Quick Tip: Avoid Excessive Slow Play

This tip comes from Jeffrey “JGB146” Blake. Jeffrey is a long time PTPer and the founder of the Poker Training site GrinderSchool.com which focuses on providing affordable training targeted at small stakes and microstakes games. Jeffrey has strong background in NLHE MTTs and Cash Games, and this tip applies to both:

Avoid Excessive Slow Play
Excessive slow play is a common mistake that results in a dramatic reductions to the winnings of many players. Really strong hands come along fairly rarely, so it is natural to want to maximize your winnings with these hands. However, far too often this thought will lead players to slow play their hand in a situation that does not call for slow play. They reason that by betting too soon or too large, they will scare away players with weak hands. Instead, they bet small or even check, hoping to feign weakness and lead their opponents to bet chips in a situation where they would otherwise have folded, perhaps even becoming committed to the hand.

The biggest problem with this tactic is that the average player tends to be passive. They are more likely to call a bet with a weak hand than to attempt to bluff with a weak hand. Often slowplay against such a player will result in multiple streets in which no bet is made. Even if an extra bet is collected on the river, it is rarely enough to make up for the value that is lost on the flop and turn. Besides, if a passive player has nothing, he probably is not going to put much money in the pot regardless of what you do. Your priority should be for your strong hands to earn as much profit as possible from the times that your opponent actually has a hand.

Another problem with slow playing is that few hands in poker are really strong enough to warrant the risk incurred. Often beginning players will slowplay top-pair-top-kicker hands like AK on a Kxx board, or small two pair hands like 65s on a J65 board. But in both of these situations, you are running major risks of losing a larger pot when the exact hands that would be paying you off on early streets get lucky on later streets. On the Kxx board, any other pair might call a bet. If you let them see another card for free, they get a free shot to make a two-pair hand or trips. If the pot ends up getting large on the turn or the river, chances are good that their hand got better – leaving your TPTK as second best. With the 65s hand, it’s even worse — you have the same concerns as with the AK hand, but you also could face straight draws that make their hand!

Slow playing does have a place in your arsenal: namely against players who you already know are aggressive and/or in situations where your hand is nearly invulnerable (typically you want three-of-a-kind or better, with few draws present). Sticking to these situations will keep slow play from shrinking your winnings.

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