You Need to Slow-Play In These 5 Common Situations

You Need to Slow-Play In These 5 Common Situations
People often ask me when they should slow-play and when they should just make a bet in poker.

And I get it, believe me. It can be confusing!

A lot of newer players in particular tend to slow play too much because they are afraid of "scaring off" their opponent when they have a big hand.

This is usually an incorrect line of thinking for a number of reasons which I will explain below.

But there are several situations in poker where slow playing does indeed make a lot of sense. In fact, slow playing is the most profitable play in these 5 situations below.


What is Slow Playing in Poker?


First off though, let me quickly define what slow playing is in poker just so we are all on the same page here.

Slow playing is the act of just checking or just calling a bet in poker with a big hand, in order to disguise the strength of your hand, and ultimately deceive your opponent into putting more dead money into the pot, with a far inferior hand. Slow playing can also often be a good strategy against highly aggressive players who like to bluff a lot.

And by "dead money" I basically mean that you are so likely to win the hand from a mathematical perspective (for example, you flop a full house and they only have top pair, you are like 98% to win), that they are literally throwing their money away by trying to bluff you or by calling future bets.

Slow playing absolutely does make sense in certain situations in poker especially at higher stakes when you want to balance your play versus good players and add GTO aspects to your game.

But slow playing can also be highly profitable against recreational poker players in many cases as well. Let's look at 5 cases below where slow playing is highly profitable.


1. You Should Slow Play When You Flop Quads or Better


Ok, I am going to just get the most obvious slow play situation in poker out of the way right off the bat. This one is very obvious to almost everybody and I barely need to mention it, but I will anyways.

Anytime you flop quads or better in poker, you absolutely should be slow playing your hand.

So, by "quads or better" in poker I am referring specifically to these hands:
  • 4 of a kind (aka quads)
  • Straight flush (5 cards of the same suit all in a row such as, 56789)
  • Royal flush (broadway straight all of the same suit such as, TJQKA)

Now, these hands are so rare that nobody really even bothers creating a strategy for how to play them. You will literally flop 4 of a kind once every 4,000 hands or something ridiculous like that.

And as you can imagine, the odds are far worse for flopping a straight flush or a royal flush!

Also, the likelihood of you losing with these hands is so unbelievably small (it is actually impossible to lose the hand with a royal flush), that no strategy is really required at all.

Basically, when you have any of the hands above, you have the Jesus stick, you win the hand.

So, when you flop quads (aka 4 of a kind) or better in poker, you should pretty much always just check or call a bet only until the river.

And then on the river you can make a big bet or a raise.

You basically just want to give your opponent(s) an opportunity to hopefully make a fairly good second best hand so that they can pay you off.

There is literally no point in raising or re-raising with these hands prior to the river because you have the deck so crushed that it is extremely unlikely that they have anything good.


Don't Slow Play a Flopped Full House, Flush or a Straight at the Micro Limits


You may have noticed that I did NOT mention a flopped full house, flush or a straight above as an automatic slow play spot.

And the reason why is because these are not an automatic win for you. In fact, there are many cases where you can be outdrawn by the river if you flop a flush or a straight (less so with a full house).

But also, since most of you who are reading this right now play at the micro limits, then you probably know the one thing that I preach about all the time on this blog and in my poker strategy books.

Yup, you guessed it.

They don't like to fold anything at these stakes!

So, even though it seems like maybe you should slow-play with these hands, often you are just costing yourself money versus a recreational player in particular who would have called your bet.

By remaining aggressive with these hands you also balance all the times that you are bluffing. And what I mean by this is that they never know when you have nothing at all or the stone cold nuts.

poker slow play

This makes you much, much harder to play against.

Lastly, as I already mentioned, I know that many newcomers to poker in particular are afraid of scaring off their opponent by betting with hands like a full house, flush or a straight.

However, you have to remember that most players are very passive in small stakes games and so it is very often the case that if you don't start building the pot, then it will never grow.

Basically, they are willing to call a bet from you but they won't help you build the pot. And if they have nothing at all, it doesn't matter if you slow-play or not, you aren't getting any action either way.

So the only thing you need to ask yourself is do you want to win a tiny pot with these big hands by slow-playing or a big pot when they have something?

I think you already know the answer to that question.

For much more on all of this, check out Crushing the Microstakes.

