Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I Loathe The Button Straddle

((Before I start this post, I want to tell everyone some exciting news.  Remember "Veronica", the star of one of my popular posts (see here), the awesome poker player I met at the Aria tournament a couple of months ago? She won that tournament back to back.  Well, she's playing in the main event at the WSOP for the first time.  Please wish her luck.  She's starting day 2 with 54K in chips.  You can follow her progess on Twitter here.  Oh, and her real name is Alicia and yes, she gave me permission to give out her twitter ID and reveal her real name.))

Edited 7/11/12 to add:  Alicia ("Veronica") is doing great.  She made it to day 3 (which will be Thursday for her) with 166,800 in chips!!!  Well played!

A couple of weeks back, in this post, I blogged (and yes, Duggle Bogey, “blog” is a verb) about a poker session at Bally’s that featured Josie, Lightning and Poker Grump.  In that post, done quickly while I was in Vegas and still recovering from the night I was blogging about, I promised to rant at a later date about why I hate the Bally’s poker room and why I hate the “button straddle” which is allowed there.  So here is that rant.

Warning: This post will contain a shocking amount of poker content.

Regarding Bally’s, the biggest reason I don’t like it is pretty simple.  I never win there. Yeah, pretty much never.  Any time I play there and don’t lose two full buy-ins, I have to consider it a successful session.  I guess this has nothing in particular to do with the room itself. I think pretty much every poker player has rooms they seem to do well in and rooms they seem to do poorly in.  For me, Bally’s has always been the latter, at least since I started going there again to play NL.  I do recall one time, early in my poker playing days, having a nice session back when they still spread 2/4 limit.  But never have I had any luck there at NL.
It’s especially frustrating to me because so many people, including some of my fellow bloggers, keep telling me that it is their favorite room, the games there are incredibly easy to beat, it’s more fun than some of the bigger rooms, etc.  Thus because some of the bloggers who were in town last month were staying there and love the room, I found myself playing there much more frequently than I would have liked.

