McHaffie: MCU lesson 106 / Sandbagging

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.

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 106: When sandbagging isn’t profitable

Sandbagging is achieved when you’re holding a fantastic hand and you check, hoping that your opponent will bet and then you can raise. It can be profitable against the right opponents. However, if you use it against the wrong opponents, it can devastate your bankroll. Now, you’re asking, “Who are the wrong opponents that I shouldn’t sandbag?”


You don’t want to sandbag weak players who are happily calling your magnificent hands. If you sandbag a puny player and they are astute enough to catch on, you probably won’t be successful against them again. You see, these are the players that add to your bankroll, so they are to be treated delicately and reverently. They are your best customers and the ones you will benefit from the most. Keep in mind that you are a business pursuing valuable customers. If you chase away those customers your profit margin goes down.

When you are holding great hands and opponents are repeatedly calling you, that’s to your advantage. You want them to continue; so the last thing that you want is to scare them away. I follow Mike’s advice about joking with them and making the game fun. Yes, I’ll even buy them sodas and chat with them about their children, their grandchildren, their hobbies, and any topic that appeals to them. I want them cheerful and carefree.

At the bottom of my list of things I want them to do is change the way they are playing. That will rip the money from my fingertips. If they were happily losing to me, padding my bankroll, and I change the mood of the game from happy-go-lucky to somberness, then I change the results that I’m going to get.

Soothing melody

If you begin to sandbag these wonderful, cheery customers and make it a solemn game, then you are going to bewilder them and change their demeanor, along with that of the game. You are no longer their best buddy. No, the music has changed. What was once a delicious, soothing melody has become a raucous, crashing crescendo damaging their ears and nerves. That’s what sandbagging does to easy-going, weak opponents. For them, it’s similar to relaxing in a warm bubble bath, candles flickering with soft, soothing music floating around you and then someone changes the music to hard rock. It’s a rude jolt to the system. You sit bolt upright, slapping your hands to your ears, franticly searching for the guilty culprit that changed the music.

So it is with your jovial loose opponent merrily calling your outstanding hands. Whereas before they were having a jolly old time laughing with carefree abandon while generously donating to your cause, you’ve now introduced a serious tune to the table. Often, your profits will come to a grinding halt. Their money will no longer flow freely your way. You have lost the rapport that you have skillfully built. I’ve seen players make this mistake and shook my head in dismay. The tactic of sandbagging these players changes the results of the game for everyone concerned.

The enemy

Sandbag skillful opponents and it’s often the correct strategy. But sandbag loose, weak, casual opponents and everything changes. It becomes a fearful, unpleasant game in which your fun-loving opponents now think of you as the enemy and will treat you as one. You have declared war on your friends. No longer will they almost blissfully add to your profits because it has been a pleasure to play with you, but instead they will re-evaluate how they will handle your new strategy. I’ll say it again, just as Mike does: If you sandbag the wrong folks at the wrong time, your best paying customers will cease doing business with you. Your profit will fly away on gray storm clouds.

So, remember that when playing against weak opponents. If you don’t want to cost yourself valuable profits, don’t be tempted to sandbag jovial, loose opponents who are happily supplying your bankroll with their money. — DM

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