If you want to be a successful live poker player, you need to be well versed in how to play straddle pots.
Straddles are fairly common in live cash games, but most live players make the same mistakes over and over again when the straddle is on.
In this article, I delved into the new topic of Nick Petrangelo. Smash Live Cash Course and pulled out 3 preflop tips to help you play straddle pots to perfection.
Tip #1: Play Tight in Every Position
Rule number one in straddle pots is: play harder!
Straddles are usually seen as a way to create more action. But that doesn’t mean you should loosen up your ranges.
In fact, the opposite is true. Nick says the following in his Smash Live Cash course:
The first thing to remember in straddle games is that you have to play tighter.
So many people don’t seem to understand this, but you have to keep in mind that there are now 3 blinds and an extra player to act after you.
To properly set up for this, your opening ranges must be one position ahead of your current position.
For example, if you are on the button in a straddle pot, you should raise with your normal cut-off range. If you are in a cutoff position, you should raise with your normal hijack range. Etc.
Adapting to shorter stacks
Another important factor that encourages tighter play in straddle pots is stack depth. It is important to remember that due to the straddle, the stack of all players is halved in the big blinds.
For example, let’s say you’re in a $5/$10 game with a $1,000 stack. If someone bets a $20 straddle, our stack will drop from 100bb to 50bb. The shorter the stacks in cash games, the tighter you usually need to play.
Another note: your hand selection should change slightly as stacks get shorter. Speculative hands (such as low pocket pairs and suited connectors) drop in value. At the same time, hands with high cards increase in value. Don’t neglect these factors when the straddle is on and you’re deciding whether or not to play a hand.
Tip #2: Don’t limp from the small blind (raise or fold instead)
Live players make mistakes in straddle pots from any position, but Nick usually notices that the biggest mistakes are made by players in the blinds, especially in the small blind.
Limping too often from the blinds is one of the main ways players consistently lose money in straddle pots. As Nick says in the know:
One of the biggest mistakes I see straddle players make is limping too much from the blinds, especially from the small blind. Especially in non-ante games, the relatively low price you bet to enter the pot is very important.
Nick goes on to say that many players tend to underestimate how much of the small blind’s range can underrealize his equity with two players behind rather than one.
With this in mind, the optimal strategy for playing the small blinds in straddle hands is to play with a reasonably tight range and only raise into the pot. Your raising range from the small blind in a straddle hand should be very similar to your raising range from the cutoff in a non-straddle hand.
I’ll end this section with a quote from Nick echoing this point:
In the small blind, we don’t want to limp two opponents while we’re out of position.
Instead, we want to raise aggressively by posting the big blind in a difficult position sandwiched between two players. People tend to be pretty bad at defending in the blinds against the small blind, so as long as we play with the right ranges, this spot will usually be very good for us.
Tip 3: Use a small raise size
Players seem to have serious misconceptions about how to size their open raises in straddle pots.
You don’t need to raise big when the straddle is on. In fact, doing it is extremely effective, as Nick explains:
I see people opening 4x or 5x in straddle pots all the time and generally. Indeed, the optimal size is somewhere between 2x-2.5x. There is no need to use the 4x size.
When you 4x or 5x you just lose money in the middle and bottom of your range. Technically, we don’t even have to open these arms if we use a larger size.
The absolute rule in all poker is that the more you bet, the fewer combinations you can make profitable bets with. This is especially true preflop. Nick explains why large open raises in live poker cost us a lot of expected value (EV):
If we think we have an advantage in the games we play, we should try to play as many hands as possible to maximize that advantage.
This will mean that we will need to use smaller holes. Just sniffing in 4x and 5x opens is not practical. This is something that needs to disappear and is quite contagious among the many different cash game populations.
This is pretty much true for all hands in live cash games, but especially for straddles.
Do you enjoy playing straddle pots?
Let me know in the comments.
Hope you enjoyed it. If you want to continue to improve your real money playing skills with Nick Petrangelo, be sure to check out his Smash Live Cash course.
Note: Want to win the most in live poker games? Get the new Smash Live Cash rate and start learning tactics that PRINT money against live players. Find out more right now!