Poker Traps – How To Set and Avoid Them

Poker Traps

Poker traps are a fascinating area of discussion. Most poker players do not give them much thought. Traps come in various forms; levelling yourself, not giving opponents credit and overplaying your hand, to name just a few. Sometimes you trap yourself and by the time you realise it, you’ve lost a big pot. In this article, I am going to look at how we can set traps and also how to spot and avoid them.

Setting Poker Traps

A trap doesn’t have to just be a slow-played hand. This is rarely the most effective trap to set, even if it’s the most satisfying! Let’s look at several potential traps you can set for opponents.

The Same Bet as a Shown Bluff

Look, we never want to get called when we’re bluffing. But sometimes you can use a failed bluff to your advantage later in a session. It can be used with success in live cash games in particular.

Let’s say you get to the river and bluff bet $160 into $240 with your busted draw. Later, when you have a strong hand wanting a call, you may be able to use that bluff to your advantage. An astute player will recognise you bet approx. 2/3 of the pot. So, with a pot of $300, throw in a value bet of $200.

Try and make your mannerisms match your earlier bluff too and you will elicit a call a decent amount of the time.

Getting an Opponents to Stack Off Lightly in Tournaments

One of my favourite ways to pick up tournament chips is trapping players into stacking off lightly. This is usually achieved through our relentless late position stealing. The best part is when they eventually take a stand, lightly, and find themselves dominated. If you are constantly raising from the cut-off and button, your opponents have to incorporate some 3 bets to counter you. And guess what? Sometimes you will have a strong hand in late position too. If you are holding pocket tens or better, you are almost certainly holding the best hand against most 3 bettors from the blinds and can find yourself a big favourite. This is an awesome poker trap as it helps you pick up invaluable tournament chips. It works particularly well in live tournaments where players are literally watching you steal. Check out casinoguardian.co.uk for landbased UK casinos to use this move in.

Also, your steals cost you little when you fold. You’re enhancing your table image as a stealer, whilst improving your chances of a double up later. They are the ones risking more if they re-shove or 3 bet.

Slow-Playing To The River

The slow play is still one of the most effective traps around. In an era of aggressive opponents who love firing, checking and calling, until the river is a brilliant trap. Opponents in position love to bluff but they also love to value bet thinly if you’re checking. They will often hand read you for second pair or top pair weak kicker and keep firing. This means you can slow-play hands like top 2 pair or sets, on dry or mixed boards, and extract a lot of value. Most opponents will curse when the river check raise comes but begrudgingly call anyway.

Slow-playing takes practice. You can’t do this multiway or on wet boards. Often, a card will come to kill your action or actually give your opponent the best hand. Stick to adopting this strategy against aggressive opponents on the drier boards.

Spotting and Avoiding Poker Traps

Detecting traps and sidestepping them is a specialised skill that takes time to learn. Play enough hands and you will see patterns and find leaks that need working on. Most of them are some form of trap and often you will find that the biggest trap is one you put yourself into. Let’s look at a few traps to spot and solution to avoiding them.

Overplaying from The Blinds

It baffles me when I see players lose lots of chips or money from the blinds in a limped pot. Players forget that it’s a nothing pot. A top pair with a lousy kicker is not much of a hand multiway but it doesn’t stop many from continuing far into a hand with it. Spotting this trap is simple – if you’re multi-way with a weak or medium strength hand, just say to yourself “ I invested 1 big blind to play this”. It may seem a negative mindset, but money saved is money earnt if you’re losing a lot in these scenarios.

You won’t make most of your money from the blinds so don’t worry that you may be bluffed out from time to time.

Levelling Yourself

We’ve all done it. You’re involved in a hand thinking your opponent is pulling some elaborate bluff or that you believe he’s got “ace-king” despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s frustrating and symptomatic of wanting to believe you have the best hand, at any cost. You’re not alone in this trap. All the best players have levelled themselves before and will do so again too. I find the best way to avoid levelling myself is to narrate the hand I play in real time. This allows me to remember the information properly, not get attached to my hand, and consider all the variables properly before making decisions. It’s simple but effective.  My narration might go like this:

A good LAG has opened from early position to 3x, I’ve defended big blind with pocket sevens and check called  a 60% pot bet on a jack-nine-six (2 heart) flop. I check turn four of hearts and he is betting 70% of pot. As he’s a LAG it’s plausible he would play a hand with a jack in it from early position. My range looks like a jack or flush draw so the fact he is still betting represents strength”.

If I didn’t vocalise it I may just believe my sevens are good, that he may have ace-king with a heart or other big cards. When in reality, my hand is seldom good here.

Narrating the hand when you have a decision may help you make better decisions and avoid levelling yourself.

