Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth On Poker: Live Straddles

Some players like to add a little more spice to their no-limit Hold’em game. They add a live blind, also known as a straddle, where the player to the left of the big blind voluntarily puts up twice the big blind before looking at his hole cards. The player in the straddle then has the option to raise it up when the action returns to him.

That’s the game we were playing on High Stakes Poker when I faced off against Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Sammy Farha, Eli Elezra, Brandon Adams, Jamie Gold, and Bob Safai.

With blinds at $300/$600, I was in the small blind and Jennifer Harman was in the big. Brandon Adams straddled with a $1,200 blind. Sammy Farha took it one step further by putting in a $2,400 double straddle. He was ready to gamble!

Safai called the $2,400 with Ad-10d, Elezra called with 8s-5s, and Negreanu called with Ac-4s. I looked down at pocket queens. The game was wild and I decided to try to win the pot right there. I raised it up a whopping $25,000 more.

Farha called with Kc-7s and everyone else folded. The flop came Kd-9d-4h and we both checked.

The turn was the Js. I checked and Farha tossed in $50,000. I called.

The river was the 8c. I checked again. This time Farha bet out $75,000. I studied the situation and then decided to fold.

Let’s take a closer.

I don’t mind Safai’s $2,400 call with Ad-10d or Elezra’s $2,400 call with 8s-5s but Negreanu’s $2,400 call was a little loose. It definitely wasn’t a bad play, though, as Daniel had great position playing from the button.

My $25,000 raise was somewhat out of character, especially since the pot was only worth $14,000 at the time. I’d usually raise $10,000 to $14,000 with pocket queens in that spot but this game was off the hook! Players were calling huge bets with weak hands, hoping to get lucky and win a big pot. My big raise was designed to clear the field and protect my hand.

I hate Farha’s call with K-7 offsuit. He was in early position and had to know that I was strong. He must have called because he thought he could outplay me later in the hand.

But here’s the problem: K-7 isn’t the hand you want to play after a huge raise before the flop. It’s too likely to be dominated by playable hands like A-K or K-Q, and it’s a 2 1/2-to-1 underdog against any pocket pair between sevens and queens.

On the flop, I like both of our checks. On the turn, I like my check because it both limits my potential loss (if Farha does have a king) and can induce a reckless bluff.

I love Sammy’s $50,000 bet on the turn. My call was a natural.

On the river, my check was by the book but Farha’s $75,000 bet was genius! He correctly figured that his kings were the best hand and bet an amount that I could easily call.

I didn’t bite. Instead, I made a solid fold by relying on my instincts and my ability to get a good read on Farha. It just seemed like he was aching for a call.

Before you decide to play with live straddles in your home game, remember that this twist essentially doubles the size of the game. It’s often used by players who have been losing and are trying to get lucky and win a big pot. And it’s also a great way to add a little more excitement for all you poker maniacs out there!

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