Here’s an interesting “supposal.”

Suppose a live, no limit Hold’em cash game has the “Mississippi straddle” rule in effect, which allows players to place a live straddle for any amount from any position. Also suppose the player on your immediate right is having a bad night and is tilted. For purposes of this blog, suppose his name is “Sean.”

Finally, suppose Sean pushes out his entire remaining stack, about 26 big blinds, and announces an all-in straddle. You are first to act.

Where do you draw the line?

There are seven more players to act after you. What hands are good enough to call? To raise? How would your answers differ if Sean was on your immediate left and everyone else has folded?

Let’s start by looking at the equity of the best heads for a heads-up situation against a single random hand. 30 out of 169 total possible two card combinations have at least 60% equity against a random hand.

If we are last to act and everyone else has already folded, it’s much easier to decide. The only player we have to worry about is Sean and he could have anything. Maybe it’s worth taking a chance with anything that puts us at 60/40 or better. But if everyone else folded, maybe that skews the distribution of their cards downward, leaving more high cards for Sean to have. If so, we might want to draw the line a little higher. At 62/38 or higher, we are left with the top 20 hands instead of the top 30.

But first to act is a whole ‘nother story. Now we have seven other players to worry about. In this case, we should consider card removal effects. If we have an ace, that reduces the likelihood of each other player having an ace. If someone else does have an ace, many of his kickers will be too weak for him to call against us, even if he might call if only Sean were left. This leaves me inclined to give a little extra weight to hands with aces.

In the awful situation where I’m dominated by an ace with a better kicker, I’ll still have 24-30% equity (depending on suitedness). In the equally awful situation where I run into KK, I’ll have about 32% equity when my kicker is suited with my ace, and 29% equity when my cards are unsuited. On average, one of the other players (including Sean) will have KK once out of every 25 hands that are dealt. (Sorry teach, not going to show my work!)

It might be surprising to discover that A2o v. a range of ATs+, ATo+, KK has 26% equity, which compares favorably to any pocket pair that runs into a higher pocket pair, which sits just below 20%.

If we call Sean’s straddle, that improves the pot odds for anyone else to come along. Even worse, that might encourage a late position player to go all-in with a hand that measures up well against a random hand, hoping to drive out out of the pot and play heads-up against Sean with some extra dead money out there. Yuck!

Winning Sean’s 26 big blinds would be the equivalent of a good couple of hours of poker. So I think we should only get involved with hands strong enough to raise and try to isolate him.

So I repeat the question: where do you draw the line?

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