I do have some other issues with the room.  The chairs are more uncomfortable than in most rooms and in badly need of replacement.  The cushions have been worn out for years.  You better have plenty of your own padding to sit there very long. Actually, I have more than enough of my own (as Josie can attest to) but I still am uncomfortable whenever I sit there for more than a minute or two.
Another problem, the cocktail service is especially bad.  It’s not surprising I guess considering the waitress are all old enough to have served drinks in speak-easies.  So it’s understandable they don’t move very fast.  But the bar is about two feet from the poker room, you’d think they could do a better job.
Also the room is noisy, very much so.  Especially at night when you have the music from the party pit competing with the music from the lounge and the casino itself.  The room is not really a room at all, just an area corded off, right next to the blackjack pit and adjoining the aforementioned bar.
It’s a shame I don’t like the room because one thing it does have going for it is the dealers. All the ones I’ve seen are very good, some of them are excellent—including Ron, one of my fellow bloggers.  Ron writes a great blog and is a terrific dealer and I’d see a lot more of him if he dealt at room where I could actually have a winning session.  Sorry Ron, none of this is directed at you.
Anyway, there’s a couple of other things I dislike about the room.  One is the rake.  Unlike most rooms in Vegas, where the rake is maxed out at $4, Bally’s, like all Caesars Entertainment properties, maxes out at $5.  Plus they have high hand bonuses, so they take an additional buck out for the jackpot.  Of course that’s nice if you hit one of the bonuses, but since I rarely get two cards in the same time zone in this room, it’s not likely to happen for me (never has so far).  So that’s an extra two bucks out of the pot and at the 1/2 NL level (or even the 2/4 limit level like I used to play) that makes a difference.
So that brings me to the last thing I dislike about Bally’s.  Like all Caesars properties, I believe, Bally’s allows the button straddle.  As I mentioned in that earlier post, “I hate the f&ck*#g button straddle with all the intensity of a thousand red suns.”
Actually, I think I was understating it.  Now, I’ve never been a fan of the ordinary, garden-variety, “under the gun” straddle, to be sure.  But at least that doesn’t change the nature of the game like the button straddle does.  I guess I should explain the straddle although I seriously doubt anyone still reading this doesn’t know what it is.  Basically, the regular straddle is a blind bet of double the big blind by the first person to act pre-flop in a game of Hold ‘Em (and other flop games, I assume).  The only reason it’s called a “straddle” other than just a blind raise is that by “straddling” the person UTG gets the option to act last, after everyone else, including the Big Blind, has acted.  It if was just done as a blind raise, the Big Blind’s action would end the round (assuming no raises to call).
The button straddle is instead a blind bet of usually $5 (in a 1/2 game) from the player on the button (i.e., the last person to act on all betting rounds after the flop).  And again, the person, by straddling, is buying the right to act last on the pre-flop betting round.  He can either call whatever the bet is by the time everyone else has acted, or raise it up and see how many call his raise.
As I said, the regular straddle makes it a little more costly to play the same hand you otherwise would, but doesn’t really change the nature of the game.  In limit poker, it really sucks, because you expect to be able to see most pots for the price of the small blind, and when someone does raise it preflop, you at least know he or she is telling you that they have a good hand.  If it’s a straddle, you have no idea if the straddler has Aces or 7-2.  In NL, it’s not quite as bad, because you generally see a lot less limped pots anyway.  And with the chances of a bigger pot likely in NL, the extra two bucks there probably doesn’t make much of a difference.  In other words, it’s only mildly annoying.
But the button straddle changes everything, especially if they do it the way they do it at Caesars properties, like Bally’s.  There, the person who straddles on the button has last action as usual, but first action is on the small blind, not UTG.  That means that the big blind, the single worst position in Hold ‘Em, must act second, and if he chooses to play, has to call a $3 raise without knowing what all but one person (the small blind) is going to do. 
It is a terrible penalty to assess the big blind.  At least with the UTG straddle, the big blind has seen everyone but the straddler himself act, and knows if there was a raise. Here, there are 8 or 9 players left to act.  If BB has a garbage hand, no problem, easy fold (of course, if there were no straddle, he might have been able to see the flop for “free”).  If he has a premium hand, ok, he can raise, as he would have anyway.  But if he has a speculative hand, the one advantage he was going to have for the entire hand—the ability to act last pre-flop—is gone, because some clown did the button straddle.
Now some rooms saw (I believe, Golden Nugget and the new Palms room), have the button straddle but start the action UTG, so the blinds act last except for the button straddler.  That’s a lot better, at least the blinds aren’t  penalized anywhere near as much.
To me, the button straddle—as it is applied at Bally’s—changes the nature of the game.  It really isn’t Hold ‘Em as far as I’m concerned, it’s some weird variation.  They should call it something else.  “Straddle ‘Em,” perhaps?  I dunno, but it puts such a severe penalty on the blinds that is a different game than Hold ‘Em if you have one or two (or worse, even more) players regularly using the button straddle.
As for the folks who actually do the straddle—well I suppose a case can be made for using it.  Unlike the UTG straddle, which I think would universally be considered a bad bet, there might be a case to be made for straddling on the button.  When on the button, you have position on every street after the flop, so this gives you position on the flop as well.  Your blind bet has a better chance of being a good one because you can take advantage of your position on every street as the hand plays out.
Still, being on the button is a great advantage anyway.  Why not wait to see your hand—and all the action in front of you—before deciding how to bet?  It seems to me, if you’re straddling—in any form—you’re just turning the game into more of a crap shoot.  If you have confidence in your ability to play poker, why not wait and see what your hand is before putting any money out there? If you have a good hand, you can still take advantage of the position the button offers.  Or, if there’s a bunch of limpers (much less likely if there’s a button straddle, btw), you can use your position to try to steal.  To me, a person who straddles is really saying, “I don’t know how to play this game, let’s try roulette.” (Yes, I know I’m mixing craps and roulette metaphors).
But regardless if the button straddle can be justified by the person using it, it really changes the game for the other players, especially if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be one or two places directly to the left of a person using the button straddle every damn time he has the button.
Now, in that game at Bally’s I mentioned at the beginning of this post….the one where I promised a rant about the button straddle….guess who was sitting two seats to the left from a guy who button straddled every damn time?  Right, yours truly. 
That was definitely one of the factors that made the game that night so frustrating, as I said.  I had to deal with the button straddle every time I had the big blind.  With the cards I was getting, that meant throwing away pretty much every big blind hand I got, because I just wasn’t going to throw in an extra three bucks if there were 7 people after me with a chance to raise.
I dunno.  To me, being the big blind once every orbit is penalty enough.  Why make it so much worse by allowing this stupid bet, especially the way its enacted at Bally’s?
And that’s why I hate the button straddle.

