Slow playing in Poker
Slow playing is defined is the act of
disguising a very strong hand by playing as if it were a much
weaker hand. This is achieved by taking a more passive approach
to the hand, letting other players dictate the flow of the hand.
Slow playing too much is a common pitfall of
beginner poker players. Rather than to simply tell you to
stop doing that and be more aggressive, I’ll explain the
motivation for slow playing and a natural outgrowth of that
explanation is the reasoning behind using the slow play
Goals of Slowplaying
Disguise the strength of your
Wait for your opponent to make a
second best hand
Induce bluffs from your opponent
Disguising your hand is a basic goal in
poker, but against many (less aggressive) opponents it makes
more sense to represent a bluff, not medium strength or
completely worthless hand. How often do you or anyone else at a
small stakes game flat call the flop, check through the turn and
then raise a blank river as a bluff?
Almost never. Once you make that river raise,
your hand isn’t very disguised at all, and you have very little
to show for the part of the hand where it was disguised. If you
just raise the flop in the first place, you are mixing up your
play by taking a line that could credibly be a strong hand or a
Letting your opponent catch up to you is also
a good idea in theory. After all, if you have the nuts, letting
more cards out will increase the probability that your opponent
will make a hand that’s almost as good as yours, right? Not
quite. You have flopped a full house on a board with a flush
draw. Let’s say that your opponent is drawing to the flush and
you have the option of either betting or checking back the flop.
He will make his flush ~20% of the time and
you stand a good chance of taking his whole stack. But what if
he has a low flush and doesn’t stack off? What if he is
unwilling to put lots of money in on a paired board?
He will likely call a flop bet anyway, so you
get money from his uncompleted flush draws and from when he
completes the flush. Plus, you get money from
hands that aren’t draws, and even though you think you are
letting your opponent catch up, you may be letting the board get
scarier for middle strength hands.
However, if we adjust that situation to where
you have bet the flop on a board with a flush draw, received a
call and now have the option to either check back or bet on a
non-flush turn card, the argument for slow playing is way more
compelling. Now your opponent might fold all of his flush draws.
Inducing a bluff at the pot also has value in
some situations. The problem is that against players who aren’t
very good at hand reading and aren’t very aggressive (I’m
describing most microstakes players) is that at best you will
get a one small bet out of the play.
players are just going to take a stab at the pot and when
they see that you didn’t fold they will give up on the hand. You
are especially unlikely to induce bluffs if there has been a
reraise preflop or if there was action on the flop and you are
looking to induce bluffs.