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Why You Shouldn’t Slow Play in Poker

The object of poker is to win the most money. That's it - that is your goal.

You're playing poker -- not pogs.

In other words all the strategies you employ are just a means to one endthe money.

In light of that, one of the mistakes a lot of poker newcomers make is slow-playing. Or slow-playing too much.

Slow-playing, for the most part, is counterproductive. If your goal is to get the most money in the pot, how are you going to do that by checking?

You build pots by betting your big hands -- not by lurking in the weeds with them.

Don't Waste a Monster Hand with Slow Play!

poker slow play
Don't pat yourself on the back for small pots.

Here's an example of your average slow play:

Effective stacks $200; blinds $1/$2. You're dealt

6
6
 on the button. A player from early position raises $6 and you make the call.

The flop comes out

3
6
A
. Your opponent bets $10. You call. The turn is the
10
.

Your opponent bets $18 and you just call. The river is the

7
. Your opponent checks and you bet $35. Your opponent calls. You table your set of sixes and he mucks his
A
K
. You scoop a $138 pot.

OK, so you won a $138 pot. You might be patting yourself on the back saying "Nice hand." This is not a nice hand.

When you flop a big hand like a set you want to play for stacks. This is what you've been waiting for as you folded 6-2 and 5-9 all day.

So now that you've finally hit your monster you want to waste it by trying to slow-play?

That kind of strategy is just wrong-headed.

Big Poker Hands Want Big Pots

big pot 2755

When you flop a monster you want to win your opponent's stack.  And it's very difficult to win someone's stack by slow-playing.

Why? When you slow-play you often find yourself with a small pot.

Your goal of getting your stack into the middle when the pot is small becomes very difficult. You can't exactly bet $200 into a $4 pot, can you?

If you build the pot the entire way it will be big enough on the end that you can comfortably bet your entire stack.

The hand in the example was played well by our villain. He played it like most villains would in this spot. He bet two streets into you and when you called multiple times he went for the conservative river approach.

He checked and then called a river bet. He did this to avoid getting raised (which is what you would have done).

In this situation it's very difficult to get paid off after having just called two streets. If you had raised the flop then he most likely would have had to call with his top pair, top kicker, thus building the pot further.

Further Reading:

Build a Big Pot Without Slow Playing

what is slow playing in poker
Always consider table dynamics.

Another example: Effective stacks $200; blinds $1/$2. You're dealt

6
6
 in the cut-off. The player from early position makes it $6 to go. Everyone folds to you; you make the call.

The button and blinds fold and you take a flop heads-up of

3
6
A
. Your opponent bets $10. Opting against the slow play, you raise the flop to $45. Your opponent calls.

The turn brings the

10
. Your opponent checks. There is now $102 in the pot and just under $150 left in your stack. You bet $70.

Your opponent tanks and calls. The river comes down

7
. Your opponent checks and you bet your remaining $80. Your opponent calls and tables
A
K
. Your set of sixes takes the $400 pot.

By building the pot the entire way it made it easy to get your entire stack into play. When the pot is large it also gives your opponent incorrect odds.

He may have felt on the river he was pot-committed since he had already put 60% of his stack into play and the pot is offering 4-1 on his call, making it extremely difficult to fold.

Further Reading:

Is Slow-Playing Ever Correct in Poker?

poker slow play
Use slow play sparingly.

In poker, one strategy is never always correct. You always need to take into consideration the table dynamics, your image, your opponents' playing tendencies, etc. before you decide how to act.

This is not to say you should never slow-play. You should just choose to use it sparingly.

One situation where slow-playing is correct is against an ultra-aggressive player whom you know to have a history of betting three streets strong with weak holdings and who will continue their aggression until they are played back at.

In that case, it's not terrible to slow-play.

Another Slow Play Example

You're playing an extremely aggressive opponent. You have seen him bet three streets with as little as ace-high.

Effective stacks $200; blinds $1/$2. You're dealt

10
10
 in the small blind. The ultra-aggressor raises to $8 UTG and it's folded to you. You elect to just call. The flop comes down
10
2
5
.

You check and your opponent bets $20. You just call. The turn comes

5
. You check and your opponent bets $65. You call.

The river comes

A
. You bet $100 and your opponent calls with
A
4
. You pick up the pot with your full house.

In this situation you know your opponent is ultra-aggressive. You know he's going to be betting with practically anything.

