Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Slow Play Or Not

Dexter: I suppose I should be upset, even feel violated, but I'm not. No, in fact, I think this is a friendly message, like "Hey, wanna play?" And yes, I want to play. I really really do.

An interesting discussion came up the other day about slow playing hands that then get beat. We’ll start from the top here.

Why do we slow play hands? The obvious reason seems to be to hide our strength, and maximise a win when we have the goods. But like everything there is a risk involved. By allowing free cards other players have a chance to catch up and perhaps even overtake. That is where this discussion began – in a certain hand a player flopped a set and slow played it, where another player hit their lower set on the turn and hit quads on the river.

There isn’t much you can do there, that is a horrid beat and will get you to the felt more times than not. But was the slow play to blame? Any bet on the flop will have got the small pair to fold before hitting their set which commits them to the hand, and then the river buries them. My buddy (who was the one with the quads…yet again) said it was the other player’s own fault for loosing that pot, slow playing his flopped set like that. I am of the opposite belief that this slow play was near perfect and if not for quads on the river would have paid of handsomely.

What it really came down to was the loser in that hand berating the player who hit perfect-perfect to beat him. When the smaller set hit on the turn, that was the exact card the slow player was waiting for. You need someone else to have something to pay him off, or give them a chance to make a play at it. But when the miracle comes, you can’t blame yourself for that – but you also can’t blame the other guy either. That’s just steam talking and inviting Mr Tilt to the table.

Slow playing is probably one of the easiest and most common moves you see, and it is hard to play it wrong when you’ve flopped something like quads or a straight flush. You need to try really hard to screw those hands up. I’ve seen some players “slow play” top pair, and can’t believe it when it gets beat.

There was a hand from High Stakes Poker a year or more ago, with Daniel Negreanu and Shawn Sheikman – from memory, Shawn made a pre flop raise or re-raise and Daniel called, then checked in the dark. The flop was Queen high, and Shawn had pocket queens. Shawn checked, and then bet out big on the turn. Immediately Daniel picked him for trip queens – the play was just too obvious and Daniel had nothing to pay him off with anyway.

Which brings me to one of my favourite plays – betting out when you’ve flopped a monster. When you’ve made a pre-flop raise, you are almost expected to follow it up on the flop especially when heads up. Betting out can actually disguise your hand and make it look like you are just making a continuation bet, inducing players to either try to push back or call and look to hit a weaker hand. It seems to be working quite well at the low levels I play at – of course, it can be argued that again these hands are easy to play well and very hard to screw up, but you need to make the most of it when you can.

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