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When to slowplay in Hold’em

When to Slowplay in No Limit Hold’em


Many players love to slowplay in Hold’em. It’s a great feeling when our slowplay works and generates a big payout from our opponent. Other times however, it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. We end up winning only a very small pot when our hand should clearly be worth more.

“Slowplaying” is an important part of the game of poker, but it’s a technique that should only be used when the conditions are perfect for it. Many players slowplay in the wrong spots, damaging their winrate. Here we will discuss some basic tips for recognizing good slowplay situations.


What is Slowplaying Anyway?


“Slowplaying” describes the act of playing a strong made hand passively in an attempt to conceal its strength. Rather than coming out betting we’ll employ liberal use of checks and bets hoping to confuse our opponent. When he makes a second best hand on the turn or river, we’ll then flip the aggression switch and hope to get the stacks in.

Slowplaying should not be confused with slowrolling. While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, slowrolling describes the unethical practice of taking a long time to call on the river when we clearly have the best hand. Taking a long time to call with strong hands on earlier streets when not closing the action is considered part of the game and is referred to as “holywooding”


When to Slowplay – Top Tips

Keep in mind that slowplaying is usually incorrect. Many players damage their winrate by slowplaying far too frequently. If we are somewhat unsure regarding a certain spot, it’s usually better to fastplay our strong made hands. However, when the conditions are perfect, a well-timed slowplay can increase our winrate. Let’s review those ideal slowplay conditions.

1. Our opponent has a tendency to attack (perceived) weakness. If our opponent is willing to play hyper aggressively on the turn and river after we check back the flop, then slowplaying might be in order. Most opponents are passive however, so checking back strong hands on the flop could simply results in us missing a street of value.

2. We have the board completely locked up. One problem with slowplaying is that even super strong made hands are more vulnerable than they appear. Holdings such as the A7 on the 877 have a number of ways they can be sucked out on, making slowplaying questionable. AK on the AAK might be a better candidate for a slowplay.

3. We can get the stacks in on the later streets anyway. If we can get all of the chips in by only betting two streets, it’s not a problem to slowplay one of the three streets. If we need to utilize all three streets in order to get the rest of the remaining chips in, slowplaying is potentially questionable and should be considered more carefully.

4. Our opponent is not a calling station. If our opponent is willing to call against big bets with marginal holdings anyway, then slowplaying becomes unnecessary. We’ll simply miss value by not betting the earlier streets.

5. Our opponent struggles to give us credit on the later streets. While slowplaying is not a great idea in general, it can be especially effective against certain types of opponents. If they assign us a weak range on the earlier streets and are incapable of adjusting that perception on later streets, then slowplaying could end up being more profitable than fast playing. In order to know for certain, it will be necessary to run EV calculations which requires some knowledge of poker maths.

Remember, if in doubt, don’t slowplay! In most cases it will be a bad idea. It’s better to miss a few slowplay opportunities than to be damaging winrate by slowplaying all the time.

Doug Hull
Doug Hull
I am a poker player and author of the book "Poker Plays You Can Use". Contact me if you are looking to improve your live poker game.
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