He will build the pot for you. So there is no need to raise and make him fold his weak hand.

This situation isn't a common one so you have to be in tune with the table dynamics. You'll need to be certain this opponent is willing to keep betting. Also notice in the example that the hero bet the river.

It's very risky to go for a check-raise when our hand is this strong. If the river goes check-check we could lose a lot of value.

You don't have to stop slow-playing all together. But if you make it a habit to slow-play all of your big hands, you're losing out on a ton of value!

More on Poker Slow Playing:

Christopher Chalkley
2013-01-17 11:18:37

I NEVER COMMENT ON ARTICLES, HOWEVER…

I had to take the time to weigh in on this one. This article is very bad advice IMO. I have been playing midstakes cash for a living for quite a while now and I will say that slowplaying has a huge roll in the games. Versus fish, yea, maybe not so much, but versus better & more aggressive players it is an absolute necessity to know when to slowplay. The example given in the last paragraph has me steaming as well. I agree with everything as written up until the river decision to lead. This is the NUT worst spot to lead in unless you have the dynamic that villain will raise the lead in which case of course you will jam or 3b depending on stacks. This river looks like the ultimate x/r spot (check raise) and I don’t feel like going into why as its so painfully obvious in so many ways.

Sean
2012-03-31 12:03:17

I log about 80/90 hours a month at $1/2 and this article is 100% correct. The best way to build pots is value bet them up. It’s a good profitable part time job that I have.

BloodGain
2010-08-04 08:03:11

Vincent:

If you are trying to build a bankroll, and one bad beat means your bankroll is at 0, then you aren’t managing your bankroll correctly. Lower your limits next time. It’s pretty rare to hit a run so bad that you burn through your whole bankroll. If you follow the better suggestions for bankroll management, you would have to reduce your limits several times (until you hit the bottom limit) to completely tap out a well-managed bankroll.

That said, if poker is just a game or hobby for you, and you are using a small portion of your income as “entertainment” money, then it’s not necessarily wrong to play above suggested limits. So long as you stop playing when you’ve burned your entertainment budget, nobody can tell you that playing $.50/$1 when you should be playing $.25/.50 is wrong. If your entertainment budget is $100/month and you want to blow it all on one $100 tournament, that’s OK, too.

However, those who follow bankroll management guidelines and play within their limits may find that the level of poker play is closer to their current skill level and is more profitable. I’d rather win $100 in a tournament that took me 3 hours than lose $50 gambling to win $1000 in 3 hours.

This isn’t just directed at you, Vincent. It’s good advice for anyone who finds that a few bad beats means their bankroll goes on life support.

Good article, Skolovy. I have been guilty of slow-playing too often in the past. It has even cost me some tournaments, and even more chip leads. It’s a great reminder for both types of poker.

Vincent
2010-03-30 12:38:41

– The fact that he hit is irrelavent

I know this, but that does not make me feel better when I am trying to build a stack and now must wait two weeks until I get paid again in order to play against this fish again. Keeping a level head when you make a +EV play and still ending with no money for long periods of time is just not as easy as Moocher makes it sound.

Overall, nice article. These are things that I Need to be reminded of from time to time. Cosntant and Never Ending Improvment. That is my true goal.

Again, thanks for a good article.

Moocher
2010-03-25 15:15:52

Sean lind said …

> the fact he hit is irrelevant.

Well said. And that is one of the concepts so many people seem to have a problem with.

Whether your play pays off or you get stung really doesnt matter one iota provided you’re playing un-emotional poker with a long term view (and if not, you should be)

ALL that matters is that you had +EV. If every play you make has +EV then nothing else matters. The hard part is minimising the variables when calculating your EV… and doing so unemotionally even during those times when the variance is grinding against you for an extended time and lesser players would start tilting.

With enough bankroll for the stakes you’re playing even the worst variances can be shrugged off.

I guess you know you’re a level-headed poker player when…

– You lose a hand and significant bankroll, and smile because it was a winning play.
– You win a hand and significant bankroll, and kick yourself for going along for the ride when the EV dictated you should have gotten out.

I often find myself congratulating myself of a +EV play that lost me considerable stack… even if first have to question wether my EV calculation was right or if I’d missed an indicator.

So, lets all read Seans line again…

> the fact he hit is irrelevant.

