“Poker trapping”, also known as “sandbagging”, is a deceptive play used to disguise the strength of one’s hand. Typically, players do this by checking a strong hand so they look weak, encouraging their opponent to bluff or bet what they think is the strongest hand. This carrot-and-stick approach is a technique seasoned poker players tend to use against “loose-aggressive” amateurs.
To show you how it’s done properly, we’ve put together a list of our favourite poker traps of all time.
Luke Schwartz v Phil Laak
No-one knows the pain of a poker trap like Luke Schwartz. In this hilarious clip, the loud-mouth Brit is left stunned when Phil Laak flops an absolute monster.
Schwartz opens the hand with the strong QQ from the small blind and is called by Laak’s K7 in the big blind. Laak flops the world, making a full house on a KK7 board.
After flat calling Schwartz’s continuation bet on the flop, and then insta-checking behind on the turn, Laak gets Schwartz to put in a huge river bet as he tries to extract maximum value from the weaker hands that Laak could call with. Little does he know Laak is sat there with the flopped boat and Laak proceeds to snap-shove all-in leaving Schwartz pacing up and down the room like a caged tiger, before having to make a frustrating fold.
Well played, Phil. Very well played.
Patrik Antonius v Tony G
Our second memorable poker trap comes from a hand between Patrik Antonius and Tony G on the World Poker Tour.
Tony G picks up a pretty pair of Kings in early position and raises to 30k, it folds around to Patrik in the big blind who looks down at A4 suited and pays the extra 15k to see a flop. Just like Laak, Patrik flops a full house and checks the flop to Tony G as you’d expect and Tony G decides to check back his Kings.
Patrik then elects to check for a second time on the turn, the start of the trap, expecting Tony G to take a shot, however, once again, Tony G elect to check his strong 2 pair back.
Patrik makes all his money on this third and final check on the river, having now checked a full house on every single street. Tony G is almost 100% sure that his KK is the best hand and he bets 40k, looking for a call.
Unfortunately for Tony G, he’s about to be put in very very tough spot, as Patrik raises it up to 170k. At the point of making the bet Tony G is hoping for Patrik to call and now he faces a raise which doesn’t make sense to him… How can Patrick have an Ace, when he’s checked on every street?
The crying call is made by Tony G and the rest is history… Nice work, Patrik.
Phil Hellmuth v James Ashby
Anyone who has ever set foot at a poker table will have heard of Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth. With 14 WSOP bracelets to his name – not to mention thousands of hours of video footage dedicated to his antics – he is undeniably one of the games’ juggernauts.
In this hand, Hellmuth limps in with Pocket Aces and it goes to the flop. Ashby hits top pair on the flop and check-raises Hellmuth. In true Hellmuth-style, he coolly flat calls and sets a “mousetrap.” Hellmuth then checks behind on fourth street and announces he’s on a flush draw… Which he then decides to bet on the river when the flush draw misses. Ashby thinks his Jack is good and calls handing over a $10k pot to the Poker Brat.
Sometimes you get a little cheese with those mousetraps, Phil…
Tom Dwan v Ilari Sahamies
The enigmatic poker heavyweight Tom Dwan is one of the best in the business at trapping. Partly because he is just as likely to play a premium hand as he is to play junk.
In this battle with Illari Sahamies, “Durrr” wakes up with KQ suited and, in true Dwan fashion, hits the nut straight on the flop. Sahamies checks his pair of Aces behind Dwan on the flop and the turn to control the size of the pot after Dwan checked the nut straight in front of him twice.
This leads to Sahamies value betting the river when he’s checked to for the third time in the hand, making it $16,000 cash to go, before Dwan sticks in that check-raise to $60,000.
The problem for Sahamies is that he’s in this hand with Tom Dwan, who he knows is capable of making this same play with absolutely nothing…
Hats off to you sir.
Johnny Chan v Eric Seidel
Perhaps the most infamous trap in poker history was performed by none other than 10-time bracelet winner and poker Hall-of-Famer Johnny Chan. This momentous hand featured in the beloved poker movie ‘Rounders’ and has become an iconic moment in poker history.
The stakes could not have been higher as Chan found himself heads up against Eric Seidel on the final table of the 1988 World Series of Poker main event. $700,000 and the coveted title of Main Event champion would go to the victor.
When the flop came down Q 8 10, Chan found himself holding a straight with J9, while Seidel made top pair with Q7. When Seidel puts in a raise on the flop, Chan’s masterful trap begins as he elects just to call with the nuts.
Knowing that Seidel is an aggressive player, Chan checks both the turn AND the river, counting on Seidel to put his chips in the middle himself. A high-risk play when the most prestigious accolade in poker hangs in the balance…
So, now you’ve seen these stack-destroying traps from the game’s best players, why don’t you test out your own skills? Head over to Grosvenor Poker and see if you can lay any traps of your own…