40 comments:

  1. Veronica (aka Alicia Spencer) has some nice WSOP cashes. See here.

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    1. Yep. She's really, really good, MOJO.

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  2. id have just as many and a lot more if i played tournies daily, only reason i have no cashes is ive lived my whole life without a decent roll and without playing tournies. thats certainly not alot of cashes.

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    1. Those are only WSOP events, Tony. Remember in my original post, I saw her take 1st place in the 1PM Aria tournament in back to back days, each day had over 100 runners.

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    2. Rob, I laughed really really really hard at the above and maybe even passed a little urine into my pants.
      However, I did hold back on any sarcasm :)

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  3. Rob, you'd love Del Park, where they have Mississippi straddle . . . or even Charles Town, where you can straddle UTG for any amount. Last weekend, he kid to my left raised my big blind to $9 EVERY ORBIT. Not once was I able to limp in for a big blind special.

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    1. Ugh. Am I wrong in thinking that the more they add shit like this, the more they take skill out of the game and just make it more like any pit game where luck is the only thing that matters?

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  4. I complained about the button straddle in January, 2008, when I first saw it:

    http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/01/pox-on-button-straddle.html

    I complained about it again when I saw it adopted at Hard Rock:

    http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/08/hard-rock-may-have-winner-on-its-hands.html

    And again when I saw it adopted at Stratosphere:

    http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/10/stratosphere-adds-bad-rule.html

    Then at Binion's:

    http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2009/08/binions-is-annoying-me.html

    Then at Harrah's:

    http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2009/04/button-straddle.html

    So yeah, I think I'm sufficiently on record as agreeing with you on this.

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    1. Indeed. And based on your posts, as you feared, it appears that this damn thing is becoming more and more common. Which is a very bad thing. There may now actually be more places in Vegas that allow it than don't. Scary thought.

      I suppose its just a coincidence that it seems that the more rooms that offer it, the less busy poker rooms in Vegas become. Right? Right?

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  5. GRUNCH:

    The elderly ladies who have to serve you your drinks, slowly and badly, are not permitted to get most of their drinks from the bar. Instead they have to walk (Bally's way of forcing them to get some exercise I suppose) a mile away to another casino to get your drink and then bring it back and serve you.

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    1. That can't be true. They don't have a single waitress young enough to be able to walk to the Party Pit without assistance, let alone the next casino.

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    2. Hey Rob -- I thought I talked to you about the drinks. It started a few years ago when the WSOP was going on. The cocktail waitresses were forbidden from getting their drinks at Sully's -- the bar adjacent to the poker room. Instead, like grrouchie mentioned they had to go all the way to Paris to get them! I guess that shows you where the poker players rank in the great scheme of things.

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    3. That's really true? How absurd. One more reason not to play at Bally's. Yeesh.

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    4. They can grab waters and coffee's there I think - but Redbulls, Beer and other alcoholic drinks are all coming from Paris.
      Ridiculous but whatever. I love Bally's and will continue to spend time there. However, I am trying to diversify a bit and check out other rooms.