Pair & Draw Multi-Way

Sometimes, we play a speculative hand and find ourself flopping a lovely looking hand. You know the type, a pair and straight draw or pair and flush draw. These are great looking post-flop hands and give us hope of winning a decent big. However, when the pot is multi-way, wet board and a lot of action, players tend to disregard their opponent holdings and get stubborn. This is a common trap players get into.

Consider, a hand:

You get to a flop:

Your hand looks pretty good in isolation, top pair and flush draw. However, when action gets going 3 way here, what are they likely to have? A straight, two pair and a set are the likely hands, all of which we are doing badly against.

The best way to avoid this trap to try and get to later round cheaply. Don’t invest too much on the flop as you may find yourself pot committed with a weaker hand.

Not Caring the Board Paired

An expert player is always wary of the paired board ruining their two pair, straight or flush. This is a trap that professionals have less trouble with. They’ve played enough to realise when their hand can no longer be good. For beginners and intermediate players, this is a frequent trap. Hand strength is relative to the board texture, opponents involved and action developing. If you flopped a low straight and the board run out pairs the board, sometimes your opponents have just filled up. This is what a lot of people consider a bad beat, when it isn’t at all. If your opponent had a flopped set, they have a decent shot at beating a straight by the river.

I am not advocating every time the board pairs, that would be awful. Instead, consider just calling a river bet in position and check/deciding from out of position.


Not Giving Credit for River Check Raise

The river check raise is one of the most powerful post flop poker moves in Texas Hold’em. It is also one of the rarest poker bluffs made. Only the bravest of experts perform this bluff with any kind of regularity. With this in mind, you should be employing very tight calling ranges when facing a river check raise. I think calling a river check raise is probably the biggest trap players fall into. They just can’t bring themselves to fold. If you’ve bet your hand all the way until the river and your opponent wants to check raise it. Nine times out often they are doing so for value. They want to extract maximum value out of you so if you’re there with top pair, you need a very good reason to call it.

To avoid this trap, I recommend using pot odds diligently and applying conservative estimates to their bluffing frequency. If you need to be good 25% of time to make the call, it may seem lucrative odds, but what is the true bluffing % of your opponent in that spot? Are they really check raise bluffing you more than 25% of the time here?

If you are keen to learn the river check raise bluff, our poker bluffing course has a module dedicated to it.

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Donk Bet – Foolish or Genius?

Donk Bet

A donk bet was only introduced as a poker term 13/14 years ago. It’s quite interesting that it has been given the negative name “donk”. This conjures up thoughts of a donkey, which is one of the worst insults a poker player can be called. But is the donk bet actually all that bad? This article will attempt to answer this question.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a donk bet?

A donk bet is where the pre flop caller of a raise leads out into the raiser from out of position.

Reasons why it’s bad

The donk bet is considered poor poker strategy because it does not conform to people’s understanding of how poker should be played. The “check to the raiser” mentality is so ingrained in the poker community that to deviate from the norm is considered fishy play. There are reasons a donk bet can be bad though. Here are a few:

What are you representing?

It looks weak to the raiser. If you are leading into them, you appear as though you want to take the pot now. After all, why wouldn’t you check and raise a likely c bet? What are you telling your opponents if you decide to bet into them?

Losing the C Bet

If you’re actually strong, leading out can lose you action. Let’s consider a scenario where a frequent raiser opens the button. You defend the big blind with pocket 3s and flop a set on 3-5-J. Your opponent quickly folds, moving on to the next hand. The flop bet loses the c bet you inevitably get from someone opening a lot.

You will get 3 bet a lot

Many player’s treat a donk bet like a check anyway and will re raise you instead. Some people don’t give you credit when you lead into them and will 3 bet most flops knowing you are unlikely to be strong. This makes the donk bet a poor poker strategy if you are no super strong when leading.

Reasons why it can be good

Deception

Contrary to mainstream poker thought, I’ve always been a big fan of the leading into the raiser. There are couple of different scenarios I use it for deception. Flopping a monster and leading into a good player or a player who is likely to be strong works well. Both types of player will not expect you to have a strong hand and will either raise you for value or as a bluff. Either way you accomplish what you want. Deceiving your opponent goes a long way to helping you win money at poker.

Build the pot

Against players that are exercising pot control and playing small ball, the donk bet strategy works well to set up bluffs or build pot for value. By leading out you build the pot and allow a bluff to work smoother. By leading out, you can put pressure on your opponent. It may take 3 streets of betting but you can get the weak to medium strength hands to fold.

