Trapping

Normally when you have a good hand you bet, and with a weak hand you check. Trapping means taking a hand that is good enough to warrant that bet and checking, which accomplishes a few things. It lets the opponent bluff (although sometimes the best way to “trap” an opponent is to bet to induce a bluff raise) it can also put doubt into the opponent’s mind that your hand is strong (if it was strong why wouldn’t you just bet it right away, which is the stan‐ dard play?) and with that doubt in his mind, thus create more action on later streets. Finally it allows more cards to come on the board which could make the opponent put more money into the pot. When you check to let the opponent see another card and you hope he hits a hand, consider what specific worst hand you are hoping your opponent catches.

Example 1

$5/$10, three limpers, I complete in the small blind with K‐Jo. The flop is A‐K‐K with two clubs. If I check what worst hand am I hop‐ ing they hit? There is a flush draw and if they hit that they are beat‐ ing me. They can’t pair up because there is already an ace on the board so their pair would be an under‐pair and not a very good hand. The second question is will my check put doubt into their mind so they will give me action later on in the hand? For example would they call me with A‐10 on the turn whereas they would have folded it to a flop bet? Another question is, will they attempt a bluff if we try trapping and check to them? In this hand almost certainly not – it’s a five‐way unraised pot so they would have to be quite reckless to try and bluff four opponents out of the pot.

Example 2

$5/$10 five‐handed, I have 7‐9o and raise on the button, the BB calls. Flop is J♠‐9♠‐3♣, he checks, and I check. This board is so draw heavy that with either a draw or a made hand, especially since he’s out of position, he has to get rid of my positional advantage by raising so on this board texture it is close to a raise/fold situation for him – he can’t just call and see what happens. A raise or fold doesn’t look that great to my 7‐9, so I check, the turn is a J.

He checks, and again this is a good spot to be tricky and check. Re‐ member that in NLHE profits come from making worse hands call you, or making better hands fold – profits do not come from having draws call you. In the first place if he has a draw he is either going to lead the turn or check‐raise the turn – it would take a bad and weak player to check‐call the turn with a draw (note that check‐calling the flop is more reasonable because it is trickier and he has two cards left to hit it). Check‐calling a pot‐sized bet on the turn means putting money in at odds of 2:1 when a flush draw only hits 1/5 times. But say he has a hand like A‐Q and we have 7‐9, then he has six outs, which means by betting and making him fold he loses 6/45, or 13% equity in the pot, so out of $70 that is $9 equity we gain in the pot. Say we bet $50 to protect the pot with the plan of folding to a raise – if he raises he wins $120, so if he ever bluffs or semi‐bluff check‐ raises we are in big trouble. We are trying to push him out and win $9 of EV but it can end up costing $120.

Since I checked the flop he knows I probably don’t have a jack, thus he can check‐raise bluff me with seeming impunity, semi‐bluff check‐raise, and this is also a good spot to trap check‐raise if he has a jack. It’s hard to see what worse hand he can call with, or in other words, how a value bet by me could be successful. The most likely hand to call is a better nine, like K‐9 or A‐9. So again it’s probably a fold/raise situation for him, but less of a fold/raise situation than on the flop. For instance let’s say he has a pocket pair lower than nines. If he calls the flop and I have two overcards (and possibly a straight draw or gutshot draw on this board) he has to dodge an outdraw on two streets, and he also has to dodge cards that allow me to bluff him and also dodge my bluff on two separate streets.

However, on the turn the very fact that I checked the flop makes it less likely that I have a made hand. Also he only has to dodge one street of outdraws, raising his equity significantly, and finally he has one last street to dodge bluffs by me. All of these factors make it more possible for him to call the turn instead of raising or folding. So I check for deception, the river comes a seven and he checks. He definitely can’t put me on 8T as that would have bet the flop or turn, and it sure seems like a nine or J would have bet earlier in the hand too. So basically a bet by me is suspicious as it’s hard to put me on anything, so he might call with a worse hand that he would have folded earlier in the hand, plus there is definitely the chance he can lead out on a bluff on the river. In the hand I bet and he folded.

