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How to Win When They Straddle | Upswing Poker Level-Up #37



This article is a transcription of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by Upswing VP Mike Brady with Gary Blackwood. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.

Mike (00:00):

Let’s level up your poker strategy. I’m Mike Brady and I’ve got Poker Pro, Gary Blackwood on the line to help you make more profitable decisions when there’s a straddle in play.

Gary (00:10):

That’s right guys and girls. Today we’ll be discussing how to make changes to your own strategy when somebody pops the straddle on.

Mike (00:17):

There are a few different types of straddles. We’ll be focusing on the most common type in this episode, the under the gun straddle for two times the big blind. For those who don’t know, a straddle is a voluntary blind bet made by a player before the cards are dealt.

A player who straddles is effectively buying the big blind and doubling the stakes. You must make strategic adjustments both before and after the flop when there’s a straddle in play. Pots are much bigger and stacks will be flying back and forth, so it’s critical you get this close to right in game.

Before we jump in, I want to note that we’re currently running a massive world series of tournaments sale. Courses and bundles are between 30 and 51% off.

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I’ll explain a bit more about that at the end of this episode as well.

Now let’s get into straddle strategy. Here’s my first question to you, Gary.

How should you adjust your preflop raise size when there’s a straddle in play?

Gary (01:19):

It’s so simple, so obvious, but still so important. Imagine you’re playing level one of a tournament. Everyone is super deep. You can open much larger 3x even 4x in certain spots. Imagine now you’re playing level 50 of the same tournament. Everyone’s got 20 big blinds. On average, you raise to much smaller sizes.

Cash games with a straddle are no different. We assume the straddle is now the big blind, so when someone straddles, we’re suddenly playing half the number of big blinds effective and as a result, we must raise to smaller sizes. If I’m playing five ten, I’ll normally open to $30, but when the $20 straddle goes on, I’ll change my opening size to $50.

That’s going from 3x to 2.5x. It doesn’t sound like a massive difference, but it really does make a difference post flop, especially on future streets, so it’s very important our open size gets a little smaller to account for the straddle. One last thing I want to say is that generally the straddle is double the big blind, but if you’re playing one two, you sometimes straddle to five and if you’re playing five ten, you can even straddle to 25 in certain places.

So that is really important. When the straddle becomes 2.5x the big blind, it’s even more important that we make these changes.

Mike (02:30):

You might even play in some games where you can straddle to any amount. I actually played a low stakes cash game last night where a player straddled all in for like 80 bucks in a one three game. So in a lot of these games you can straddle to whatever you want and if a player straddles, if you’re playing two five and a player straddles to 30, that is a very unique game that you’re playing and I’m actually going to speak to that a little bit at the end of this episode when I talk about some sort of tournament comparisons.

There’s going to be several tournament comparisons throughout this episode, but I’ll speak to that a little bit more towards the end. Moving on here, Gary…

How should you adjust your preflop raising range?

For example, if you’re seated in the cutoff position or the button, you have a whole extra player to worry about when there’s a straddle in play. This has to lead to tighter play, but just how much tighter?

Gary (03:17):

So as you say, there’s now an extra player to worry about. That extra player is in the blinds and we all know how much people love to call when they’re in the blinds, so we’re now less likely to get our raise through and steal the blinds, and we want to considerably strengthen our range.

My advice here is to take your opening range from each position and trim off the bottom parts of it. So if you’re in a spot where the first pocket pair you’ll open is say pocket fours and above, let’s trim off those fours and go for fives and above.

If we’re in a spot where six five suited is the bottom of our suited connector opening range, let’s trim off the six five and go seven six suited and above. If ace ten offsuit is the worst offsuit ace that you open, we take that out and keep in ace Jack offsuit.

It sounds pernickety, but it is really important that we remember our raise is less likely to get through, we’re more likely to go to a flop and we want our range to be a little stronger as a result, so we win more money post flop.

Remember, the game is also halved, IE, the number of big blinds effective that you’re playing for, which means it’s a little more likely you’re going to play for stacks and if you’re a little more likely to play for stacks, you want your range to be that little bit stronger.

Mike (04:23):

To go over a specific example of what Gary’s talking about here, I’ve pulled up some pre-flop ranges from the Smash Live Cash course that Nick Petrangelo made on It’s a great course. It comes with literally thousands of pre-flop ranges that cover really unique live situations like playing with a straddle. If you play live, this course is arguably worth checking out just for these ranges. There’s really not anything else like it that I’ve seen.

But anyway, on the button, 200 big blinds deep, no ante and no rake. The button raises 47.2% of hands when there’s not a straddle in play. So 200 big blinds deep, 47.2% of hands on the button and that’s when you just have the small blind and the big blind to worry about a normal game of No Limit Holdem.

But so let’s say the under the gun player straddled and it now folds to you on the button, you’re now a hundred straddles deep instead of 200 big blinds deep and the raising range for the button because of that extra player goes all the way down to 34.2%, a massive difference.

