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The Pro's and Con's of Slow Playing

Poker Strategy: The Pros and Cons of the Slow Play
By Loki Luchs of

When I first started playing poker seriously, I once played against a man who told me: ďYouíre the only player at the table Iím worried about; youíre a hunter, sitting and waiting for me to put money in the pot.Ē The game had been loose with a lot of people betting, and it had been a good strategy to just let them do the work for me. I blended in with the background, winning pots without ever risking losing one, and all I had to do was not scare away my prey. Like most players, one of the first moves I learned in poker was the slow play. When I hit a strong hand, I wouldnít want my adversaries out of the pot, so I would try my best to let them bet and to check-raise them for an extra bet on the river. Like most players, however, it took me a long time to realize that although itís useful, slow-playing is a move that should be used sparingly.

One of the most discouraging things in poker is when you have made the nuts and thereís no money to show for it. If you have a big hand and want to ensure a lot of action, then this is one way that youíre not going to chase players away. Youíre intentionally misrepresenting your hand to lull your opponents into a false sense of security. The time in which this is helpful is when youíre at a table of very aggressive opponents that will bet when they donít have a hand! If you see that an opponent bluffs a lot in position or bets semi-bluffs, then check to them with the intention of check-raising. This gives them the opportunity to bet when they would normally just muck their hand. If you think that your opponent has a hand, however, most of the time itís better to bet. Heís going to call you down, maybe even raise, when you bet out. He wonít put you on a super-strong hand because if you were super-strong YOU WOULD NORMALLY SLOW PLAY!

There are some serious problems with slow playing, however. First, since it has become a standard play, when you slow play and then go for a big check-raise (or even lead out on later streets) your opponents can get away from the hand relatively easily. Another problem is that many times when you slow play, your opponents will check behind. This not only defeats the purpose of the slow play (which is to hide your hand so that more money goes into the pot), but it also gives your opponents an opportunity to catch up by getting a free card. If theyíre willing to pay for a draw, they should pay you as much money for the times they miss as you pay them on the times they hit. Despite this, many players try to get sneaky on a dangerous drawing board. Keep in mind that itís much easier to fold a busted straight on the river than it is to fold a set of aces against a board that has only one straight possibility on it.

The biggest con to slow playing is that one of the worst things that can happen is that your opponents lose interest in the pot due to its size; if you donít build a pot early, they are going to find it very easy to let go of the hand! Greed is a powerful thing! If the pot is huge, players might make poor choices with sub-par hands because theyíre praying that you.

1. Missed a draw

2. Are on a pure bluff

3. Have temporarily forgot that youíre not playing Uno.

Stupid people do stupid things sometimes; donít forget that smart people do to! Your best ally isnít going to be that they canít read your hand, itís going to be that they read your hand and that theyíre still going to call. Most strong opponents assume youíre trying to trick them at all times. Sometimes the best trap is to make them call you when they think youíre bluffing.

The slow-play is very affective when youíre laying a trap against aggressive opponents, but be careful that youíre not using it against weak opponents. The value of a calling station, for example, is that they will call your bets when youíre strong anyways, so donít bother to try and trap them. Your profit comes from getting them to put their money in the pot, which doesnít always include tricking them. For weak opponents, the trap is getting them to sit down at the table in the first place.

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