No Limit Hold’em: To slowplay, or not to slowplay

Published by AngusD on

No Limit Hold’em: To slowplay, or not to slowplay

‘Slowplay’ seems to be simultaneously a four-letter word and one of the joys of poker. We have all been guilty of doing it when we shouldn’t; it gives us great joy, yet can also cause heartache. There is a reason why advice such as ‘only slowplay sets on unconnected, rainbow boards’ crops up in strategy articles. However, the fact that slowplaying big hands can lead to disaster doesn’t mean we should remove this weapon completely from our armoury. The trick is to avoid digging our own proverbial grave by being tempted in situations that are shouting out to NOT slowplay, while keeping our eyes peeled for those times when it is appropriate.

The main debate we have with our poker conscience in NL is whether or not to try slowplaying pocket aces pre-flop. Often the fear of scaring everyone off the hand by opening the betting sees us limp in and then end up in the nightmare scenario of a multi-way pot. We might have succeeded in disguising our aces but we, too, are completely in the dark in terms of knowing anything about the strength or otherwise of all the other limpers’ hands and, unless one of the two remaining aces appears, the situation is potentially ruinous. For many players it is a case of once bitten twice shy when this happens, and the notion of slowplaying gets an undeserved lifetime ban.

The ideal opportunity comes when we are in early position at a table of players who have more aggressive tendencies than usual. Of course we must be prepared for these players to decide to go against ‘type’ and still find ourselves seeing the flop alongside numerous limpers but, when there are enough aggressive players behind us in the pre-flop betting, someone will usually raise, thus opening the door for us to re-raise. Typical dream pots see us win an explosive hand against a lone player with a lesser pair or AK, or someone might throw in a reraise so that our enormous further raise is more likely to get action because it will look more like a squeeze play.

Regardless of whether slowplaying like this works, we need nevertheless to incorporate such a play into our repertoire for the sake of balance, slowplaying having particular significance for our table image and subsequent big hands when others witness what we have done, thus sowing the seeds of uncertainty in the opposition’s minds – are we limping with aces again, or does our hefty pre-flop raise indicate aces?

Slowplaying post-flop is even more complex as we have to take into consideration who (including ourselves) was doing what during the pre-flop betting as well as the texture of the board, the tendencies of anyone still involved in the hand and so on. Obviously the more players we are up against and the more ‘connected’ the board, more can go wrong, hence such nuggets as ‘only slowplay sets on unconnected, rainbow boards’ being worth our attention.

We’re much happier slowplaying AsAc on a flop of 2s 7c Kd than if the flop came 8h 9h Th, the latter simply having too much potential for others and none for us. Indeed slowplaying would be awful on a draw-heavy, co-ordinated board – far better to make a genuine attempt to take the pot with a bet that means business (and denies draws value) and then decide accordingly if anyone comes back fighting: even two players willing to get dirty here means it’s very likely time to get out of the way.

As our hand becomes stronger, the more correct it is to slowplay, to an extent that with a monster it is practically imperative in order to give the opposition enough chance to catch up sufficiently to justify staying involved. Checking the flop with a full house, for instance, also has the advantage that even if an opponent fails to improve their hand they might be tempted to try a bluff in reaction to our perceived weakness.

Note that slowplaying takes different forms against different types of players. Aggressive players might build the pot for us, whereas passive players tend to need us to make modest bets to build the pot because they might check to our check.

Of course slowplaying is not confined to pre-flop or on the flop itself, but whenever it presents itself as an option, we should remember to take into consideration the relevant factors such as those mentioned, not least our own table image and history in similar situations.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD)
32Red Poker Ambassador

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1 Comment

pokerbanter · August 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm

There’s no better feeling than slow playing the nuts and having someone bet into 🙂

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