Setting a trap by smooth calling with pocket aces
To win a really big pot in a game of No Limit Texas Hold'em, you'll often have to set a trap for your opponents, especially if they are good players. That's because most solid players won't go broke in a typical hand unless they either have a strong hand themselves, or you've done a good job in fooling them.
Let's look at how you can set traps with the most exciting hand before the flop - pocket aces - using an effective play known as smooth calling.
Smooth calling describes an action where a player just calls an opponent's raise rather than reraising it. By smooth calling with your pocket aces, you conceal the strength of your hand, which often turns into extra bets later.
Check out these situations.
You and two other players are in the hand. The opponent to your right raises, you smooth call, and the last player makes an aggressive reraise. He'll figure that since you just smooth called the initial raise, he has you beat and only has to worry about the other guy.
He's wrong. When the action gets back to you, pounce on him with a big reraise.
You can also trap a strong opponent after the flop.
Say the flop comes K-7-3, and your opponent holds K-Q. You can safely smooth call here. Chances are your aces are going to beat him for a big pot since he'll believe that he has the best hand.
Another key benefit to smooth calling with A-A is that it will trap opponents who otherwise wouldn't lose a penny.
Let's say that a player raises, and you don't smooth call. Instead, you reraise with your aces. If someone behind you picks up A-K, he'll probably fold his hand in the face of the two raises. If he doesn't, he's a bad player and will probably be broke soon enough anyway.
When you smooth call, however, any player with A-K is going to call one raise before the flop. Then, if you're lucky enough to hit a flop like A-7-2 or K-8-3, your opponent will be completely trapped in the hand. In both cases, he'll think his hand is strong enough to play for all his chips; you'd have him all but dead.
Once your opponents catch on to the fact that you'll sometimes smooth call with aces, you'll benefit in other ways as well.
For example, if later in the game you decide to smooth call a raise with 5s-6s, hoping to see the flop cheaply, a player may show you newfound respect and not reraise with his hand as he normally would.
The beauty of smooth calling is that even when people know that you use this play, there is little defense against it.
In fact, if your opponents believe that you smooth call regularly, bluffing opportunities will open up for you when the flop comes ragged. They saw you smooth call with aces once, and that will stick in their minds for a long time, even though you may not do it again the entire session.
I must warn you, though, that there are real dangers in slowplaying aces pre-flop. Allow players to affordably chase and they'll sometimes catch you. That's poker. Don't focus on how often you win with pocket aces, but rather, how much money you win when you do.
When you get to a flop with aces after a smooth call, proceed with a bit of caution. If the flop comes J-J-4, there's no reason to get too frisky. If your opponent has trips, you're obviously cooked. The last thing you want to do is set a trap with aces and then go broke with them.
When the board gets scary, play your poker aces with care.
Visit www.fullcontactpoker.com/news to submit your questions and comments to poker champion Daniel Negreanu.
& copy; 2007 Card Shark Media.