Straddle Battles on Veronica & Friends

In a recent post, I sought an understanding of how a $1/3 no limit hold’em cash game ended up with most of the players sitting behind chip stacks of $5,000 and up. This was “Veronica & Friends,” a semi-private game at Stones Gambling Hall in Northern California, now known as one of Stones’ featured live streamed games in which one of the players (Mike Postle) is alleged (initially by this game’s host, Veronica Brill) to have engaged in a long running and massive cheating scheme.

The driving force for such large stacks is a policy allowing players to match the deepest stack on the table coupled with an eager willingness to do so by many of the players. When the game started, the maximum buy-in was $500, but the commentators mentioned “$100 no peekies” as a way of getting the deepest stack quickly much higher.

I went back and watched the first 40 hands of the live stream. When the stream started, the biggest stack on the table was approximately $1,400. A mere 40 hands and just under two hours later, the biggest stack was $9,500.

Nearly every hand had a live straddle posted by the under-the-gun player. Only four out of 40 hands did not have a straddle. Here is the straddle size distribution for the other 36 hands:

  • $10 straddle – 3x
  • $15 straddle – 8x
  • $20 straddle – 10x
  • $25 straddle – 7x
  • $35 straddle – 1x
  • $40 straddle – 2x
  • $86 straddle – 1x
  • $105 straddle – 1x
  • Bomb pots – one each at $25, $30 and $35 per player

For anyone unfamiliar with bomb pots, this involves each player posting an agreed upon ante, then skipping the pre-flop betting round. All players’ hands are live going to the flop, and all post-flop, turn and river betting proceeds as in any other hand.

At Veronica & Friends games, the commentators noted the ante for each bomb pot typically starts at $25 and increases by $5 for each bomb pot. There appeared to be a bomb pot after every 2nd rotation of the button around the table.

It’s somewhere between amusing and annoying listening to the Stones’ stream commentators raving on and on about how this is a $1/3 game and look at how huge these stacks are. To be sure, several times after seeing a large pot we could see one or more players whipping out some cash to top up their stacks as the table maximum kept increasing.

They rarely mentioned the straddles, and never explained that simply referring to this as a $1/3 game is a misnomer. Depending on the size of the straddles, it’s a $1/3/[______] game where you must fill in the blank with the size of the UTG straddle in each hand. When there is no straddle, the first raise might be to $15 or $20. When there is a $25 live straddle, the first raise might be to $75 or $100. This radically drives up both the starting and final pot sizes. The players know this, of course, and are attracted to the Veronica & Friends sessions at least in part because the rules do not appear to place any cap on the size of straddles.

When a new player affectionately called “Frank the Tank” joined the table, the commentators noted that the straddle sizes would increase and began speculating on the size of the biggest straddle for the session, saying they wouldn’t be surprised if Frank eventually straddles anywhere from $450 to $1,000. In Frank’s first UTG hand, he posted the largest straddle so far at $105.

The $9,500 stack was created after a $35 straddle. The chip leader at the time, with $5,500, raised to $75 holding 84. Three players called, including Frank the Tank with 73 and a stack of $3,800. After a flop of 87♣4 gave the raiser two pair and Frank middle pair plus a weak flush draw, the betting went crazy with both players all-in on a blank turn card. Fearless or foolish? They didn’t seem to care and the chip leader’s two pair held to win a $7,700 pot. Before I’m tempted to type “poor Frank,” I remind myself that he called the original $75 pre-flop bet with 73.

Note to self: when you lose $3,800 on a single hand at a $1/3 no limit hold’em game, look back at your pre-flop play to see if the first domino fell there.

Second note to self: try to become friends with Veronica!

Third note to self: read this post again before flying out to Stones Gambling Hall.

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