"The best offense is often a good pretense"
The game was $200 buy-in NLHE with $2 and $5 blinds. I had about $250 in front of me and a no-nonsense image. I was dealt As-Qs on the button. A canny, frisky player limped from under the gun and the cutoff seat made it $15 to go. I knew the cutoff to be someone I could move off a hand, so I raised to $55, looking to get heads up against him, then outplay him on the flop.
My plan went astray when the big blind called all-in for, as it happens, exactly his last $55, which inspired the UTG player and the cutoff both to call. Now my situation was grim. I wanted one caller but got three - including an all-in player who was thus bluffproof. I figured there was no way I had the best hand and would probably have to hit to win.
The UTG player was a worry. I had seen him bet big into pots on pure steals, especially on the turn, and wouldn't want to see him do that here. But if I could get him away from his hand, I liked my chances against the clueless timmy in the cutoff seat.
The flop came K-3-3 rainbow. UTG didn't look particularly happy, but didn't seem to have given up on the hand entirely. He checked, though, as did the cutoff, and now I was faced with a choice. I could check behind them and hope either that my hand was the best or that it would improve. Or I could bet, hope they both folded, and take my chances against the all-in player, who could have anything or nothing at all.
I chose to bet. Not only is it generally "better the bettor to be," I figured that any hand except a good king would have trouble calling me here, and that the best place for me was heads up against the all-in player. So I fired $100 into the pot. UTG thought for a while and let his hand go. The cutoff mucked also. Mission (partly) accomplished! The turn and the river were blanks, and my A-Q held up against the allin's A-8. As I raked the pot, both UTG and the cutoff claimed, with a mixture of admiration and rue, to have been bet off the pot holding small pocket pairs.
Part of what made me bet was the diminished possibility of a "curiosity call." The curiosity call is the call you get sometimes from players who should know better, but don't -- which can do evil things to your bluffs. But with an all-in player in the pot, everyone's curiosity about my holding would be satisfied whether they called or not. Many people will fold in this situation and let the all-in player be their stalking horse.
People are also reluctant to call big bets that open side pots, reasoning that you wouldn't be trying to build a side pot unless you had a monster. In both senses, then, I used the all-in player to leverage the strength of my bet. Bottom line: When you bet yourself into trouble, the only solution is to bet yourself right back out.