… and perhaps consider having it tatooed onto our flesh.

XD

Moocher
2010-03-25 15:01:09

At Amir:

> I don’t know about this one, if somebody bets big off of a
> weak flop I’m probably going to assume they hit a set! I
> certainly wouldn’ t continue to keep betting even if I did
> have AK.

All depends though. If you observe them regularly firing hard at weak flops you quickly get the idea you’re +EV on them and can let them build that pot for you. Particularly if your table image supports you going along for the ride and being scared off easily in later streets.

To everyone else who found disagreement with the article, the following quote pretty much negates all disagreement…

> Yes, you’re right. In poker, one strategy is never always
> correct. You always need to take into consideration the
> table dynamics, your image, your opponents’ playing
> tendencies, etc. before you decide how to act.

… with that said, I find the article inarguable. Even where the examples may not have been perfect… one must assume that the other factors supported the given play.

Sean Lind
2010-03-22 19:20:07

Paul,

You did nothing wrong. On the flop you have a set, but it’s a dangerous board. Too strong of a hand to fold, but you are trying to keep the pot small at this point. Check/calling is the best choice.

Once the boars pairs, you can basically assume you have the nuts. Your only goal now is to get all the money in, on the turn or river.

You got 2-outed, it sucks, but you did nothing wrong. Yes, you MIGHT have been able to make him fold on the turn, but that would have been a mistake, you want his money all in, the fact he hit is irrelevant.

spencer
2010-03-22 06:17:36

on the turn you probably should have continued your check on the turn so you could reraise your full house to see where he’s at considering he already has a good portion of his stack invested already

spencer
2010-03-22 06:14:19

Paul,

the same thing happened to me. UTG +1 raised to $8 and i called with pocket fives,
flop comes 5,7,Q rainbow board
he bets 15, i raise to 35, he raises me 40, and i reraise him 65 and he calls.
turn comes a 7 and he checks and i bet 125 and he takes about 10 minutes to call, at this point i know i am good.
the river comes K and he turns over pocket KK’s

if u have your money in when you have the best hand then you can’t do anythin about the cards to come

Paul
2010-03-22 03:18:03

So I was at a casino recently and this went down on my very first hand:

1/2$ 9-handed. I buy in for the max, which is $300, my “villain” has about $250 and is UTG.

UTG raises to $7 and gets two callers. I look down at 5d5s from the BB and call. Flop comes 5h6d7h I check UTG bets $30. Everyone else folds and I call. Pot is now $89. Turn brings a 6h and I bet $50, which UTG calls. River is a Kd–I bet $100, villian goes all-in for $35 more and I snap-call, only to see that he had pockets kings and has a higher full house.

Should I have raised pre-flop? What did I do wrong? I mean, it was a 2-outer so my current knowledge of the game and natural inclination tells me that this is just bad luck. What do you think?

ben r
2010-02-18 05:35:31

Ha in the first example, If i’m ‘the opponent’ I’d be very wary of a check raise and then a decent sized turn bet even with top pair. I’d probably muck if the player wasn’t a lag.

kimjo
2009-12-13 18:59:49

i ran into a similar situation once, pocket sixes, A,6,7 on the flop, I elect to check to the raiser, he checks behind, river and turn bring up two suited coolers. Both of us have $500 going into the hand. We turn over at the end of the hand, he shows 6,7 to my 666, and I drag a pot of $90 instead of $1000…moral of the story, get it in while the guy is still sure he’s ahead… they’re not called coolers for nothing. Peace.

Dan
2009-07-12 15:42:00

Maybe in each scenario, make the turn a King so the villain improves his hand and believes he now may have the best hand. This will make the situation much more believable as your opponent rarely will go all in with a single pair postflop.

yug
2009-07-11 07:09:00

How about not slow playing when there is a flush draw on the board?

Guy
2009-06-16 02:45:00

Listen, if you think your opponent will definitely fold to a big raise like that with AK then raise when you dont flop a set…You should be mixing you game up enough so that you dont look like a tight goose and get called on flops like that with a set, and if you aren’t getting called then start raising with hands that aren’t the best…play your image people

ALEX
2009-06-01 06:48:00

Slow playing big hand when there is a flash draw as in the sample above,may be extremely risky,but if you are in early pos. with 66 and flop a set on a flop Ac,6s9d is a great opportunity for big bets,but if the flop comes 3d,7c,Jh the play most profitable, to me, has being slow play,at least the flop because the turn in my opinion must be bet.
If the flop comes Ah,6s,7s I would charge big to any player who wants to draw on me.
This ofcourse,may change if you are playing on the enternet or live,in enternet, very rarely I would slow play any hand but live, as you explain, some time make sense to do so but in general I agree with your opinion,slow play is counterproductive.
Thank you for all your teaching,it has help me big.

