It can be unsettling to the novice player, who might not understand why some maniac would be acting as such in the dark. But a lot of people like to straddle in relatively tepid games. Certainly the house does too, as it stirs action. Plenty of players are still happy to limp for double the big blind, and then when someone raises, you are left wondering if they are doing so to steal the inflated pot, or to take advantage of a very strong hand to get even more chips to go in the middle.
While the traditional straddle is rather common in games of all stakes, another variant here in play at the WSOP is the Mississippi Straddle. It is foreign to a lot of players.
"We offer the ability to straddle under the gun or on the button," explains Rio poker room supervisor Mike Shaffer. "The Mississippi Straddle is used in pot-limit and no-limit games only."
Here's how the Mississippi Straddle works: A player with the button can throw in double the big blind before seeing his or her cards. Upon doing so, and after the cards are dealt, it falls on the small blind, not the person to the left of the big blind, to act first.
For example, in a $2/$5 no-limit game, the button straddles for $10, the small blind makes the first decision on whether he wants to raise (to at least $15), throw in eight more bucks to call, or fold. Then the same decision is put to the big blind and action proceeds until it reaches the button. Regardless of the action, the button who placed the Mississippi Straddle then has the option of checking if there has been no raiser, calling a raise, or raising..
Oh, and one other nuance: The Mississippi straddle supersedes the traditional under-the-gun straddle (and any re-straddles). If UTG puts out double the blind, and the button does the same, the UTG player has his chips pushed back to him or her.
In the old days, the Mississippi Straddle supposedly made the pre-flop action go backwards, as in counter-clockwise, but you won't see any of these throwback shenanigans at the WSOP.
According to Shaffer, who spent significant time running poker rooms on the Mississippi River, "In Tunica and Biloxi, they do it almost every hand. Here you don't see it that often, but you do see it. The smart guys straddle a lot - because you have an advantage when you're last to act. So it only makes sense to play bigger pots when you have the advantage."
True enough, in theory. But considering that it's a move you make when not required to put in any money, it is a bit of a gamble, too--and sometimes the cards don't cooperate.
"Nobody wants to see check-check-check, then bet, then fold-fold-fold," says Shaffer. "Action is action. And that's what the straddler wants to see."