Concepts: Slow Play

Slow play is a passive "deceptive move".
  • Do we have a good hand?
  • Do we think that we will not get more money into the pot by betting?
  • Can we allow our opponent to hit his hand?
  • Do we think that there will be more calls and bets in the course of the hand?

If so, then slow play is a proftitable option.

  • Slow play is when we play a strong hand passively.

Explanation:

Despite having a good hand we only check or call bets. We simply follow the pace set by our opponents (check/call). We don't actively put chips in the pot (bet/raise). This play is only possible very rarely. This is because only the one who has a strong hand has the opprtunity to pretend he has nothing. Slow play only makes sense in carefully selected situations. When we slow play a hand we forego the opportunity to win the pot immediately. 

As a result of this, by playing slow we are risking the current pot with the aim of winning more in the long run. This move is therefore very dangerous, as the risk of permitting a free change of situation with a very good hand is very difficult to calculate. Since we don't know which cards will help the opponent in the way we want them to. We want the opponent to improve his hand, but this should not pose a threat to our hand.

Motive:

We have a very good hand, but at the moment we don't think that we can generate more bets. Winning the pot immediately because our opponent folds would be a major loss.

We therefore don't bet and just call if an opponent bets. So we intentionally keep our opponent in the game, while permitting a change of the situation. This should lead to the following desired effects:

  • Our opponents pluck up courage with the hands they would have folded if we had bet. Our opponents then bet themselves or are more likely to call subsequent bets.
  • The board helps an opponent to improve his hand, but he still only has the second-best hand. Thus he will call now. We can therefore win a bigger pot than if we had played more straightforward.

Execution:

Slow play is an investment in the future and is therefore all about implied odds. If several parameters come together, slow play can produce a huge pay-out.

But we should only play slow if the situation actually permits it. The following statements aim to help you recognise a favourable scenario:

  • The greater the number of betting rounds still to come, the more promising (and risky) this move is.
  • The higher the number of cards that would give our opponent the second-best hand, the more likely it is that slow playing will pay off.
  • The bigger the stacks in relation to the pot (you risk!), the greater the potential of a slow play.
  • The less a slow play is expected of us, the more often our opponents will fall into the trap.
  • The less dangerous the board is for our hand, the greater the opportunity in relation to the risk.
  • Example:

We flop a full house. At the moment we can only be beaten by 88. We have a very good hand. The jacks and eights are directly relevant here. Since we know the distribution of five of these eight cards, we cannot assume that our opponent has one of the remaining three cards. Consequently, it's hard for us to get action at this point of time. We check because we have a favourable situation for a slow play:

Two rounds of betting follow. There is potential for the following action.

The turn can improve our opponent's hand in many different ways:

  • Every card could give our opponent a lower full house (if he has 8x; for pocket pairs this only applies up to TT as AA, KK and QQ would form a higher full house in case of a favourable turn).
  • Any heart makes a flush possible (or at least a flush draw).
  • Q, T, 9, 7 make a straight possible (or a least a straight draw).
  • Any card could be a hit. A, K and Q are of particular relevance here since they would make a new top pair.

We cover the opponent, so his stack is relevant. With 46 BBs he still has at least five times the current pot size available.

We know how rarely slow play can be deployed profitably, so we hardly use it. Consequently, our opponent simply doesn't expect it from us.

The board is therefore completely harmless for our hand.

  • Flushes and straights should in fact be completed.
  • JJ is higher than the pair on the board. This means that we would beat all full houses with an eight.
  • Only AA, KK, and QQ still have a chance of becoming a higher full house. But these hands only have two outs and so we have to ask ourselves whether such a hand is in line with the opponent's previous betting behaviour.
  • Example:

We flop the nuts! In contrast to the previous example our hand is currently unbeatable. 

So should we play this hand slow? No. Our check behind is very questionable, in fact it would be wrong. Since our hand is strong but vulnerable. This combination could become very expensive: Can we fold on the turn against a bet of a potential straight (4, 5, 7, 9, T, Q) or flush (any heart apart from the ) or a new top set (Q, K, A)? Should we even do this at all? It is in fact not possible to answer this question. AND THAT IS WHY we should avoid having to answer this question! We should bet on the flop, avoid playing slow and enjoy having avoided to be in a real fix.

Conclusion:

Slow play is not just a move to be deployed casually. That would almost always be a mistake. Playing slow is a big decision because there is a lot at risk both financially and psychologically. This supposed bad luck of an outdraw feels like a bad beat. However, we are responsible for this because we gave our opponent the opportunity to see cards for free or at a low price. There's hardly anything worse in poker than losing due to a personal mistake. Pots in which we slow played our hand are often large and we were so close to winning them before deciding that we want more. When used correctly, slow play is superior to any other decision when it comes to winning a big pot.

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