Example 3

$10/$25 HU vs. a bad player; we both have $3,000 stacks. He raises to $75 and I have A‐10o so I re‐raise to $225 for value. I can outplay him post‐flop so I’m not afraid of building a big pot out of position with a marginal hand, although in this case A‐10o isn’t actually marginal because he is raising the button very often and he calls every single reraise. Normally a problem with raising a hand like A‐10o here is that the opponent will fold worst hands and call with better ones, but in this case the opponent is auto calling reraises.

The flop is A♥‐J♣‐3♥ and now I have to decide how to play the hand. Since he is raising his button so often, and because he automatically calls my reraise, his hand range is very wide and there is a good chance he has nothing. Also he is aggressive and capable of bluffing so I checked to see if he’d trap himself. He bet $400 and against some opponents you’d have to proceed very cautiously here and even consider folding. But against this opponent after thinking about his bet, his pre‐flop tendencies and ability to bluff, I wasn’t ecstatic about my hand but checking the flop was my plan to trap – and now here was my chance to trap and I’d follow through with it so I call.

The turn comes the 10♠ and I check again. Now the pot is $1,250 and

he bets $800. Before the T came I wasn’t thrilled about my hand but was probably going to follow through with the plan and show down, but now I am ecstatic. The only question is whether to go all‐in or to call. Again given that he’s so loose pre‐flop there is a good chance he is doing this with random cards that don’t have any outs. Also if he has a flush draw his bets are a little odd because he keeps giving me a chance to check‐raise him off his hand so that means there’s a good chance it isn’t a flush draw

Note that after I call the pot will be almost $3,000 and we only have $1,500 left each. Most people would get excited about their hand and check‐raise all‐in without thinking about it for a number of reasons. However even though an all‐in would be an under‐bet compared to the pot size you shouldn’t just throw it in there for the hell of it – play precise poker. So I called the turn and the river is a blank, I check and he immediately goes all‐in for $1,475 which I call and he mucks 8‐6o. Note that given my plan and pot size I have to call any river includ‐ ing the Q♥, otherwise my plan could backfire in a big way.

Example 4

$25/$50 HU, opponent is loose/bad and has a stack of $2,000, I cover. I limp on button with 5‐7s and he raises to $150, which he likes to do frequently. The flop is Q‐Q‐5 and he leads out $300, which he almost always does, I call. The turn is a five and he checks. Based on how he plays which consists of always raising pre‐flop and always bet‐ ting the flop, along with his turn check here, I think he doesn’t have a queen. Since he is suspicious this is a good time to not trap and just bet straight away. Most people wouldn’t be aggressive and bet a five, so when I bet I am saying I have a queen or am just making some weird bluff. He’s not going to catch a good second‐best hand here so he has a decision to make about if I have something or not, and my bet looks more suspicious on the turn than on the river. On the turn it looks like I am just quickly trying to get him out so this is a good spot to not trap. In this case I bet $700 into a $900 pot and he check‐raised all‐in for $1,500 total with A‐2.

Example 5

$25/$50 HU, opponent has $3,300 and is a tilting maniac. I raise to $150 on the button and he reraises to $450 and I call with 66. The flop is Q♣‐7♠‐6♥ and he has been betting the flop when he has some‐ thing and check‐folding when he doesn’t have anything. And when I check behind he almost always automatically bets the pot of $900 into me on the turn which he does here when the 8♥ comes. Now this puts an awful lot of draws out there and it’s time to ask a couple of questions. What is his hand range? Very wide. What is the best way to get money out of that hand range? Because he is so aggres‐ sive and is currently betting, we want to let him keep the lead and let him be overaggressive. So the best play is to just call his bet. His hand range is so wide right now that it could be any two cards, and since he is a maniac he will give action on the river. He probably doesn’t have a good hand that will give action now but might if a scare card comes. He probably doesn’t even have that good a draw. The plan is to call, and since he’s a maniac we can’t outguess our‐ selves on the river – it’s a call no matter what card comes, even if it’s the 9♥. In the hand a 10♦ fell off, he went all in for $2,000, I called, and he had Q‐8.

