet, shouting aloud, and pounding the table with his straddle bet. Then he turned to face the new player, with a seemingly angry scowl. He shouted some inane words. It was almost as if he was challenging him personally. Perhaps they had had previous encounters.
Faced with a preflop double-bet, everyone folded his hand to the new player in the Big Blind. He peeked at his hole cards, and promptly called the straddle. It was only one more small bet for him. From then on, the new player checked as the dealer placed the cards on the board.
MM bet every time – almost with a vengeance; and the new player calmly called. At the showdown, MM turned up a garbage hand and the new player took the pot with a middle pair. A few times the new player folded his hand preflop; but most often he called MM’s straddle bet. This happened a number of times – until MM went broke and left the table. I sensed a sigh of relief at the table. Everyone was pleased to see him go.
Analyzing the straddle: Why would anyone want to raise the blinds without seeing his hole cards? It’s even worse than calling preflop from an early position without looking at your hole cards. Not looking at your hole cards won’t change them in any way. Why avoid the information easiest for you to gain?
Just look at your hole cards before making any decision. Worse yet, the straddle is actually making a double-bet completely in the blind. Some players do that sort of thing. Perhaps the element of surprise excites them.
Of course, these are strictly gamblers. It’s like playing the slot machines in a casino. At least the slot player usually realizes what he is up against.
The straddler’s raised bet – a double bet – is likely to force out marginal drawing hands, but any player holding a made hand (A-A, K-K, or Q-Q) or a premium drawing hand is bound to stay in, and may re-raise. The odds are the straddle has a poor hand.
If, on the average, a player is dealt one playable hand out of (typically) four, then the odds are 3 out of 4 (75% probability) the straddler has a poor starting hand. I’ll take those odds any time. Wouldn’t you?
Why did MM persist in making the straddle bet, orbit after orbit? Perhaps he thought he might steal the blind. In this case, there was only one blind bet and, after the rake, there were just two chips in the pot. Hardly worth an investment of six chips. Horrible pot odds! Perhaps he just wasn’t thinking!
Once his straddle was called, why did MM keep betting? Perhaps he thought of forcing out his one remaining opponent. Never happened. Sure, he could have gotten lucky – but didn’t. My best guess is MM was on tilt. While at the table, I saw his rack of chips steadily empty. I don’t know how many chips he had lost before that.
My question to you: The straddle is an utterly stupid strategy. Can you explain why anyone in his right mind might want to use it – even if it’s perfectly legal?
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