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Slow playing can be a powerful strategy in playing hold ’em, but it can also be very dangerous if not properly used. This is one of the most overused skills I see among new players, and one that causes a lot of pain because they don’t understand when and how to use this. First off: slow playing is a trick you should very rarely use. In fact, unless you are having an unusual day really catching cards, you should use this tactic less than bluffing.

There are several reasons for this. First off, even when you flop a monster hand, how often is it the nuts? I don’t mean the nuts for everything showing, but I mean truly unbeatable no matter what comes up next? The answer is almost never. Take it from someone who flopped four of a kind once and got beat on a true runner runner situation, that one hurts. Now, many times the chances of getting your flopped hand beat are small, but you need to be able to analyze the board and the players you’re going against to decide when to slow play and when to bet.

Some players will say, ‘Hey, I make huge money slow playing, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ This might be true from time to time, I’ve made large money slow playing, but they will lose a lot slow playing and then start cussing about bad luck when a couple of strong bets early would have won you the pot. There is a give and take, but knowing when to slow play is what will help you reduce the disasters while increasing what you take down in winning hands.

There are a few things you need to consider while slow playing:

  • Am I playing with chasers who will pay to chase? If you have two pair, but you have a straight and flush chase on the board, why would you ever give them free cards? If they’re willing to pay to chase, make them pay to chase, because they’re no going to pay you when they miss completely.
  • Am I being called by solid opponents? If the flop is something like A-K-7 rainbow, and you have a pair of sevens, and two conservative players are betting moderately, then this is another tie to raise, because they probably have a big hand and are willing to call.
  • Are these guys paranoid? So many players have seen the slow play that a check is often more suspicious then a raise.

Slow playing can be situational. If you know you have the nuts, and can not be beat, then you also need to know if your opponent is willing to take a serious stab at the pot even if they miss, because that pays off a slow play, while conservative players will not. The other problem with slow playing is that if you usually play aggressively, you are giving tells to everyone else that something is going on, especially if you are a conservative player.

This isn’t to say that slow playing isn’t profitable, because it can be huge, but you need to use this strategy with caution to make sure you don’t get burned back.