Slow playing and bluffing are the two skills necessary to master the art of deception in poker.
In essence slow playing is the opposite of bluffing.
When you attempt to bluff or semi bluff, you want to bet sufficiently enough to force your opponent to fold, even though he has the stronger hand. Your deception consists in representing strength when you are weak, and to be convincing enough to induce a fold.
When you attempt to slow play, you want to appear sufficiently weak to lure the other player into betting the hand, even though he has the weaker hand. You need to represent weakness when you are strong, in a believable way.
Slow play the weak players
The best candidates for a slow play move are weak players with an aggressive tendency, as they will bet at the slightest sign of weakness even with marginal holdings. Usually regular solid observant opponents are more likely to see through your slow playing trap. Unless you have been playing very cautiously so far. The ideal opponents are obviously the hyper-aggressive ones with maniacal aspirations.
When you slow play, you must before anything else be concerned about the risk of being outdrawn. There is hardly anything more painful in poker than to flop and slow play a monster to end up losing a huge pile of chips because of a lucky draw by the turn or river. In fact more painful things can happen but this is not the topic here.
is only appropriate in some situations, not all. For example let us say that you have pocket queens in the small blind. Everyone folds to you, you call to hide the strength of your hand and the big blind checks. The flop comes 973 with two hearts.
This is not a good spot to check and slow play, as your opponent has any two cards as he checked from the big blind, and he could have a draw or two pairs. Betting first here will let you win the pot immediately if he missed, but if he calls you get information.
If you check instead, you would give him the opportunity to bet with any hand and would not get any information whatsoever if that happened.
The most famous slow played hand
Conversely do you remember the ultimate filmed example of slow play made famous by the movie Rounders? In the main event of the 1988 WSOP Johnny Chan slow played his flopped nuts straight so well that Erik Seidel shoved at the river, handing him an insurmountable chip lead that led to his victory.
In this hand Johnny first check-called the flop. Then he checked again at the turn, which was a blank, but Erik checked this time. The river was a blank again, and what would you have done if you were Johnny Chan. The typical action is to value bet not to miss a chance to extract more chips. But Johnny checked and induced his opponent into his majestic trap.
It requires a lot of judgment and intuition to know when to slow play and when not to slow play. This cannot be learned without a lot of practice. One thing to avoid is to give free cards to your opponents when you flop a big hand such as a set. Understanding board texture is paramount is these situations.
Master slow playing by using this technique parsimoniously and judiciously. This is a double-edged sword, make sure to not injure yourself with it.
The opposite of slow play is rush poker, a new form of online poker invented by Full Tilt Poker.
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