BlasiuS
2009-04-06 18:35:00

I think the point of the article is that Sean has noticed that too many players make the mistake of over-using the slow-play.

Using slow-play sparingly isn’t a mistake, and it can win you some big pots against aggressive betters. But overusing the slow-play as a general rule IS a mistake, and it will often keep you from winning more money than you should.

You can make mistakes and still make money; if you’re not maximizing your winnings, you’re not playing smart poker.

Victor
2009-03-27 00:55:00

As you said in the article, sometimes slow-playing is not the right move to do… You must be aware of the type of player you’re against with, the position you’re in, chip stacks, and your image table… Taking all these factors into account will certainly give you a pretty good picture of what to do: slow-playing or conscious strong betting.

Josh
2008-11-30 12:44:00

Amir you must be the easiest man to bluff. Keep making those TPTK folds. Thats +EV

Sean Lind
2008-09-16 16:38:00

Thanks battman630, somewhere in the process of writing, editing or posting articles to the site things like this can go awry.

The first example has been fixed, no more duplicate cards.

battman630
2008-09-13 09:06:00

how come there is two 6 of spaids in the deck on the first example? the examples are more relevant when they are accurate!

Xay
2008-09-13 00:48:00

I agree with many of your articles but not sure about this one. If he really have AK then you might be right but what if he only have AT? He’ll fold if you raise him by $45. I would slow play to keep him in the game too.

Angel
2008-06-17 18:24:00

Folding TPTK on this flop is lame even for 9max, don’t talk about 6 max … 😀 it’s like the ultimate donk play. Imagine you are the UTG raiser 6 max – with AKo, BTN calls (wide range – any sc 45+, A5s+,QJs+,KJs+ 22+). Anyway, its fucking standart play to lose to set vs TPTK on such flop (2 cards to Flush)where oppo is having wide range). and its +EV. When btn raises me, its auto all in, giving wrong odds to the oppo to suck out on us.
Folding or checking turn to oppo on flush draw board with TPTK is what a fishes like roger do. And that’s why it’s so easy to semi-bluff a tight-weak donkey in position, giving you freecard on the turn. That’s why you have to always (if you are PF raiser) protect your hand on wet boards. The article is well written and it’s explaned when you can slow play and when not. Read it again and read the Big hands for big pots Small for small or w/e (one of the other articles written by Skolovy) and you might stop thinking like a donk. Cheers and hf with learning : ).

p.s. everyone was a donkey, so don’t take it too seriously, try to get better.

Joe
2008-05-12 05:19:00

I agree with the above people…this whole “dont slowplay” strategy depends on your opponent having a big hand which they think will win the pot..and not just a marginal one like they are going to pick up 90% of the time. Many times if you don’t slowplay in this situation your opponent will just decide its not worth the risk and you will get almost nothing out of them.

Kristoffer
2008-04-19 06:08:00

i don’t know about this one too. I don’t consider slow-playing counter productive. It is a strategy in poker that should be practiced reasonably. Poker is not a science; every situation is different

Dave
2008-04-18 06:57:00

Roger,

Sure, sometimes they will fold (were probably bluffing or play too tight). In any case, the advice is NOT to slow play, not to bet your opponent out of the pot. $45 is a 35$ raise (into a pot around $32?), and depending on his hand, your opponent has reasonable pot odds. But perhaps he assumes you will bet the turn, so his implied odds are worse. Next time, you know this opponent may be tight and you’d raise him only to $40.

Roger
2008-04-09 18:01:00

Your opponent bets 10$. I raise to 45$. Villain folds. Hero takes pot of 25$. What about this line?

Amir
2008-04-08 08:14:00

I don’t know about this one, if somebody bets big off of a weak flop I’m probably going to assume they hit a set! I certainly wouldn’ t continue to keep betting even if I did have AK.

Dubitzk
2008-03-27 22:43:00

Great scenerios great strategy.

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