On the button with 200 blinds we’re raising hands as weak as Ace four offsuit we’re raising Jack three suited sometimes, jack eight offsuit even gets there for a little sliver of the time. King eight offsuit, but then when that straddle happens, we’re folding King eight offsuit. The worst offsuit ace we’re playing is Ace five. We’re nowhere close to playing Jack three suited. The range really tightens up considerably. You’re playing roughly a quarter fewer hands.

As Gary said, it’s really important to be mindful that you have that extra player to worry about who’s potentially going to defend their blind or three bet or do anything to put up resistance to your raise. The button is kind of an extreme example. It has the widest opening range to begin with, but if we look at any other formation, a cutoff opening range is going to go from say 30% to 26%, so that’s a solid little drop as well.

The earlier positions are going to drop fewer percentage points than that, but in all positions you are going to be playing a good bit tighter compared to how you would normally play when there are just two blinds to worry about.

Let’s move on to postflop.

How and why does postflop strategy shift when there’s a straddle in play?

Gary (06:30):

So again, let’s come back and use tournaments as an example. A bit of an extreme example, but it does get my point across. Imagine you’re a hundred big blinds effective in a tournament. You can use a lot of larger continuation bets in a lot of different scenarios because of that deeper stack size, but now let’s imagine we’re 15 big blinds effective. We’re using infinitely smaller bet sizes all the time as a result.

Straddles in cash games land somewhere in the middle of these two examples. We’ll so rarely have a straddle that makes us 15 big blinds effective, but often we’ll have a straddle that means we go from a hundred bigs to 50 bigs and therefore our continuation bet sizes start to get smaller.

Overbetting, for example, is less necessary in general when you’re only 50 big blinds deep if your end goal is to get the money in by the end of the hand, so we can size down slightly and still achieve the same results.


One last thing I think is really important to mention. If we’re playing a super deep game where everyone has like 400 big blinds and then the straddle goes on to make us 200 big blinds effective, all the adjustments we have mentioned so far are adjustments that we don’t need to make.

There’s a minimal difference in strategy between playing 400 bigs and 200 bigs effective, but when we go from 200 to 100 effective and very much so when we go from a hundred to 50 bigs or 60 big blinds to 30 big blinds effective, those are the points where we must make these changes to our pre-flop and our post flop game.

Playing with super shallow stacks

Mike (07:48):

Before we wrap up, I want to say a quick word on playing with super shallow stacks. Since many of you listening will encounter straddles in one three games and two five games, I feel compelled to include some adjustments for when you or your opponents are short stacked, significantly short stacked.

This is going to overlap with some tournament strategy we’ve covered in this episode and past episodes.

As stacks diminish in size, your pre-flop hand selection should start to shift, so not just your frequency, not just your sizing, but also the specific hands you choose to play. We will start to value high card hands more and speculative hands like suited connectors and small pairs less. This is because the implied odds of those speculative hands, which is kind of what makes them worth playing in a lot of scenarios, go down when there are short stacks, which makes chasing sets flushes and straights less enticing.


Put simply, your implied odds aren’t very good when your opponent only has 20 or 25 big blinds behind. It’s just not worth chasing that set or flush. And we’ve touched on this already, but when playing against players with very short stacks, say around 20 or so straddles, you should raise even smaller preflop than what Gary recommended earlier.

If you’d normally go 2.5x the straddle, consider a straight up min raise of 2x the straddle. This would be if say you have a couple of short stack opponents behind, or maybe the player that’s straddled is the short stack. That’s the scenario where I’m going to reduce my open size to kind of play their stack.

That way your opponent won’t make as much money when they shove over your raises and you are forced to fold. If you had a hand that’s not worth calling their shove. Continuing to raise large basically gives their three bet shoving range free money.

Really sucks when you raise a hand like King jack offsuit, they jam for 22 blinds or something like that and you’re forced to fold. You’d rather risk less when you do that.

Additionally, it gives you a little extra maneuverability postflop. If you raise to a smaller size, the pot size will be a little smaller post flop. That means the stack to pot ratio is going to be higher. That means you’re going to have more room to maneuver after the flop, and that actually increases the value of your skill edge.

The pot’s already big and they only have a little bit behind. It’s not really much of a skill game anymore, it’s just who hits the pair. You get the money and see what happens. Kind of flip some coins, but if you keep the pot a little bit smaller, skill plays a little bit more of a role.


And if you’re listening to the Upswing Poker Level Up podcast, I assume you’re a player who has an edge on their opponents.

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If you want to improve your tournament skills and save up to 51% on our bestselling courses, there’s even some bundles that we’ve thrown together with all of our best tournament courses ever. Head over to and click the banner at the top of your screen. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn strategic secrets from Elite Pros, Nick Petrangelo and Darren Elias at a huge discount.

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