McHaffie: MCU lesson 088 / Sandbagging

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2006.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 88: When should you sandbag?

I’ve adapted today’s lesson from one of Mike Caro’s 1995 columns.

Sandbagging is also referred to as the check-raise. What does it mean to sandbag? Mike says one of the most common answers is: “When you check-raise, you can trap an opponent for two bets. You check, he bets, you raise, and he calls. If you just bet and he calls, you win only one bet.”

Also, instead of just sandbagging for its obvious two-bet return, Mike teaches that you should be aware of the possibility of ‘three-bet’ territory. What exactly is three-bet territory? That would be where you bet and then are raised, and then you reraise. You have now won three bets, instead of only the two you would have achieved had you sandbagged (or the one you would gain by betting and simply being called).

Full house

Mike uses an example from seven-stud in which his opponent has been doing a large amount of calling. Mike has concluded that his opponent is trying for a straight or a flush. Mike is betting with two pair and then successfully makes a full house on the river. What should he do? He can sandbag assuming that his opponent made his hand and will raise. This will give him two bets. What if his opponent is expecting him to sandbag, and Mike bets instead? Well, the opponent will probably raise and Mike has achieved his third bet by reraising.

One reason that players choose to sandbag, Mike says, is to acquire an intimidating image. He warns against doing this to players who bluff a lot. You don’t want to intimidate people who are bluffing too much. You are already making money from them, just by calling, so you don’t wish to discourage their techniques. Sandbagging can definitely reverse the tide to your disadvantage when dealing with frequent bluffers.

If you’re up against seasoned players and you’re having difficulties trying to judge them, then Mike says it’s OK to try to use sandbagging as an intimidation tool. When considering the option of sandbagging, Mike says, “There’s seldom an overpowering benefit, no matter which way you decide.” It’s usually a tough decision.


Here are some questions to ask when making this decision. What are the chances of gaining the extra bet? Do you have the right image to achieve the outcome you’re striving for? Sometimes a sandbagging decision can be as clear as a sunny day, but then there are times in which it is as murky as a foggy night.

Mike teaches that one additional advantage to sandbagging is that it gives opponents an opportunity to bluff. “If you bet,” he says, “opponents can’t bluff (barring a surprise bluff-raise), and you can’t call with your powerhouse hand. In effect, by not sandbagging, you forfeit your chance to win a commonly available extra bet.”

Extra bet

Had you bet, your opponent would probably have thrown his weak hand away, so the extra bet you received by sandbagging was a bonus. By sandbagging, you allowed your opponent the opportunity of bluffing. You then raise him, but then he folds, having already done one bet’s worth of damage to himself.

If you’re having a difficult time deciding when to sandbag, determine how often your opponent bluffs. If it’s often, then check. However, you should be less eager to sandbag if your opponent doesn’t bluff regularly.


Mike says, “The conventionally stated advantages of sandbagging to win an extra bet and establish an image, coupled with the advantage of catching a bluff, often make sandbagging the play of choice.”

There’s a satisfying rush you can get by successfully sandbagging and profiting from it. But you need to be wise in deciding when to try.  — DM

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