Slow playing too much (and conversely not value betting) is one of the biggest reasons why many people lose at the micro stakes. You need to stop doing this if you want to win!


2. You Should Slow-Play Versus Loose and Aggressive Players


Alright, the next situation to slow play cuts to the very heart of my entire philosophy surrounding how to play winning poker.

And that is to play the player, not the cards.

One situation where it absolutely makes sense to slow play with a wide range of hands (and not just monsters like flushes, full houses and quads), is when you are playing against a loose and aggressive player (aka - LAG).

A LAG is a common poker player type that you are going to encounter more and more as you move up the stakes.

In fact, one of my most popular articles of all time on my website makes the case that this is indeed *the best* play style to achieve maximum success in poker.

Here is the link to my article on that in case you are curious:

Transitioning from TAG to LAG: How to Win More by Playing Loose and Aggressive.

And I still believe that is true and I mostly play a LAG play style myself these days.

Basically a loose and aggressive player is the guy (or girl) who is raising or re-raising a ton of hands before the flop and then betting and bluffing a lot after the flop as well.

They are a very difficult player type to play against because you never quite know if this is the time when they have pocket AA or some trash like T8 offsuit.

A strong positive impact of this play style is that it also easily puts other people on tilt. This is in fact one of the biggest reasons why I favour this play style.

It allows me to put people on tilt all the time and from there getting all their chips is like taking candy from a baby, because they aren't thinking straight anymore.

This is something that I discuss at length in The Micro Stakes Playbook for example.

Anyways, one of the absolute best ways to counter-act the LAG play style is to slow-play when you have a big hand.

This allows you to exploit the LAG player type to the maximum by exposing their proclivity to bluff. You basically allow them to "hang themselves."

I will often slow play with a wide variety of hands (not just monsters) versus a LAG including top pair or even middle pair especially when I am out of position (OOP).


For Example:

You raise preflop with AJ from early position in a NL5 6max cash game online.

A LAG calls you on the button.


The flop comes:

AT4

What should you do?

You should check/call.


And this is because I know that it will often be more profitable for me to check and let them bluff, rather than to bet out myself and just make them fold their (probable) nothing hand.

Please Note: Do NOT use this strategy versus the vast majority of players at the micro stakes. This strategy is specifically designed to beat the LAG (loose and aggressive) player type.


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slow playing in poker
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3. Slow Play Versus a Fish on Tilt


So as I just mentioned, one of the key positive impacts of my LAG play style is putting people on tilt.

I have even written entire articles before about how to put someone on tilt at the poker tables.

Why literally NOBODY else talks about this, still blows my mind. But for me at least, making a plan to put other people on tilt is a big part of my overall poker strategy.

And there is no player type who is easier to tilt than the recreational players (AKA the fish).

In fact, I have discussed many times before how important it is to constantly isolate and pound on these players especially in position. And it is for this very reason.

Because once you get the fish on tilt and spazzing out it becomes almost effortless to get all their chips again and again.

And one of the best ways to do this is to slow play a strong hand versus them if you are pretty sure that they are foaming at the mouth with anger.

Slow play versus poker fish

Once I know that I have successfully got the fish enraged at me by continually raising his limps and betting the flop 10 hands in a row, I know that they won't be putting up with a "bully" like me anymore.

So this is a spot where when I finally nail the flop with a big hand like:

  • Top pair
  • Two pair
  • Trips 

I will actually just slow play it and let them bluff off their chips to me.

Now it is important when using this slow-play strategy that you know that the fish is capable of being aggressive. Some simply aren't, at all, even when on tilt.

One of the easiest ways to see this is by checking the aggression factor stat on your poker HUD for example. This will often tell you if they are capable of actually betting at the pot themselves.

But most fish will get aggressive if you piss them off enough. After all, they play poker with their ego involved. So "getting back at you" is a big deal to them.

The bottom line is that if you are in a hand with a fish on tilt, it can often be a good idea to slowplay a strong hand and let them bluff off their chips to you.


4. Slow-Play When There is a Loose Aggressive or a Tight Aggressive Player Left to Act in the Blinds


Alright, so another common spot to slow play these days is before the flop when there is a loose and aggressive (LAG) or a tight and aggressive (TAG) player left to act in the blinds.

This especially applies once you start moving up the stakes to NL25+ because these are the limits when you start to encounter some smarter players who think about the game on a bit deeper level.

