How to avoid big traps in online poker

A trap is a hand that creates a surprise for whomever is trapped. Usually it is associated with some form of slow play, as the goal is to lure your opponent into committing a lot of chips when you have a monster.

The typical case for the trap is the hidden set that was flopped or less characteristically turned. We all know the feeling where we played a hand somehow nonchalantly, putting some chips in the middle without really thinking about it, until we find out that our opponent had viciously trapped us.

Let's first clarify the meaning of the hidden set. It the board is paired, then any player with a third card of same rank has a trip, and this will not be a surprise, on the contrary everyone will be aware of that risk. Similarly if there is a one of more big raises or reraises preflop and the flop comes AK4, than everyone knows there is a good chance that someone has a set. The hidden set is the more subtle set that no one is expecting, often with a low pair.

But is there a way to avoid these hard to catch hidden traps?

Avoiding the hidden set trap.

Let's start with an example of a hidden set well played. A solid player raises preflop from early position with big slick and get only called by the button, who is also a solid aggressive player. The flop is 964 with two hearts. Both players check.

The turn is the king of diamond and the first player makes a pot bet, as he figures that he is ahead but there is the risk of a flush draw. The button calls. Finally the river is the ten of clubs, avoiding the flush. The early player checks, the button bets all in and gets called without too much hesitation. He is shown a set of fours.

So what happened here?

Note that in this example the button is assumed to be a solid aggressive player who knows how to play. And these players love to be in the button, which is the perfect position for attacking. But he did not use his position preflop, neither at the flop when it was checked to him, giving him an opportunity to take the pot.

More symptomatically he called a large bet at the turn. Pot odds did not warrant a flush draw to call. So what could the button have to make this call? Probably not a hand that was helped by that king, otherwise he may have raised.

Finally the all in bet by the river is not the usual trait of the solid aggressive player, so this move at the river showed tremendous strength in fact.

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Signs of the trap

Sometimes the clues are very obvious but we stubbornly refuse to admit the truth. These moments may cost us a lot of money, and this is why it is so important to understand this example perfectly well.

This is a typical hand, not an unusual one.

Casino players tend to doubt when they see an all in bet after they checked first at the river but were the preflop raiser. It may seem like a steal, and it sometimes is, as this is an invitation to steal. But solid players rarely attempt this type of bluff, and here combined with the earlier action, it did not really look like a bluff.

The key is to know your opponents and the style of play they use. Observe them first if they are new to you before you commit a large number of chips with a marginal hand.


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