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Feast Your Eyes: Examining Every Layer of the Poker Sandwich

Being able to place your opponents’ chips in jeopardy by creating advantageous betting/raising sequences and avoiding situational traps will increase your overall profits. The poker sandwich — a caller positioned between two raisers — is one such betting pattern.

A poker sandwich can occur:
1) When two players are working together to whipsaw (squeeze) a player. This is a form of cheating (collusion).
2) Unintentionally, when a player is simply caught between two strong hands.
3) Proactively, when a player raises with a marginal hand after an opponent calls an opening raise. The reraiser’s intent is to take the lead and put maximum pressure on both the initial raiser and the sandwiched player.

Don’t Let Crime Pay

From the top, situation number one is cut and dry. If you suspect adversaries are conspiring, leave the game. If you are sure they are playing in cahoots, notify management and provide examples before you depart.

The Natural Sandwich

When you have a good (but not great) hand, you may find yourself caught between two strong hands. Fold. While one opponent might be bluffing, the probability that both are making moves is remote. For example, yesterday I was dealt 8c-8d in a $30-$60 limit hold’em game. The player under the gun (first to act) limped in for $30. After two players folded, I raised to $60. The button player called, as did the limper. The flop came As-6d-3h. The first player checked. I made a continuation bet of $30. The gentleman on the button raised. The first player immediately checkraised. I folded. Assuming I was trailing a pair of aces or better (a good assumption), my probability of winning this hand was less than 10%, thus I had an easy fold on the flop.

Richard Lee Builds A Sandwich

Good players recognize that creating dead money (chips donated to a pot by a player who subsequently folds) is a winning strategy. Sandwiching a caller, who will likely fold to pressure, is a great way to beef up pots by generating dead money. Here’s an example from the 2006 World Series of Poker no-limit hold’em championship (captured by Jamie Gold). On the second hand of final table play, Doug Kim raised to $480,000. Rhett Butler called from the cutoff seat (one to the right of the button). After 27 seconds, Richard Lee re-raised to $1,980,000 from the button. Professional player, author and analyst Phil Gordon was the color commentator for ESPN’s Pay Per View telecast. He stated, “I love this play by Richard Lee. He’s sandwiching Rhett Butler who has only called the pre-flop raise. Butler can’t have that great a hand. Lee only has to get by Doug Kim and he’ll win a big pot because Butler won’t call. It’s very unlikely that Butler would be trapping in this situation with the blinds yet to act.” After Lee folded, Gordon continued, “There’s just no way Butler is going to call this raise. This was a very good play by Richard Lee and he’s going to win a big pot here.” As Phil predicted, Butler folded.

The ingredients

I recommend initiating sandwich plays in no-limit cash games and no-limit tournaments. Your raises will present a greater threat to opponents than they will in limit structures. Furthermore, a loose opponent is best utilized as the first (bottom) piece of bread in your sandwich. When a loose player throws in a raise, a potential caller (the meat) is more likely to enter the pot with a marginal hand (such as K-J or 6-6) than when a tight player raises.

Here’s an example. You sit down with $500 in a no-limit cash game with $5- $10 blinds. Your opponents’ stack sizes range from $350 to $880. After folding three hands, you pick up 9-8 suited in the cutoff seat. The first two opponents fold. The next player raises to $40. The following player calls. After the player to your right folds, you make a pot sized raise to $190. All fold to the loose player who opened the pot with a raise to $40. He realizes that he can’t close the preflop betting (the original caller is left to act behind him). The opening raiser also should be aware that, if he calls your reraise, he will be out of position for the next three betting streets. He finds himself in an awkward position, thus releases his A-10. The caller, as Phil Gordon pointed out, will rarely be slowplaying, thus will almost always fold. The reasoning: he didn’t have a hand that was strong enough to reraise with in the first place, thus he almost certainly shouldn’t call, especially out of position. Remember, unless faced with extraordinarily good pot odds, you need a very strong hand to call a reraiser.

Note: even if the original raiser called your raise, you would be in position, and there would be $435 in the pot, thus you would be getting 2.3-to-1 on your reraise money, an overlay since you are only a 1.4-to-1 underdog. (You will prevail more than 41 percent of the time when the hand is played to the river.)

Always try to be the top piece of bread in a poker sandwich, not the meat.

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