Take down small pots (cheaper bluffs)

At low and micro stakes, this bet can work well as players are prone to fit and fold poker. By leading into them you are removing their c bet weapon. It’s also a cheaper bluff than check raising. Beginner players don’t look at the situation and realise you are likely weak. Instead, they will be looking at their cards and seeing if they hit on the flop. Caution – some beginners will call on the flop with AK type hands even if they miss so it make require a turn bet too.

When to donk bet

Against Strong PlayersWhen you have really strong hands
Against Weak PlayersWith weak and medium strength hands

Conclusion

The donk bet is weapon that can be used sporadically and have success. You need to understand your opponents, have them tagged correctly. You will then know who it will work with and who it won’t. The donk bet has been around a long time and can be a useful tool if exercised properly. Gus Hansen showed this many years ago by schooling all the pros in WPT events with this style, so it can work.

Slow Play Poker Guide

No, slow play poker does not mean taking your time when playing. Slow-playing is a way of playing a hand tricky/deceptively in order to get more value out of a hand than you think would generate nothing otherwise. It’s one of the most satisfying ways to win chips but also risky. In this article Texas Hold’em Questions will briefly explain why people slow play, an example of slow playing and when it’s ok to.

Why Slow Play in Poker?

Sometimes you have to slow play your hand to get value, you won’t get anything out of an opponent otherwise. It’s not something you should be doing all the time, but there are certainly times and places for slow play poker. The sole reason to slow play, as with most poker moves, is to get more value out of your hand.

Example of Slow Play

You have are in mid position and raise to 150 at 30/60 with:

It folds to the big blind who calls. Your opponent checks to you on a flop of:

Now ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my opponent likely to be holding?
  2. Is my opponent likely to call me?
  3. Do I need to bet to protect my hand here?
  4. How can I extract most value from the hand?

In the example above, your opponent is likely to have a wide range of hands (often nothing that connects with this board), you can very safely slow play your full house here. There are no scare cards to your hand checking may induce bluffs later in the hand too.

When To Slow Play?

A slow play will be the best line to take when the conditions below are met:

1)Our opponent is weak and likely to fold to a bet.
2)My hand does not need to be bet and protected.
3)My opponent is likely to bet into me later in the hand or improve thus allowing me to get value.

Small Bets & Calls

Slow playing does not just mean checking back hands, it might be flat calling bets or making small bets to induce raises. It’s the sense you give your opponent, the apparent weakness you convey that makes it a slow play or not. For instance, if your opponent is the aggressor and bets all the way down and you flat call until your raise on the river and you showdown pocket aces or a flopped flush, that is also a slow play.

Don’t Go Too Far!

Slow plays are great when properly put into practice but you must be careful not to over use or slow play hands that can be beat easily enough. There’s no point slow playing top pair multi way or even heads up only to lose to a turned inside straight. It takes experience and an understanding of the hand in question and your opponents range to recognise when a slow play is the most profitable line in a hand. 

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Poker Squeeze

What is the Poker Squeeze?

A phrase given to a pre flop play in Texas Holdem where a player will re-raise over an initial raise and one or more pre-flop calls. It is usually with the intention of picking the pot up before the flop without showdown. When executed properly, the poker squeeze is one of greatest pre-flop plays. It’s a move we regularly offer in our poker training too.

History of the Squeeze Play

Twenty years ago, the squeeze was not even a play as such. A few of the best players probably did it without giving it the name but it was seldom used. Then Dan Harrington brought out his tournament books and with it, a revolutionary concept. Tight aggressive players found a new weapon to use and exploit opposition with.

However, poker is an evolving game with trends and once this strategy was being used all the time, winning players started taking note and with it, a shift in mentality. No longer could the squeeze play be used with impunity as you were likely to get 4 bet by a competent and thinking player. Or they would flat call an open with AA/KK from an aggressive player, hoping you would squeeze.

The pendulum has swung back again though and it is not a move mentioned too often. It’s used less than the aftermath of its revelation to the poker world. It’s a brilliant move to use but only if the ingredients are there and you don’t over use it.

When is the Right Time to Squeeze?

The squeeze play loosely rests on the assumption that the open raiser is unlikely to be holding a premium hand. The theory being that a flat caller is also unlikely to be super strong, otherwise, they surely would have re-raised themselves. Whilst this is logical you need certain factors to be on your side for the squeeze to be successful. Please consider the factors below before squeezing.

Stack Sizes

It baffles me when poker players try a squeeze and are priced in, disregarding stack sizes. Have a close look at the stack sizes when you are considering a squeeze. It’s possible that a flat caller is setting a trap when short stacked.

Your Table Image & Reputation

If you have a reputation for creative 4 bets and tricky aggressive moves then it far less likely to work. You must have a solid table image at the time of making a squeeze. Your squeeze has to be credible i.e. your opponents need to believe that you are likely holding a premium hand.

