Straddles, blind raises, re-straddles, and checking in the
dark are all plays that you’ll encounter exclusively in live
poker. These moves have their positives and their negatives, but
each depends on how and when you use them. One thing that you
can do is to learn how to react when other players implement
these moves. Though it’s hardly true that any given move is
going to mean one thing over and over again, it’s true that
they tend to imply one thing or another. Just as you would
assume that a raise means a player has a strong hand, you can
make educated guesses as to what other plays mean as well,
however intricate or abstract they may be.
Most of these plays are going to occur in pre-flop
situations, though not always. A straddle or re-straddle (or any
variation therein) cannot possibly be made post-flop, so you can
discount these situations entirely. On the other hand, a play
like checking in the dark could be used on repeated occasions
within the same hand.
A move like checking in the dark is going to mean different
things depending on what has happened during the hand in
question. If a player checks dark pre-flop, it could mean one of
many things. If a player checks dark on a draw heavy board, it
may very well mean they are on a draw. These are just a few
quick examples of how any play is going to have many different
possible explanations, and context clues will be most important.
Straddles are a forced pre-flop raise. Normally a straddle is
placed by the UTG player, though this isn’t always the case. In
some games players are allowed to straddle from the button, and
in other games players can straddle from literally any seat at
the table. For the most part, however, a straddle is generally
going to be referencing when the UTG player doubles the big
blind with a forced bet. The goal of a straddle is to try and
increase the amount of action at the table.
Your goal as a player defending against a straddle is to
capitalize on all of the dead money. If you have a big hand, you
shouldn’t be raising in much smaller increments than you would
be if the blinds were normal. For example, in a $2/$5 NLHE game,
if you would normally raise to $25 (5x the bb), you should open
to $50 when someone straddles to $10.
One way to make money from
a straddle is to make large raises when you feel like there’s a
lot of dead money available. If you are in position and think
that a raise is likely to get folds from those who have called
the straddle, a sizable raise may be enough to get them to fold.
The only trouble with this move is that it will cost you a
decent amount of money and if it fails you are going to be in
the hole quite a bit. If you are up against a bunch of calling
stations, don’t even consider this move. If you are at a very
tight table, it’s worth a shot.
Blind Raises and Bets
Blind raises or bets are similar to one another but different
from straddles. A straddle will allow the player who straddled
to act last whereas a blind bet negates the bettor’s action
unless another player re-raises. Blind bets are most common in
pre-flop play because they are too disadvantageous pre-flop, and
it’s generally difficult to find a spot where blind betting
pre-flop isn’t making the logistics of a game a hassle.
A blind bet, for the most part, is usually going to be
indicative of strength. There aren’t a lot of players who will
be making blind bets when they don’t have a big hand. The most
obvious blind bet is when a player bets the rest of their stack
before the next card is even dealt. Unless this player is
exceptionally confident in their hand, this type of move says “I
have a big hand and I don’t even care what the next card is.”
While it certainly isn’t impossible for someone to do this with
a draw or another similar hand, it isn’t very likely. Always be
weary of a player who is making a blind bet because they are
probably not too worried that you currently have them beat, and
beyond this, they probably aren’t scared of too many future
Checking in the Dark
Checking in the dark is arguably the most common play of this
group. This move is also the most interesting because it can
mean so many different things. A straddle isn’t indicative of
hand strength one way or the other (unless the player is
cheating) and a blind bet usually means strength, but a check in
the dark could mean a weak hand, a strong hand, or something in
between. There are two primary reasons why most players will
check in the dark. The first reason for checking in the dark
would be for deception. The second reason for checking in the
dark would be because a player doesn’t know what to do next, so
they pass the next move onto their opponent.
Deception is a great reason to check in the dark because it
tends to work so well. If the board is draw heavy and a player
checks to you, but is actually holding a set, this would make it
seem like they were looking for the draw to hit when they really
weren’t. This is an example of how checking in the dark could be
deceptive. With that said, more players are going to be using
this move because they aren’t sure what to do next. Don’t assume
that someone is using this play to be tricky, because the
chances are that they aren’t, but you should consider that it’s
A player checking in the dark because they don’t know what to
do should be your automatic assumption when someone uses this
move. A common hand in this situation is a draw, a middle pair,
or an otherwise uncertain hand. If a player bets the flop, you
raise them, and then they flat call before
checking the turn in the dark, you could bet that they have
a pair or some sort of draw. They are hoping that you check back
or make a small bet so they can see another card.
Use this information to your advantage by betting hard on the turn,
because they are likely to pay you off regardless and you don’t
want to give them a cheap river if they are on a draw. Of
course, if the flop draw hits on the turn, you should consider
that checking back might be most optimal. As with everything in
poker, this play is going to be very situation dependent.
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