Playing the Straddle in Poker

The gambit can help to increase the pot but carries risks

Playing Poker
Duncan Nicholls and Simon Webb/Getty Images

When a player decides to straddle in Texas hold'em or any other poker game, they are putting in twice the big blind before the cards are dealt.

Blinds, like antes, are bets made before the players look at their cards; the amounts are set before the game. Usually the big blind equals the smallest bet possible, while the little blind is half or a third of the big blind. The little blind commonly is made by the player to the dealer's left; the big blind is placed by the next player on the left.

Usually, it is the player to the left of the big blind who straddles. All players following must call or raise the amount of the straddle bet.

A 'Live' Straddle

When the straddle is "live," it acts like the big blind. If there are no raises, the player on the straddle will have the option of raising when it is their turn once more. Dealers are generally required to announce if a live straddle is in play. If the straddle is not live, it is merely a dark raise and the straddler receives no option if everyone simply calls.

Most straddles in turn, or directly after the big blind, are live and allowed in nearly every poker game that uses blinds. Straddles out of turn are often disallowed. If a game advertises a "Mississippi Straddle," it allows straddles from the dealer. Some games allow straddles from any position and for any amount, which leads to wild games.

Straddling Rules at Casinos

Casinos often impose rules on straddling. Las Vegas casinos generally don't allow the bet. If straddling is allowed, the most common rule is that it is only permissible from one position, usually the "under the gun" position left of the big blind. Limits may be set on how much you can place as your straddle bet. If you plan to use the straddle as an option, study the casino rules so you won't attempt a disallowed move.

Should You Straddle in Texas Hold'em?

When you're playing Texas hold'em and have the option of posting a straddle, should you? You'll hear a variety of pros and cons. Here are some considerations:

  • In general, the answer is no. The only advantage to straddling is that you get to act last during the first round of betting. But you've made a blind and if you're raised, you'll need a pretty lucky hand to be able to call. It's usually a waste of money.
  • First exception: If you're playing a lower limit hold'em game than you'd like, straddling is a way to basically double the betting from the start. If you feel straddling takes players out of their comfort zone and makes the majority of players fold, it could work to your advantage.
  • Major exception: If a Mississippi Straddle is allowed, it's not necessarily a bad move to use it when you're in the button position. It gives you an enormous advantage┬ábecause you will have the last position that round, and it encourages the big blind to fold if that player has poor cards.