Button Straddle: When and Why to Do It
Following a podcast discussion with poker pro Nate Meyvis on straddling, the guys at JustHandsPoker.com decided to go inside the numbers and tackle the issue of button straddles, and if they’re ever going to be profitable.
The JustHandsPoker.com crew’s analysis left little doubt where they came down on the topic, and that’s a resounding no to button straddles. According to their data, you’d need to be winning at a clip of about 20BB/hour (with a 6.7BB/hour win rate on the button) to make button straddling profitably.
But as some on Twitter were quick to note (including my PartTimePoker colleague Alex Weldon) there are a few issues with their analysis.
— Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) August 3, 2016
— Andrew Brokos (@thinkingpoker) August 3, 2016
There are actually several reasons I think the conclusions drawn are inaccurate, or at the least, incomplete.
That being said, this is a very interesting conversation to have, and I’m glad they took the time to delve into it. And I do agree with them that it’s likely not a good idea if the several stacks aren’t close to 200BB deep or deeper.
Without going into the minutiae of the math (which is not exactly my strong suit), here are the issues I have with the analysis the Just Hands Poker team put forth.
As an aside, I have extensive experience with live Kill Games and anecdotally I can say that solid players who have to post the Kill are profitable or very close to it on the button.
You’d play some of the hands anyway
First, when you straddle from the button, quite often you would play the hand whether you straddled or not, and the action in front of you doesn’t impact the amount of money you would like to put in the pot.
Sometimes you’ll have to put a little more in the pot than you would have had you not straddled, but other times you’re happy there is even more money in the pot than there would be had you not straddled.
Let’s call it a Straddle Special
Just like when you get to check from the big blind, because you straddled, sometimes you’ll play a hand you wouldn’t have even considered committing money to the pot with had you not straddled.
Additionally, in some instances you may get the equivalent of a walk. So there is a certain intimidation factor to straddling with position.
Essentially, whenever your opponents give you a walk or allow you to see the flop for the straddle amount, you’re gaining. And just like when you flop a boat with 2/8 offsuit, you can win a big pot with a Straddle Special.
Makes defending with weaker hands correct
Another consideration is the blinds and the straddle. With 3.5BB in the pot (we obviously have to forget why there is extra money in the pot and just focus on the fact that it’s in there), there is more money to fight for and with your superior position and odds to call because of your current investment, a lot of hands suddenly become playable.
As long as you properly adjust to the situation, and play your hands properly, you should have decent results.
Some things are hard to quantify
There is also an issue with examining button straddles in a general kind of way – the article is maybe 700 words, and the topic could take up an entire book.
The table dynamics, your image, stack sizes, the reaction to the straddle, and so on, will all factor into the ROI of a button straddle.
Another major factor is the player in the Big Blind, if they’re weak tight you want to play as many pots with them as you can, and upping the stakes by posting a straddle on the button would be very advantageous. If they’re a solid aggressive player you wouldn’t want to tangle with, it’s probably best to keep those straddle chips in your stack.
When we look at all of the moving parts and different circumstances of a poker table, it becomes pretty clear that the analysis that you need to, “have a winrate (WR) on the button of 2 BB/hand” in order to break-even with button straddles isn’t quite correct.
If you have a decent edge in the game, and some of the other factors line up (a weak/tight player in the big blind) straddling from the button could very well be profitable without needing to crush the game.
As Nate Meyvis put it on the podcast that was the genesis of the conversation, “I’m happy to take flops in position,” in these types of games.