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Slow-playing, for the most part, is counterproductive. If your goal is to get the most money in the pot, how are you going to do that by checking? You build pots by betting your big hands, not by lurking in the weeds with them
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Ideal conditions for slowplaying:
- You must have a very strong hand.
- The free card or cheap card you are allowing other players to get must have good possibilities of making them a second best hand.
- That same free card must have little chance of making someone a better hand than yours or even giving that person a draw to a better hand than yours on the next round with sufficient odds to justify a call.
- You must be sure you will drive other players out by showing aggression, but you have a good chance of winning a big pot if you don’t.
- The pot must not yet be very large.”
Here’s an example of your average slow play:
Effective stacks $200; blinds $1/$2. You’re dealt 6♥ 6♣ on the button. A player from early position raises $6 and you make the call.
The flop comes out 3♣ 6♠ A♣. Your opponent bets $10. You call. The turn is the T♦.
Your opponent bets $18 and you just call. The river is the 7♦. Your opponent checks and you bet $35. Your opponent calls. You table your set of sixes and he mucks his A♠ K♣. You scoop a $138 pot.
OK, so you won a $138 pot. You might be patting yourself on the back saying “Nice hand.” This is not a nice hand.
Seriously, you won a $138 pot. Don’t pat yourself on the back.
When you flop a big hand like a set, you want to play for stacks. This is what you’ve been waiting for, folding 6-2 and 5-9 all day. So now that you’ve finally hit your monster, you want to waste it by trying to slow-play? That kind of strategy is just wrong-headed.
Big Hands Want Big Pots
When you flop a monster you want to win your opponent’s stack. It’s very difficult to win someone’s stack by slow-playing.
Why? When you slow-play you often find yourself with a small pot. Your goal of getting your stack into the middle when the pot is small becomes very difficult. You can’t exactly bet $200 into a $4 pot, can you?
If you build the pot the entire way, it will be big enough on the end that you can comfortably bet your entire stack.
The hand in the example was played well by our villain. He played it like most villains would in this spot. He bet two streets into you and when you called multiple times he went for the conservative river approach. He checked and then called a river bet.
He did this to avoid getting raised (which is what you would have done). In this situation it’s very difficult to get paid off after having just called two streets. If you had raised the flop then he most likely would have had to call with his top pair, top kicker, thus building the pot further.
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Let’s look at an example where there is no slow-playing:
Effective stacks $200; blinds $1/$2. You’re dealt 6♦ 6♣ in the cut-off. The player from early position makes it $6 to go. Everyone folds to you; you make the call.
The button and blinds fold and you take a flop heads-up of 3♣ 6♠ A♣. Your opponent bets $10. Opting against the slow play, you raise the flop to $45. Your opponent calls.
The turn brings the T♦. Your opponent checks. There is now $102 in the pot and just under $150 left in your stack. You bet $70.
Your opponent tanks and calls. The river comes down 7♦. Your opponent checks and you bet your remaining $80. Your opponent calls and tables A♠ K♣. Your set of sixes takes the $400 pot.
By building the pot the entire way it made it easy to get your entire stack into play. When the pot is large it also gives your opponent incorrect odds. He may have felt on the river he was pot-committed since he had already put 60% of his stack into play and the pot is offering 4-1 on his call, making it extremely difficult to fold.
Still, There Must Be Times When Slow-Playing Is Correct
Yes, you’re right. In poker, one strategy is never always correct. You always need to take into consideration the table dynamics, your image, your opponents’ playing tendencies, etc. before you decide how to act.
I’m not advocating never slow-playing. I’m just encouraging you to use it sparingly.
One situation where slow-playing is correct is against an ultra-aggressive player whom youknow to have a history of betting three streets strong with weak holdings and who will continue their aggression until they are played back at. In that case it is not terrible to slow-play.
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