Master Slow Play
The most overused play in poker: the slow play
Slow playing a big hand in poker is often seen as being the height of cunning. It can be a very effective play, but the slow play is a strategy often overused. Failure to play certain hands more actively routinely costs players a lot of chips.
There are two types of hands to consider here. Firstly, you will sometimes flop a hand so strong that you can give your opponents a free card without risk of them outdrawing you. You may hold and flop a mammoth , or you may have , on a rainbow flop. Your hand is in no immediate danger of being outdrawn, and the question you have in this scenario is how to get the maximum value from your hand.
Secondly, however, many strong hands have multiple threats of being outdrawn. It is in this scenario that the slowplay can be a grave error.
You hold , and the flop comes a wonderful . Although you hold the top set, underplaying your hand leaves you in danger against a number of typical starting hands- for example , , , for the straight draw, any overpair to your sixes, and of course any hand with two spades. You should not slowplay here, but get active with a bet. This combines protecting your hand from these draws with getting the most value out of your hand’s strength.
If you yourself have raised before the flop, you should probably bet again. If you are not the original raiser, you may take the risk of a check, but if your opponent does bet the flop, it is almost always right to check raise.
Let’s imagine your opponent holds an overpair like ; it will be difficult for him to pass. Indeed, letting him see another card for free may give him an extra chance to get away from the hand- if it comes a third spade or an overcard to his tens, he will sense more possibilities that he is beat.
For all these reasons, this is the correct time to get the money into the pot, and is what we will call the value point. The value point describes the scenario where the board is developed enough for you to get action, and no card on later streets can come to increase your chance further.
The value point can come even if you have the stone cold nuts. Let’s look at this example, where the value point comes on the flop.
You hold , and the flop comes . You have flopped the nut straight.
The only correct thing to do on this flop is to get active, either with a bet or a check-raise. If your opponent(s) cannot give you any action now, then there is hardly a card that will come on the turn which will mean they can. This is a great flop for many typical starting hands, and likely to have given other players a set, two pair, or inferior straight. More importantly, there are many hands that can outdraw you, despite you having the nuts – or for a higher straight, any two-heart hand for a flush and any hand two pair or better for a full house.
The common factor in these two examples is that the texture of the flop is so good. The texture is a massively important concept, and basically refers to how “interesting” the flop is. A good texture means that there are many made hands inferior to yours which will pay you off, but also many hands threatening to outdraw you.
Now let’s go back to the first type of hands, those which are in no real danger of being outdrawn. Even with these hands, the slowplay is often an overrated play:
It’s the early stages of a tournament with a deep 10,000 starting stack. You call a raise with , and there are 400 chips in the three-way pot as you see a miracle flop. Your hand is as good as unbeatable. Let’s consider the options
Option 1, the slowplay – Do not bet at all until some one else bets. If your opponent bets on the flop, do not risk losing your customer. Flat-call.
Option 2, the fastplay – Bet straight out 300 into the board on the flop, hoping that an opponent will raise. Either re-raise this, or flat call and bet on the turn.
The slowplay option almost guarantees that we will win a reasonable sized pot. The brave option to take is actually to risk the heartbreak of seeing everyone fold the hand, and bet out. If this works, you have the chance of creating a massive pot. In the long run, this is the winning play.
Why is the fastplay likely to work?
As soon as you bet out on the flop, most opponents will not give you credit for having a hand even as strong as three of a kind. Whereas the slowplay should be a clear warning sign for observant opponents, the fastplay is well disguised, and may even lead to your opponent re-raising you as a bluff. What is certain is that if he has an overpair to the five, he will find it very difficult to fold.
The fastplay may get you nothing, but creates a chance that you will get bets from your opponents on three streets. The size of each subsequent bet of course increases with the size of the pot. (If one opponent calls all the way, pot sized bets would be 400 on the flop, then 1200 on the turn, and 3600 on the river, and totalling 5200, half of the starting stack!) To slowplay and keep the pot at 400 almost guarantees that you will win one small bet, but the pot is then many times smaller than it could be if you are brave.
Good luck at the tables, and, most of all, have fun!