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A Look at House Rules: The Straddle, the Mississippi Straddle, and the Sleeper

  • Linda GeenenLinda Geenen
A Look at House Rules: The Straddle, the Mississippi Straddle, and the Sleeper 0001

So far in our series, A Look at House Rules, we’ve covered several rules that allow for a massive increase in the action by using a means of forcing a bigger blind or betting limit into an established game — see, for example, our discussions of the “rock” and the “kill.”

Next up on that list is the “straddle,” another means to create crazy, action-packed games, with a difference being the straddle is normally allowed in all poker rooms whereas the “kill” and the “rock” may not even be considered because the intense action they create may not always be good for the game.

Although the straddle can burn a game out quickly, too, the straddle is rarely done by everyone at the table and is usually a move put on a single hand by a “steamer” or someone who wants to dust off the rest of his or her chips and leave for the night.

How the Straddle Works

If the limit is $4/$8, the under the gun (UTG) player posts a blind of $8 before any cards are dealt. The bet is called the “straddle” and the player is said to be “straddling” when making this bet prior to the deal.

The straddle forces each player who continues with the hand to call $8, raise to $12, or fold. The straddler then would have last option to raise after everyone called the $8 straddle. The straddle may or may not be counted as one of the raises in the round depending on the house rule.

House rules may allow a second straddle to be put on a hand as well, but in most rooms that second bet before the deal is simply a “dead raise” meaning the second straddler who in this case would post $12 without seeing his or her hand has no further options after everyone calls or folds. The option would only change if another player raised behind and the second straddler has to call $4 more to play the hand.

Also worth noting...

  • A player who has missed both blinds may return in the UTG position and straddle the big blind (BB) and be dealt in without having to post the small blind (SB).
  • Straddles are not allowed in “kill pots.”

Keep in mind some rooms may allow a game that has a forced straddle, meaning that everyone is forced to put out three blinds on each round with the third blind being the forced straddle. This is uncommon, however, and usually only crops up on a slow night when everyone is tired of waiting for aces and watching paint dry.

The Mississippi Straddle and the Sleeper

Action animals of different colors are the “Mississippi straddle” and the “Sleeper.”

The Mississippi straddle can be applied from any position at the table and forces the first player to the left of the straddle into being first to act. For example, if the player putting in the Mississippi straddle has the button position, the SB would be first to act once all the cards were dealt; the straddler would have last action.

The Sleeper is a blind raise normally placed from middle or late position and isn’t considered “live” unless everyone folds to the Sleeper player. In that instance the Sleeper has the option to raise. If a bet or raise takes place in front of the Sleeper, the straddle isn’t in effect. The Sleeper may take back his or her bet or leave the Sleeper bet as a regular raise with no further options.

Home Games

Straddles in home games could be a fairly common occurrence and the Mississippi straddle could be considered a big part of the game. The option to put a blind raise on a hand from any position packs a lot of appeal in the super-charged home game atmosphere of friendly action and bragging rights.

The Sleeper? It’s possible it could be part of your friendly home game, too, but in most cases, our guess would be that it would create more confusion than action. Besides, being able to pull your bet back if someone calls or raises spoils the whole idea of a blind raise.

Online Poker

The Straddle, the Sleeper, and the Mississippi Straddle were all designed to create action in a live game environment. But online poker plays so fast and the choices for game limits and poker game formats are so wide that you can pick and choose the action you want when you take a seat. You are looking at a minimum of 70 hands per hour versus playing live games where you might see around 35-40 at most.

In other words, who needs the straddles and the sleepers to create action online? Feed your inner-donkey-action at your favorite online poker site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and leave the straddles and sleepers for your favorite casinos or home games.

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