What is ‘Sandbagging’?
Sandbagging is a slang term used in poker to describe a form of deceptive play. It is basically the opposite of bluffing. Sandbagging involves a player deliberately betting weakly against a strong hand to make opponents believe he is in a worse position than he actually is. A player might do this to keep opponents betting when they would otherwise be tempted to fold. This strategy can also provoke opponents to bet more strongly than they would if the sandbagging player had raised. In both of these situations, the sandbagging player stands to win more than if his opponents had folded earlier or bet smaller.
Also known as slow playing or trapping, sandbagging works best under a certain set of circumstances. Firstly, the player must have a strong hand. Secondly, the pot should still be fairly small but have the potential to grow should all players stay in. The player must also believe that he might cause his opponents to fold if he plays too aggressively, but that there is the possibility that at least one of his opponents could improve to a strong hand (but only second-best).
In an example where the flop is a king, a jack, and an eight, a player with two aces might place a small bet to attempt to sandbag his opponents. The aim is for an opponent with a king to raise, having assumed that the sandbagging player has a lower value hand. Assuming this happened, the sandbagging player could continue to call his opponent’s raise with the aim of building the pot. A flat call is an example of sandbagging in which a player with a strong hand calls instead of raising.
Whilst it can work well, sandbagging is a strategy best used sparingly. If a player sandbags too frequently, especially against observant opponents, the tactic will become less effective.