Slow Playing in Poker

Slow playing is one of the many strategies used by a poker player to encourage the other players to invest their poker chips in the pot before the player reveals their killer hand and claims the pot.

Is slow playing a good tactic? Well, the slow play strategy can be very effective when it is properly executed, however, if it is not implemented in the right way and under the right circumstances it can lead to a chip massacre. Many inexperienced players attempt it at the wrong time, missing out on lots of value or worse still losing a pot they had no right to lose because they didn’t protect their hand.

When is good to slow play? In order to know when slow play is the right move to make and when it is not the right move to make the poker player needs to learn how a slow play should be executed.

The slow play is often initiated by an early position player who has a great hand but doesn’t want to give that fact away to late position players. To conceal the true strength of their hand they will limp into the preflop with a call to the blinds. After the flop has been revealed the early position player can raise or re-raise the remaining players in the game if their hand has improved or if they see that the other player are undecided about how aggressively they should play.

Late position players can also use the slow play during the preflop to entice the other players to invest more money in the community pot before making their aggressive bets. The slow play from late position is not as common as the slow play from the early position because the late position player has a lot more information about the other players then the early position players do, and because of this they have an advantage that they can use to steal blinds and antes without relying on the slow play, which may not be as effective as other betting strategies used with late position advantages.

The late position player can slow play the preflop by calling the blind, and limping into the preflop, and then make their move on the flop, turn, or river depending on how eager the other players are to add value to the pot, or how quickly they get scared off by the community cards and the other players’ betting strategies.

Let me guide you through a hand I played recently in a $25 live poker tournament as an example.

It was the middle stage of the tournament with stack sizes in the 15-40 big blind range. This hand occurred with blinds at 500/1000 chips. An early position player limped in, two players behind him called and I called with pocket fours on the button. The small blind folds and we see a flop 5 handed.

Bingo Jc 4d 2h. The action checked to me and it seemed pretty clear no other player caught a piece of the flop so I checked.

The turn came Qc. The early position player who initially limped into the pot bet 3,000 chips. The two players behind him call so it seemed pretty obvious at least one player had a queen in their hand. However, the turn card also brought the flush draw and straight draw so it’s very likely one of the callers is on a draw hoping to hit and win a big pot on the river. With the information I had I decided to move all-in for around 25,000 and eventually got called from a player with Tc9c so they had an open ended straight draw and I had to fade a lot of outs.

Luckily the river was a 9d so all the draws missed and I won a huge pot that put me in a good position to win the poker tournament. Had I bet on the flop when I flopped a set I likely would have gotten every player to fold, managing to win only a small pot.

While slow playing in poker can be a very effective strategy to use in a poker tournament or in a cash game, inexperienced players who try to use this strategy sometimes make mistakes that hurt their game instead of helping it. One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced poker players make when trying the slow play is waiting too long to make a strong move or choose to slow play on the wrong boards where a monster hand is still vulnerable to getting beat.

A problem with waiting too long before making a strong move that will entice the other players to fold is that it gives the other players the opportunity to build a stronger hand than the slow player has. As more community cards are revealed the slow player’s opponents have more chances to build a stronger hand, and they have more information about the potential hand that the slow player has.

If your hand is vulnerable on a draw heavy board with many players involved in the pot, then it’s very likely a player is on some kind of draw, and the slow play allows the flop and turn to be revealed and an opportunity for your opponent to catch up without investing more into the hand. So you really need to consider the board texture when deciding whether or not you should slow play in a poker tournament.