Listen up, live poker players.
If you’ve spent enough time on the live felt, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered a Button straddle.
Button straddles create interesting table dynamics that are worth exploring.
This article answers the following questions:
- What is a Button straddle?
- How should you adjust your strategy when the Button straddles?
- Should you ever straddle on the Button?
Let’s dig in!
A relatively rare type of straddle offered in some poker rooms, a Button straddle is a voluntary blind bet made by the player on the Button before cards are dealt. A player who straddles on the Button is effectively buying the big blind and doubling* the stakes, all while keeping their positional advantage.
*Some poker rooms allow you to straddle for more than double the big blind, in which case a Button straddle would more than double the stakes.
Compared to a typical straddle, a Button straddle has a much greater impact on the dynamic of the game because it changes the way the action flows. The exact rules vary from poker room to poker room.
For example, suppose you’re in a $1/$3 game and the button puts out a $6 straddle. The action will usually flow one of two ways:
- The Small Blind player acts first. Action then makes its way around the table until it reaches the Button, who will have the option to check if no raise has been made.
- The UTG player acts first. This variation is more complicated. Action makes its way around the table until the cutoff acts. If any one has raised, the Button acts before the blinds (like in a normal hand). If there has not been a raise, the action skips the button to the players in the blinds, who then get a chance to act before the Button closes the action.
Keep in mind that some rooms will make slight variations to these rules, so it’s important to get clarification from the staff on how action will flow when the Button straddles.
For the strategy sections below, the focus will be on games in which the Small Blind acts first in Button straddled pots.
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When there’s a Button straddle, the player on the Button gets to act last preflop as well as on every other street. This has major strategic impacts for every player.
Before going into the next section, I want you to keep in mind that there aren’t any preflop simulations that back these ideas. Instead, they are based on solid logic.
1. Adjust your raise size
For this reason, raising bigger than usual makes sense to prevent the Button from being able to play many hands profitably. Raising to 3-4 times the straddle seems like a great place to start, due to the fact that you will be playing out-of-position. You can increase this size if the Button is particularly loose.
2. Play looser when open-raising from late positions
There are two factors that favor playing a looser, more aggressive strategy than you typically would from late position:
- You only have to get through one blind since the Small and Big Blind have already folded.
- There is more money at stake (in relative terms) compared to a normal blind structure (1.5bb normally vs 1.75 straddles).
That being said, I would only open-raise 2-5% more hands from most positions.
The Cutoff, however, should be played quite a bit looser. With only one player standing between you and all that money, the Cutoff position is like being in the Small Blind in a typical game. I would argue that you should play your typical Small Blind vs Big Blind open range, maybe a tick looser or a tick tighter depending on the Button’s tendencies.
For reference, here’s the Small Blind vs Big Blind chart from the Advanced Solver Ranges in the Upswing Lab:
Playing From the Blinds
It’s very hard to say what the correct preflop strategy is for the Small Blind and the Big Blind in this scenario given that they already have 0.25 and 0.5 straddles already invested.
My best guess is to keep playing the same preflop strategy as if you were first to act in a normal blind structure. In other words, play the Small Blind the same as UTG in a normal game and the Big Blind the same as UTG+1 in a normal game.
What’s my reasoning behind this? I believe the 2 unique factors this situation introduces roughly negate each other:
- You get a discount on the raise, which makes you want to raise wider
- You will always be out of position postflop regardless of who calls, which makes you want to raise tighter.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments below how you approach playing from the blinds when there’s a Button straddle.
Playing vs a Raise
With the Button straddle on, 3-betting becomes a more attractive option and calling becomes a less attractive option. If you call, you allow the Button straddler in for a cheap price, and they will have position against you for the rest of the hand.
The Button straddler can also squeeze with a wider range given their positional advantage. It’s better to keep your range uncapped by avoiding calls altogether (unless the Button straddler is a tight player who won’t do anything about it).
From a purely mathematical standpoint, the short answer is no, you should never Button straddle
Would you min-raise on the Button with 83 offsuit?
What about 72, K3, J5, Q7 offsuit?
If you are a winning player, you will instantly say to yourself, “Hell no!” But that’s exactly what a Button straddle forces you to do.
In order for straddling on the Button to be profitable, you would need to win more than 2 big blinds per hand on average. It is simply impossible to do so, even with the advantage of always acting last.
However, there are some positive aspects to straddling on the Button, at least sometimes.
Button straddling can be entertaining for some players who you want to stay in the game. At the end of the day, you sacrifice a little bit of expected value (EV), but it very well may be worth it.
If everyone at the table agrees to Button straddle, it doesn’t hurt your EV at all compared to a typical game. You don’t want to be the only player at the table refusing to straddle.
It is up to you whether or not you will straddle on the Button. There are some psychological merits to it, which are contrasted by some mathematical disadvantages.
I hope this article shed some light on Button straddling!
If you have any questions or if you play differently than I suggested when there’s a Button straddle, let me know in the comments below.
Next, I recommend reading What is Board Coverage & Why Does It Matter?
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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