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In places where it’s allowed, straddles are commonly encountered.  While the potential merits of straddling are best left for another article, straddles make things interesting by adding another dimension to the game.  Most players, however, do not correctly adapt when there is a straddle out.  Here’s a few things to keep in mind when playing straddled pots where you are not the straddle.

Big pairs and big unpaired hands go up in value

A straddle acts like a third, bigger blind.  One can think of the straddle not only as doubling the stakes for one hand, but also as halving the stack sizes.  Therefore, in straddled pots, all stacks are effectively shallower.  In such situations, the stack to pot ratio (SPR) is going to be smaller postflop, increasing the value of big pairs and hands that are likely to flop top pair top kicker.

Speculative hands go down in value

Similarly, because the straddle cuts effective stacks in half and decreases the SPR, speculative hands like small pocket pairs, suited connectors, and suited aces dramatically go down in value.  These hands rely on high SPRs and implied odds to be profitable, so unless stacks are still extremely deep even with the straddle, save these hands for non-straddled pots.

Most players have tighter limping and opening ranges

Because a straddle effectively doubles the stakes for a hand, many players can become uncomfortable in straddled pots.  This usually results in them tightening up their preflop play.  They will only play what they consider are strong starting hands, so your preflop raises will have less fold equity.  In addition, their raising ranges will also become stronger, so you should tighten up your calling range in straddled pots to only the strongest hands.

The straddle has a wider calling range

Players who straddle tend to be loose gambling players, so naturally, you have less fold equity against such players.  In addition, the straddle already has two big blinds invested in the hand, so he’s much more likely to call a preflop raise than he would be if he didn’t have any money in already.  These two facts together often make it difficult to fold out the straddle, so unless your raise is huge, don’t expect to always take it down preflop.

 

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