A live straddle is a blind bet that essentially "buys" the last position for the first betting round. It can be done, when allowed, in cash games that have blinds. The descriptor "live" indicates that the straddling player still gets the option to act. So a player could straddle, and if other players just call, the straddler has the option to raise his own straddle.
A straddle is typically done by the player under the gun (the player to the left of the big blind), although with a "Mississippi Straddle" this can be done from other positions. The blind raise is the minimum raise allowed, so in a $2/$5 No Limit Holdem game, the straddle would be $10.
Not all places allow a live straddle. Atlantic City, for instance, does not permit straddles. Casinos may only permit a blind raise. This works the same as betting normally, except you don't allow yourself the privilege of folding or looking at your cards. This could be considered a "dead" straddle.
A Mississippi straddle lets other players, other than the player under the gun, place down a live bet. It is rarer to see this type of straddle allowed because of the varied rules that are necessary for the floor and dealers to learn. Those rules tend to vary wildly, the main points of dissension being preference when multiple players want to straddle, if a blind position can straddle, and restraddling.
Restraddles, or double straddles (or triple, quadruple...) are more live bets after an initial straddle. This is another uncommon straddle variant. They are simply more blind minimum raises immediately after a previous straddle. They are completely voluntary and must be made in betting order sequence after the initial straddler. However, the last player to straddle still gets the option to raise.
Some other quick facts about straddles...
- The increased minimum to call and the change in the betting order only ever applies to the initial betting round, after that the game continues as normal
- The straddle must be made before any cards are dealt, so that the player could not possibly get any reads prior to modifying the betting order
- Straddles do not count toward the maximum number of raises in a betting round (usually four)
- They also do not change the minimum amount to raise. For example, in a $2/$5 NL Holdem game, if a player straddles for $10, the minimum raise would be $5 more, a total of $15, not the easily mistaken double to $20
- Although I'm sure there's an exception somewhere, straddles are never permitted in tournament poker
- If a table agrees to a "mandatory straddle", it's usually not actually binding, but it's not a good idea to be a smarty-pants rules lawyer either...
Straddles tend to be regarded as bad plays. A straddle does put in more money in a poor position with unknown cards. There are scenarios where a straddle could be perceived as a beneficial play, but only under very particular circumstances. Straddles tend to increase preflop action, as players begin to attack the blinds more vigorously. This leads to larger pots. This causes wilder play as players get committed to pots with draws because of the pot's size compared to the remaining stacks sizes. So this could be considered an advantage to short stacked players. Straddling could also be considered an advantage if you are up against weak preflop players. That is, players who limp in, but fold against a raise without very strong holdings.
One last comment about straddles: they can anger other players. If you consistently straddle, the players to your right will be faced with more raises in the blinds, except without the advantage of last position. In your defense though, those are the players whose feelings you should care about the least, since you will almost always have position on them.
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