BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: JULY 27, 2010
Run It Twice? Straddle? TV Poker Fan Asks About High Stakes Rules
A letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service has questions about poker cash games he sees on television. Let’s try to help.
Q: On TV’s “High Stakes Poker” show, I noticed that sometimes a player “straddles” a pot. I get the general idea, but can you provide more detail? Also, how do you feel about running a hand twice, as I often see them do? – Maildad12 in Dayton, Ohio.
A: You’ve asked two terrific questions. Let’s first tackle running the board twice.
When players agree to “run it twice” — which can involve 1, 2, or all 5 board cards after an all-in bet and a call — it typically involves a “race” situation in which the hand’s outcome easily could go either way based on the community cards.
With huge sums often at stake, running the board multiple times is a way to minimize a player’s variance by allowing him to salvage half the pot rather than risk losing it all.
I’m not a fan of running the board twice because of what can happen to players caught in the middle.
After investing chips into a pot, a “trapped” player is confronted with an all-in bet by an opponent in front of him and the prospect of another raise from a player yet to act after him.
Often, the player makes a disciplined fold, only to see the potential raiser happily call the all-in bet and the two remaining players quickly agree to run the board twice – the result often being they win back their bets and split the chips of players who folded.
To me, this isn’t much different than when two players go crazy with back-and-forth raises just to force out others, then check the hand down after they get heads-up. When you’re the player caught in the middle, it’s a lousy feeling.
That said, I understand that high-stakes players are trying to protect against violent bankroll swings. I also think they play against each other so much that running multiple boards often is done out of habit or as a gentlemanly gesture.
Now, about the straddle.
The most common straddle bet comes from the under-the-gun player seated left of the big blind and must be made before the down cards are dealt to start a hand.
In effect, the straddle is a raise to twice the big blind amount, and the straddler becomes the “new” big blind with last action on the pre-flop betting round.
Mostly these are called “live straddles”, which means that if opponents call but don’t raise the straddle bet, the straddler retains the right to raise when the action gets back to him.
Not every card room or home game allows straddles, but many do. Games with a live straddle often also allow double and triple straddles, with each of those actions available to the player just left of the last straddler.
The last straddler, however many there are, has the advantage of last betting action pre-flop.
Confused yet? It gets worse. Beyond standard live straddles, there also are Mississippi straddles, mandatory straddles, sleeper straddles, and more – all with different rules.
The question, then, is: Should you be a straddler?
Perhaps, on occasion, you can straddle to loosen up a game or to project the image of being a wild player when you’re really not. And maybe it’s OK to straddle in select situations where you know you can outplay your opponents after the flop.
Generally, however, I’d say don’t do it.
You’re blindly putting in extra chips, which will entice some opponents to come after you with big pre-flop raises when you haven’t even seen your hole cards yet. Plus, you’ll be in bad (early) betting position for the rest of the hand.
A final tip: Always ask about a card room’s straddle policy before you sit down to play.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 RUSS SCOTT
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