Traps can help keep poker hands alive

Trapping is a strategy for building pots you are heavily favored to win. Like bluffing, it is a form of deception, except you want to keep your opponents staying in the hand rather than folding.
Then, on later streets, more opponents are available when you bet/raise to grow the pot. In a recent column by George “The Engineer” Epstein, he explained that slow-playing (often called “sandbagging”) and check-raising are two essential trapping tactics.
Expanding on this topic, first we will share an example of the proper use of trapping; then, when you should NOT trap. . .
Proper Trapping – An Example: Holding pocket Aces in a limit game, you raise preflop from a middle position. Three opponents call. The flop rewards you with a third Ace – a set! There are no threatening draws to a flush or a straight. Your hand is almost a sure winner – a monster.
The Big Blind checks to you. Don’t bet out with your monster hand; that would be a mistake. Some, if not all, of your three opponents would fold to a bet, thereby limiting the pot size.
Remember, your goal is not just to win hands but to win as many chips as possible. So you check (slow-play), waiting for the turn when the bets are doubled. You have concealed the strength of your hand. Your raise (or check-raise) on the turn and bet on the river are more likely to yield a decent pot for you.
When Not to Trap: There are times when you flop the best hand, but trapping would be a big mistake. To the extent that trapping gives opponents a free card, it should be avoided with hands susceptible to being drawn out on.
Suppose you saw the flop with Q-hearts, J-hearts – almost a premium drawing hand. It readily satisfies Epstein’s Hold’em Algorithm starting-hand criteria, and offers many opportunities for improving to a big hand.
From a middle position, you and four other players pay to see the flop, Q-spades, J-diamonds, 5-spades, giving you top two-pair! That could hold up to the river and take the pot. It is probably the best hand at this point. But if many opponents stay to see the turn and river, your two-pair, queens and jacks, could easily become second-best. That could be costly.
Consider what might befall you if you were to decide to trap by slow-playing this hand: After it’s checked to you on the flop, believing you have the best of it, you decide (mistake!) to trap your opponents by checking along (slow-playing) so as to keep all of your opponents in the pot and have a better chance of building it up.
Note: You have just given a free card to your opponents. Your rationale: After all, your goal is be win as many chips as possible. And so, you are trapping your opponents. But, don’t be too quick to congratulate yourself. First you must win the pot.
The turn is 3-diamonds. Not at all threatening, you think to yourself. This time, after two opponents check to you, you decide to make the bet, hoping for a couple of calls. All three opponents call.
The river is a blank. You figure the pot is yours. After two checks to you, now betting for value, you make the bet. But this time, the Big Blind raises! That was a check-raise he just made against you.
Knowing he is not a maniac, nor likely to be bluffing in this situation, you hope he has two-pair, second-best to your top two-pair. Instead, he turns up his hole cards: 3-3 for a set of 3’s. Had you bet on the flop, most likely he would have folded – and the pot would have been yours.
Bottom Line: Two-pair, no matter how high, is not a hand that should be used to trap (slow-play) opponents. It’s a hand that needs to be protected with a bet. The best strategy is to force out most (if not all) of your opponents. The more staying in, the more likely one will draw out on you.

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