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    5. How stupid is that? Seriously? No wonder service stinks. Even if the waitresses were 22 year Olympic athetetes it would take forever to get served if they have to go to Paris to get drinks. Since they are as far from Olympic atheletes....jeez. They only way it would take longer is if they went to Paris, France to get the drinks, not Paris the casino next door.

      Do we have any idea why they have this absolutely moronic procedure???

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    6. To piss off old white guys?
      No idea - though I really think it has something to do with not slowing down the bartenders from serving the cancer ridden lung hackers that sit around that particular bar normally (i'm just guessing).

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  6. The button straddle might be annoying if someone is constantly doing it during your blinds, sure, I get that I guess.
    However, you do have the ability to request a seat change and generally during a poker session multiple seats open up.

    Also, just because you are in the BB and are forced to fold before seeing what everyone else does is not that good of a reason to complain about it in my opinion. You are folding and were probably folding anyways. If you want to play then raise it up and take the action away from everyone else.

    I know a lot of people hate it and a lot love it, I don't care either way. I straddle from time to time especially if I'm at a table where people think it's annoying and maybe I can get them to tilt.

    However, the fact that you are overlooking in your post above (albeit a short post for you my verbose friend) is that most of the time, at most tables you don't have a single person button straddling.
    Sometimes you have one and maybe two and only on truly fun nights do you have more than two people who will do it with any consistency.
    Also, most of the time they don't even bother to raise, it's usually checked when it gets back to them and thus is the same thing as a $6 raise pre in my opinion - a pot sweetener.

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    1. just sit out two hands and post after the button goes buy... then you have position on evryonr except th ebutton.

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    2. You'd never be the button and you would be posting from the cut off everytime....with dead money yet.

      Besides, I don't think they would let you do this every time. Once or twice,then they might stop you. Not sure about though

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  7. Well, Mr. grouch, you are, clearly, wrong.

    I could just remind you that I have Poker Grump on my side and leave it at that. What more evidence do I need?

    But I do think it really does limit your choices when you are in the blinds and you have a button straddler. Sure you could raise with your favorite hand, 7-2, but you're really expanding your variance, unnecessarily in my view.

    Most of the rooms that allow this atrocity are the smaller rooms where there are less tables to choose from if you want to move and less turnover at the tables. I didn't get a chance to move during the session with Josie & Grump.

    I just think it adds luck and reduces skill overall. I suppose at certain tables with certain opponents it may be useful, but I still dunno what the SB or the BB did to deserve this--except pick the wrong room to play in.

    Note: if they had this at BSC, it would be relatively easy to avoid it, you can usually get a table change there in a matter of minutes. Even better, BSC doesn't offer it in the first place, one of the reasons I like it there so much.

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    1. I'm a bit more of a gambler than you are at the poker table though - so I'm sure this adds into my point of view versus yours (and grumps and coaches and most others as well).

      I need to gamble less and play poker more probably!

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    2. You are a bit more of a gambler in pretty much every area than I am.

      But if you like the button stradle so much, I suggest you give Video Blackjack a try! :)

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    3. Yes - I'm actually trying to clear my schedule so that I can track down the illusive TBC and allow him to teach me how to earn my 300 points daily with the least amount of risk and how to get even immediately on the VBJ

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  8. I'm on board with you on not liking the button straddle (although I've never played at a table with it yet - it was not rampant evidently when I lived in LV before). I don't ever straddle (I don't even like putting money in blind on the mandatory blind hands). The good thing about it though is that if you are dealt a premium hand, the odds are WAY IN YOUR FAVOR that you are ahead of the straddler, who has just tossed extra chips in there...

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    1. Yeah, but how often is that gonna happen? May as well just open raise blind for $50 every time and hope you've got bullets.

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  9. Not surprisingly, I disagree with Grump, and thus, you:

    http://craakker.blogspot.com/2011/01/button-up.html

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    1. Wow, finally some real controversy on my blog; I love it. And about something important too, not the damn backward baseball cap thing.