Basically, if you just call a raise before the flop in late position, especially with a big hand, an aggressive player like a TAG or LAG will often see this is a golden opportunity to toss in a light 3Bet (AKA a Squeeze Play).

And don't get me wrong, I actually highly recommend the Squeeze play in poker. I do it all the time at the micro stakes in particular and it is wildly profitable.

In fact, I think most poker players should do it more often as I discuss in this video:


But squeezing too much is a clear leak of many aggressive players at the lower limits in particular, specifically both the TAG and LAG player types.

They just can't help themselves!

So one of the absolute best ways to exploit them right back is by just flat calling with a big hand preflop and letting them squeeze from the blinds.

Then when the action comes back to you, you can 4-bet them right back and trap the maximum amount of money in the pot with a hand that is very likely to be well ahead mathematically.


For Example:

NL10 6max cash game online.

A Fish raises preflop from middle position and you have QQ on the button.

There is a LAG player with a 14% preflop 3-bet % left to act in the big blind.

What should you do?


You should just flat call preflop and allow the aggressive LAG player to make a Squeeze Play from the big blind with a weak hand.

Then when the action comes back to you, you can re-raise with the 3rd best hand in poker (pocket queens), and trap the absolute maximum amount of money in the pot.


5. Slowplay When The Super-Nit 3Bets Preflop and You Have Pocket Aces or Pocket Kings


The final situation where I will routinely slow-play these days is when a "Super-Nit" as I call them, 3-bets me preflop, at the micro stakes.

These are the guys that who play an absurdly small percentage of hands, play 10+ tables at once, and basically just sit around all day waiting for the nuts.

You've seen them before. And when these guys re-raise you, they almost always have a monster. They aren't messing around.

So if I happen to have the nuts myself with pocket AA (or KK), usually I will just call their re-raise. Because if I re-raise them right back, then I give them an opportunity to make an excellent fold with their:
  • QQ
  • JJ
  • TT
  • AK
I don't want them to fold these hands when I have AA or KK because I have them absolutely crushed. So I would rather just slow play my hand preflop and see a flop against them.

After that I can get all the money in the middle in most cases with by far the best odds to win.

If you have any doubts in a situation like this you can also refer to the Fold to 4Bet % stat on your PokerTracker HUD if you have a big enough sample size on them.

But in most cases, the default play versus a massive Nit who re-raises you preflop at the micro stakes when you have pocket AA or pocket KK should be to just call and slow play.


When to Slow Play in Poker: Final Thoughts


Slow playing is a big part of a winning poker strategy but you need to know when to use it effectively.

For example, many famous poker players like Daniel Negreanu are well known for maximizing their success with this strategy, as he actually discusses at length in his MasterClass poker course.

There are 5 key situations that you want to look out for when deciding whether or not to slow play a big hand.

The first one is extremely obvious. You should basically always slow-play when you flop quads or better.

Furthermore, you also want to routinely slow play strong hands versus loose and aggressive players because they like to bluff too much.

You should also be slow-playing a big hand versus a fish on tilt and when there is a highly aggressive player left to act preflop in the blinds.

Lastly, you should highly consider slowplaying preflop when you have an extremely strong hand like pocket aces or pocket kings, and a ridiculously tight player has already re-raised you.

If you want to know the complete poker strategy that I use to crush the micro stakes as a 10+ year poker pro, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

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Let me know in the comments below when you slow play in poker. Do you use any of the slowplaying strategies listed above?

when to slow play in poker

3 comments:

  1. Hello Nathan, thank you for this article. I think it will help to develop my game. My Question About Point 5 is, do you look on other stats? Such as c-bet (which should be relatively high, when these Players only play their best starting Hands)

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    Replies
    1. Hey PScheer,

      Glad this article helped you!

      I only look at postflop stats like CBet once we get to the flop. Before the flop, I am just going to be looking at their preflop stats.

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  2. I also slowplay quite often on the flop in a 4-bet pots. The reason is, the stack to pot ratio is so low, its easy to the money in with a bet on the turn and river. Its also unlikely, my opponent flopped a draw, since his range should usually mostly be pocket pair and maybe a hand like AK/AQ. So there is no real need to get the money in early, and checking the flop after 4-betting pre often induce people to completely spazz out. And once they put in a bet, the typically feel committed to the pot, and I often get their entire stack with my top set or my pocket aces.

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