When a player is dealt a monster hand or flops a strong hand it is then a matter of how to extract the most value out of it. Is it a good idea to lead out and bet or do we check our hand and slow play it ?
For those of you that are unaware, slow playing in poker is where a player has a strong hand but tries to disguise the strength of the hand by checking or flat calling a bet instead of leading out or raising/re-raising.
The goal to slow playing is to seem weak enough to your opponent that your opponent decides to lead out with a bet holding a weaker hand or nothing at all which in turn starts to build a pot that you are certain that your hand is good enough to win.
What to Consider Before Slow Playing in Poker
However, like most strategies, there are right times to utilize this strategy and there are wrong times to use this strategy. Provided below are a few things to consider before employing this strategy.
The most important thing to consider when slow playing a monster hand is your opponent and their image. The reason for this is that if they are a super tight player and will only lead out and bet with the nuts, than they are not going to add money to the pot for you. This completely defeats the whole idea of slow playing a hand as you are relying on your opponent to bet into you.
An ideal opponent to slow play is a very loose or aggressive opponent. These types of players are willing to bet with little to nothing in their hand in hopes that their aggression will pay off. And it will, just not the way they want it to. They will add to the pot on the flop and both streets only to find that they were drawing dead or slim all along.
Your Image at the Poker Table
If you have been going crazy at the table and are raising hands and stealing blinds, don’t you think it will be noticeable if you slow down all of a sudden and start checking your hands ? It sure will. It is important to realize the table image that you are displaying just as much as it is to realize the image of your opponents.
Board Texture / Free Cards
Board texture will play a big part in a player’s decision to slow play a hand or not because when you slow play a hand, you are allowing your opponent to see a free turn or river card.
If the board is rather dry say, Qh-9d-5s, and you have a set of 5’s, then this would be a reasonable hand to try to slow play. There are no immediate flush draws and a straight draw is rather unlikely. However, if you flopped a set of fives on a board such as Kh-Qh-5d, you are much better off betting enough to end the hand right there.
On the other hand, if you flopped quads on a board such as 5h-5d-Ad, then allowing your opponent a couple cards to try to catch up and better their hand would be a good idea. For example, if your opponent had Kd-Qd then they could try to draw to the nut flush and with you checking down on the turn or river; they would probably figure that they were ahead. You could then easily punish your opponents should they make a bet on the river.
Free cards can work against you or in your favor. It is up to you to analyze the flop texture in relation to the strength of your hand to determine if it is a good idea to slow play or not.
Slow Playing Pairs
One of the biggest mistakes players make is slow playing a hand when they should be betting for value.
For example, pocket aces are obviously a great hand. In fact, they are the best pre-flop. But with three cards coming on the flop, a ‘pair’ is just simply not the best hand anymore. It can be beaten and by slow playing this pair instead of betting for value, you are letting your opponents catch up for free with the potential to beat you.
Most times often then not, it is always better to bet your pair for value in hopes to end the hand then to slow play it. This will save a lot of headache later on.
How to Successfully Slow Play in Poker
As you can probably see, slow playing a hand can be great for extracting value, but at the same time, this strategy can also blow up in your face. By making sure that you are employing this strategy with a monster hand on a dry, uncoordinated board, and against a player who is happy to put money in the pot, you are ensuring that you are extracting the most money possible with a deceiving and undermining, yet exciting strategy.