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The dangers of slowplaying

One fault that many new or weak players have is that they like to slowplay far too much (and overuse fancy play in general). The fact is that in most typical games, the situations in which it is correct to slowplay come up far less frequently than you might imagine, and as such it is a tactic that should be used sparingly.

David Sklansky in his book The Theory of Poker gives an outline of when it is correct to slowplay. To summarise this, we basically need to have a big hand, opponents must be able to improve to something worse than our hand and not something better, we can't generate a big pot now and may scare off customers by betting straight away, and we don't already have a large pot. Most of these seem obvious, but are often ignored in actual play. Let's look at a few hands and decide whether we should slowplay or not.

1 – We have JTs on the big blind in a 1/2 NL cash game, with everyone playing at least $150 deep. Someone opens for $8 in mid position, the hijack and button call, and we come along for the ride as well. The flop comes down AKQ with two suits (not ours). Despite flopping the nuts this would be a horrible spot to slowplay. It's very likely that this flop has helped one of our opponents, perhaps substantially, if not, they may have outs to beat us, and if they have, they likely have outs to beat us as well. So start building a pot now, hope to get played back at, and then get it all-in as a favourite.

2 – We have KK in mid position in the same game. We put in a standard raise and get called by a player behind us. The flop comes down K83 rainbow. This is a much better spot to slowplay – there are no conceivable draws, there aren't too many hands that the opponent will have called with that like this flop, and the pot is smaller than in the last situation because we have less callers. It's safer here to let the opponent take a card and hope to improve to something worse (or induce a bluff).

3 – Same game again: we have AK and raise in early position, getting two callers behind us. The flop comes down AT2. Our hand isn't nearly strong enough to slowplay, yet you'll often see people think that top pair with top kicker is the nuts and play it that way. Just bet until you get a reason to think you're behind.

4 – We have 33 in an MTT on the big blind, with a stack of 3000 at blind levels of 50/100. Someone who we have tagged as a weak calling station makes it 250 in mid position, the button calls (both cover us), and we call as well getting decent odds. The flop comes down KJ3 rainbow. This looks somewhat similar to the second hand, but some subtle differences mean we should bet. Firstly, the pot is already 800 in size, more than a quarter of our stack, which is a nice improvement. Secondly, the flop is more likely to have hit the opponent and we can get paid. Thirdly, we know that one of our opponents has a habit of calling, so we may get a double up by him stacking off with weak holdings.

5 – We have KJ offsuit in the small blind in a cash game that's at least 60 BB's deep. A player in mid-position minraises, gets two callers behind him who we know are loose and play speculative hands if they can get in cheaply, we call as well and the big blind also comes along, making it a five-handed pot. The flop is KKJ two suited and we are checked to. Here there's arguments for and against the slowplay – we have the nuts, and nothing much is going to beat us (we're basically looking at someone having the case king and then spiking a higher kicker with AK/KQ), plus we have loose players who may have some kind of draw to a hand that we beat. Then again, the pot might get large easily if we run into someone with the case king. It depends on your judgment here, but you may be able to just check and have the correct decision made for you by the time you act again.

Eeyore


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