Example 6

$10/$25 HU, opponent has $1,000 and I cover. I have J♣‐3♥ and raise pre‐flop to $75 and he calls. The flop is J♠‐5♥‐5♣ and he checks. We have top pair with no kicker and aren’t too afraid of future cards coming to outdraw us as he probably has one overcard to hit at most. Granted future high cards could scare away action but that is a cal‐ culated risk. Also it’s hard to put him on a second‐best hand that

will give us action – the board wouldn’t let that happen. If he hit the board it’s either trip fives or a better pair of jacks. The situation is ripe for a trap.

In this particular case it turns out the best way to trap him is actually not to check. First of all, one problem with the check trap is he cannot catch a second‐best hand – he either pairs up to outdraw us or hits an under‐pair, which is such a weak hand he probably wouldn’t commit much money with it. Here his stack size makes it easier – if he raises us if he does have us beat, we stand to lose less. One of the reasons to check the flop normally is a combination of trapping and pot control as it would generally be bad to get 100 BB in here; how‐ ever, getting just 40 BB in is more reasonable.

The bottom line is that betting the flop is more suspicious than check‐ ing. Because the board is so dry and he couldn’t have hit anything, it’s also hard for us to have hit anything. And because this opponent is aggressive and loose I am alright to get all the money in here and so I bet $125, and he check‐raised to $390, which makes things slightly awkward for us because once we call it shows we have an okay hand. For the turn play he would have the advantage as he would know about what type of hand we have and supposedly be able to play pretty close to correctly. We won’t have a lot of flexibility given such good pot odds. However, with that being true, there is nothing we can do, we just will have to follow the plan. I called. The turn is a 3♠, he goes all‐in and we call and his 10♠-4♠ is no good.

Example 7

$25/$50 three‐handed, I have $7,500 and the opponent covers, he is bad player who is easy to read. He raises the button to $175 and I call with 2‐2 in the BB. The flop is 2♣‐6♠‐7♥, I check and he bets $375 quickly. It has been a betting tell of his that when he bets full pot quickly he continues with a bet on the turn. I haven’t seen his hands when he does this so it’s unclear if it’s a bluff or a good hand. In any case my only question here is how to build the biggest pot. The board is so uncoordinated that I’m not worried about draws – the only draws here are gutshot straight draws and an 8‐9 but if he hits that there is nothing I can do so my main concern is just to build the pot.

So I called, the turn is the 2♠, I check and he quickly bets pot as expected. Now there are a couple of questions to ask – how often does he have a good hand here (an overpair) and how often is he bluffing and how often will he continue to bluff? My read was that he probably had a good hand but there was a chance he was bluffing. In either case I figured if I check‐called there was a good chance he’d do it again on the river.

The river is the A♠, which seemed like the worst scare card possible and it became likely he would shut down now with whatever made hand he had. I considered leading out into him like $1,100 to force some value as he will be curious and suspicious and probably call – it’s quite hard for people to fold a decent hand in a $3,500 pot for $1,100. However, the deciding factor was his bet timing and sizing tell. When he had quickly bet full pot before he had always followed it up on the next street with a bet. In the hand I checked and he im‐ mediately went all in and his K‐Jo lost.

Example 8

$25/$50 HU, opponent has $15,000 and I cover him. I have Q♣-8♣, he raises to $150 pre‐flop and I call. The flop is A♣‐K♣‐5♠, I check he bets $300 and I call to mix it up. The turn is the Q♠, check‐check. The river is the 10♣. This is a perfect time to check and trap. The reason is that I will only get money from the opponent if he has a straight or if he has a flush. So if he doesn’t have one of those two hands it doesn’t matter what the river action is, the result is always the same.

So let’s say he has one of those two hands and consider what will happen if I check and what will happen if I bet. If he has a flush and I bet he will raise all‐in, and if I check he will bet and call my check‐ raise all‐in so I get all his money either way. So the only hand that matters for analysis now is the straight and what happens when he has a straight if I bet and what happens if I check? If I bet he will only call me, but if I check he will bet and then maybe call a check‐ raise so I might get two bets on the river. I checked and he checked behind with K‐4, from which I would have got no value anyway.

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