Trapping With Big Hands in Holdem

An often mis-used and wrongly perceived concept in poker is what we call trapping. Trapping means to try and underplay your hand in the hopes of getting more money from your opponent. The overall idea is to try and let your opponents do the betting for you and disguising your hand.

While trapping has its place in Holdem, it also has a way of making you look like a fool.

How to Trap

Let’s assume you have pocket Aces on the button. Your standard play should be to raise or 3 bet to get the most money in the pot as possible. For whatever reason you decide to trap this time.

The first step is to call instead of 3 betting if it’s raised before you. If your first to act its best to go ahead bet, but in this example, we get a raise from the player in middle position.

You decide to call and see a flop.

The flop is relatively harmless and you call the continuation bet form the original raiser.

At this point, your opponent should be unaware of just how strong your hand is, and you should get more money from them on later streets.

The turn brings you a third Ace for a set and your hand is almost un-beatable. If your opponent bets, you should almost always just call and look to make a move on the river. By raising here, you are only going to get your opponent to fold most of the time. Since you hold 3 of the 4 Aces in the deck, it’s highly unlikely that they will have an Ace giving those top pair.

The river brings another harmless card and your opponent bets again. You can’t just call here, since no more cards are coming, so your only choice is to raise. Your opponent may think twice about calling if they have a weak hand, but regardless of what they have, you got the most money possible given this hand.

That is the correct way to trap with a big hand, but it should go said, this is usually not how players apply this concept.

The Bad Trap

I always tell new players and even some that have experience that you’re almost always better off not trying to trap when you have a big hand. This is especially true at the lower limits where players will call with much weaker hands than normal.

My reason for this is twofold. It’s rare that you get such a strong hand in Holdem that you need to get as much money in the pot as you can. And, as I mentioned above, your opponents are going to call you with weak hands at most lower limits games.

Another important reason you shouldn’t be trapping is that a ton of boards in Holdem will be dangerous to your hand. What I mean is-a large part of the time, there will be draws or other types of cards that will make your hand no good if you allow your opponent to hit a free card. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make in Holdem.

This is also why you want to bet with big hands whenever possible. If there are draws on the board, your opponent will almost always call a bet if they have some type of draw. But, they will likely check if they are checked to and look to get a free card.

Most of the time, the board in Holdem will not allow the privilege to slow play, or trap, with a big hand. More times than not, you can get much more value from betting instead of calling or checking.

Why Players Usually Slow Play

The reason many players will slow play a big hand is because they are being results oriented. This means they are basing their decision on a past result that consists of a very small sample. They figure that the last time they bet with a big hand, no one called, this time they feel that trapping is the best option due to that past result.

The best way to dismiss this thought is to look at an example.

Again, we are running amazing and get dealt pocket Aces. We get into a raising war with another player and all the money goes in. They turn over AK and we are a huge favorite to win the hand.

Unfortunately the flop comes; K-K-K and we are left speechless.

Now just because we lost the hand, does not mean it was the wrong way to play it. Four times out of 5 we will win this hand and make a nice sum of money.
This example correlates with trapping in that, just because you bet and got no calls with a big hand on one occasion does not mean it was the wrong play. You should focus on making the right decision instead of being results oriented.

Ultimately, trapping comes down to your opponent and the board texture. Against aggressive layers, its best to bet and raise since they are more inclined to call or re-raise. Against a weak, passive player who just calls instead of bets, it’s also best to be aggressive since they will call most of your bets.

Against a tight player who only bets when they have it, you should allow them to try and catch up if you have a very strong hand. If you feel a bet will never get a call, and the board is harmless, this is a good time to set a trap.

With some practice, you will start to recognize what will be a good time to trap. However, I’ll say this again, it’s usually best to bet for value most of the time.