      Grump is clearly brilliant on this topic I feel I don't have to add any more, Grange, but what the heck, I will quote this comment from the link from your blog:

      "However, my favorite reason for using the button straddle arises when one of the blinds on my button complains that they hate when I button straddle. Thank you, sir, for telling me what to do to make you play poorly! Also, players who whine about the button straddle pretty much telegraph their hand when they call a button straddle and/or a raise from a button straddle. Again, thank you sir for making it easy to play correctly against you!"

      What's more likely to happen? The guy you pissed off with your friggin' button straddle goes on tilt and loses all his money to you (and remember, even if he tilts, he may lose most of his money to someone else), OR...he turns into an even bigger nit and puts less of his money in play, money you could have won with your normally brilliant play but now....he sits on it until you're gone, he moves, or he retires from poker altogether because he hates the straddle so much?

      I think it's the latter.

      Besides, if you're gonna penalize the blinds as much as you are by allowing the CET form of the straddle, why not just hit the poor sucker with a 2 x 4 every 9 hands instead? Like I said, what has the BB done to deserve such a bad deal, other than pick a crappy poker room to play in?

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    2. I'm happy I've got Grange joining in for the cause!

      All y'all nits can take your panties off and loosen up a bit :)

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    3. I'm sure you've met some people that you would want to loosen up and take off their panties--I know I have. But I'm not one of those people. Just sayin'.

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    4. Speaking of which, there was this older Asian lady last night at Ballys that was totally playing knee-sie with me while talking about how her and her boyfriend were here on vacation.

      Totally

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  10. I hate all straddles. HATE I'm an old nit and can be kind of a prick when I'm annoyed.

    One time in Vegas I was late in my trip and had been very successful by my standards so was feeling a little friskier than usual. The little hoody/cap/sunglasses/earbuds DB on my left straddled every time it was my BB. After a few orbits of him doing this I informed him I didn't like the straddle and said I was going to go all in blind every time he straddled. He mucked to my blind shove about 4 times before finally calling my blind all in with pocket queens. My J6o caught two pair to snap him off.

    He reloaded and folded his straddle to my shove about four more times before calling my blind all in with pocket jacks. I rolled over.......pocket queens (LOL) which held. He left cursing to himself...

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    1. Great story. JT. Of course, you got real lucky. You could have easily lost your stack the first time you tried it.

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    2. Oh I totally realize I got lucky, but it was sooo satisfying to watch him sulk off. If he would have snapped me off the first time I would have taken my beating, said good game, and left.

      FYI...this took place at BSC.

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    3. Ok, the problem with getting stack right away--not only do you lose the money you give the other guy the satisfaction of knowing his play put you on tilt and got you to play that way, just what he wanted.

      BTW, I assume the guy who did that was Grange, based on his comment (and his blog post he referenced!)

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    4. It was definitely not Grange. I have never bested him on the felt. In fact, if they seat me at his table at our local casino, I request a table change. I'm not even kidding. He's a very nice guy, but I can't beat him and he always takes my money.

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    5. Yeah, I bet he is indeed a pretty tough player to be up against...with or without the button straddle.

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  11. Rob love ur blog... no place on the web that i know off posts the rake + jackpot promo drop... if you get a chance please post the rake for the properties you play at.. I play mainly limit but love the utg straddle (don't do it myself) let idiots do what idiots do ..... but if I played NL I could see where the button straddle would give a huge edge to a skilled aggressive player.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and the kudos, geezer. Yeah, I was checking AVP and even they don't list the rakes. I try to stay away from CET properties, which has the $5 rake, most other places have it at $4, except for some special promo featured games they might be promoting. So for example, Wynn, Venetian and all MGM properties (Aria, MGM, Bellagio, etc) have it at $4). If they have a jackpot (high hand, cracked Ace's, bad beat, whatever, they would take a buck for that).

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  12. Just stumbled on this, and maybe no one will read it, but why not button straddle if it's offered? If it's 4 to go when you're in prime position, and 2 to go in all other, shittier positions, what's the problem?

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