Calibre of Opponent

If your opponent has shown no inclinations to fold before the flop, do not consider squeezing. Whilst your logic that they are weak pre flop could be true, it does not mean they will fold. You can still squeeze if you wish but be prepared to play a big pot!

Position

As always, position is important. It’s better to be squeezing in position than out of position obviously. You prefer to play the hand in position for the rest of the hand if you get called. It’s not essential to be in position when squeezing though. After all, the intention is to pick it up pre flop. However, it is another factor to consider.

Hand Strength

There’s no use turning very playable hands and positive scenarios into wasteful ones by squeezing. If you are holding a suited connector or a little pair in position, multi-way, then it’s best to play the pot and try to get value. A squeeze is usually better to do with a hand of little value or good blockers, e.g. Ace Three.

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Check Raise – Ultimate Guide

What is a Check Raise?

A play that used to be considered bad etiquette and still is in some old casinos. The check raise is a tricky and powerful move when used effectively in poker. It is where a player will check (representing weakness) and then re-raise a bet on the same round of betting. Let’s took a look at an example:

Example Hand

Player A raises to £10 before the flop and Player B calls from the big blind. The flop comes 7s 8s 3d. Player B checks to the initial raiser. Player A bets £15 and Player B re-raises to £50.  

Notice Player B checked, then raised the bet hence “check raise”.

Why Check Raise?

There can many reasons a player may opt for check raising. It can be designed to build the pot up for bigger bets and value later in the hand. This play can also be used to represent a strong hand and in fact be bluffing. It can be used to exploit an aggressive player and it can also be used to semi bluff.

The Texas Hold’em Questions bluffing course has 2 modules dedicated to check raises, from the flop and on the river. Click below for more information.

Perceptions of a Check Raise

Strong PlayerWeak Player
An experienced player will usually identify strength with this move as the opponent is putting in more chips and money than necessary. If a player wants to bluff to win the pot – they will usually just bet to try and steal it. I mean, why risk more than necessary right?A weak player may not read much into the play and will probably just play the strength of their own hand. If you are trying an elaborate bluff against a beginner who probably has a top pair or better, it might be worth thinking twice before barrelling off.

Risks with Check Raising

By checking to your opponent you are risking giving free cards that can beat you. It also makes it harder to bluff if you have nothing as your opponent has less streets to fold to resistance. You need to feel pretty confident your opponent will bet if you are considering a check raise.

Secondly, if you are trying a check raise on a bluff that you are investing more than a standard bet. Let’s face it, if your opponent is strong, the fact you check raised isn’t going to make much of a difference.

There is also the risk that you do this move too often, even an intermediate player will pick up on tendencies so be careful not to over use the check raise.

If you enjoyed this post, perhaps you’d be interested in our training video membership? Feel free to check out some free material.

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Re-Raise Early Position Opens

A Tricky Re-Raise Against Early Position

When was the last time you 3 bet an early position raise with junk? How many times in your last session? This move is heavily underused these days and barely discussed. But, there is a lot to be said for putting in a re-raise again an early position open, from an active player. I find this play to be one of the most profitable pre flop moves available at the moment.

Why Bother ReRaising?


Most good thinking players have opened their game up. They are quite liberal opening from anywhere on the table these days, even early position. A good player will be opening suited connectors and suited aces from early position. Strong players open-raise these because they are hands with great play-ability and equity, even multi-way. They are representing something stronger so it fits in line with stories told post flop.

The great thing about players opening wider from early position is the opportunity to 3 bet them without resistance. They won’t hesitate to fold pre flop when facing a re raise as they no longer have the lead in the hand and want to play in position. The best way to counter this strategy is to simply re raise and pick it up before the flop. This works very well against the good players, and when you are in position in the hand. 

The weak players will often open raise wide pre flop too. Weak players will occasionally call the re-raise but then fold unless they flop something. A continuation bet is usually all that is needed to win the pot.

Either way, the strategy is effective against both types of player. The key component is that your opponent has shown a willingness to open wide from early position.

When is a Good Time to Re Raise?


You can do this at any point in a tournament. Please make sure you and your opponents have sufficient stack sizes. It’s important you are not committed for lots of chips. It’s usually a good idea to do this with hands that have poor equity or showdown value. That way you know you are not losing anything if you get 4 bet and you are unlikely to get stubborn post flop. You know you are playing this as a bluff. It’s ok to do it with ace rag too as this has some blocker value. 

I don’t recommend doing this with hands that play well post flop as much as you should be more inclined to play post flop with these hands, particularly in position.

This strategy was demonstrated recently in a low stakes MTT on PokerStars.  I made a point of trying to find as many opportunities to re-raise pre flop, in position. It’s quite fun to employ this strategy and very effective!

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