The Beginners Guide To Slowplaying In Online Poker Games
New players often get the general idea of slowplaying – disguising their strong hands by checking or calling instead of raising – however the number of times I see this strategy end up in a complete mess in online poker tournaments and cash games is amazing.
This article goes through the basics of slowplaying hands in such a way as to maximize your profit… I will try and ensure you do not find yourself in the situation of facing a horrible community card board (with all sorts of flushes and straights possible) against several opponents on the river – or holding the stone cold nuts but with such a small pot it is going to be impossible to win much money!
I start by clarifying what you are trying to achieve with slowplaying. Next, the decision of whether to slowplay or just bet out – and the key factors which influence this. Finally I will talk about some more advanced concepts, like table image and note taking, which can help you to make even more profits from inexperienced opponents.
Slowplaying In Online Poker Games – Why Slowplay?
On the face of it, playing your good hands slowly would seem to go against the central idea of winning in poker games. We all get dealt the same number of strong and weak hands over time, and so the winners are those who win a little more when ahead, and lose a little less when behind. The risk of not betting with your monster hands is that you end up with a small pot, the opposite of what you wanted to achieve.
Extremely bad players build big pots when weak and win small ones when strong. They play ‘backwards poker’ and inevitably lose their bankrolls.
The idea of slowplaying is to try and win chips that you would not have won had you played your hand ‘fast’. For example by getting an opponent to bet out or as a way of building a bigger pot. What I want to emphasize is that that you are trying to maximize your value from a certain part of the range of possible hands your opponent might hold… usually the weaker end of their range.
Think of it this way. If your opponent has a strong hand they are often willing to put chips into the pot anyway… you have no need to disguise your holding. If they have a weak hand they are less likely to want to call your bets – unless they think they can steal the pot after your show of weakness. You might only win that one extra bet if your opponent is truly weak, however those extra bets add up to big profits over the sessions.
Slowplaying Strategy – When To Play Slow And When To Play Fast
First the texture of the flop. Say you hit a set of 8’s. If the flop comes 2-8-K with 3 suits there are no drawing hands who might beat you on the turn, you are safer slowplaying on this ‘dry’ flop texture. Compare this with 8-9-10 with 2 or even 3 hearts… all sorts of hands have possibilities to beat you here. In fact there are so many draws that someone might well do the betting for you! Risking giving someone a free card is terrible here. Playing faster on draw-heavy (wet) flops will get far more money in the pot.
You should be less inclined to slowplay when there are more players still in the hand than when you have a single opponent. With more chances of someone having a piece of the flop (especially with draws around) there is a higher chance of being called.
Position after the flop is another factor in this decision. If you are first to act, then you risk giving away a ‘free card’ by checking – those times your opponents check behind you. If you act last then today’s player expect you to bet (particularly if you were the pre-flop raiser)… Your stab at the pot will depend on the flop texture and number of opponents here – though it is less likely to be interpreted as strength.
Finally, not all flopped hands are vulnerable to draws. Your set of 8’s could make a full house, for example on an 8-6-6 flop. Here you would be more inclined to play slowly, since the flop is so unlikely to have hit any of your opponents at all. Your check or call gives your opponents a chance to ‘catch up’ to a second best hand which might be willing to pay off a bet on a later street. It is hard to get paid with a big pot when this situation happens. Unless you are in a particularly wild game it can be best to set your objective to win one or two extra bets by the end of the hand.
Experience level and the general playing tendencies of your opponents is the last factor to consider. New players will go too far with weak hands and chase draws without the right odds. You can best take advantage of this by betting, not checking. You may also find inexperienced opponents slowplay any strong hand, allowing you to take free cards in position or keep the pot small when you are unsure of where you stand. Conversely, experienced and strong players will know when they need to play slow and when fast. The best players disguise their strong hands by betting a lot of weaker holdings too – a good player is less likely to be slowplaying on a drawy board against several opponents… though of course, if they know you know this, they might mix things up to one more thinking level!!
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Some Advanced Concepts – Table Image And Notes
Table image describes what your opponents are thinking of you based on your recent history. For example, you raise the last 3 hands in a row, bet the flop and turn and won mid-sized pots without going to showdown. You then hit a set on the next hand… In most games you would be crazy to consider slowplaying here – someone will be ready to take a stand. Bet out and let them come back over the top with a big bet.
At the same time if you are known as a tight and aggressive player and suddenly decline a bet on the flop when you normally would have made one, some better players will get suspicious. Some players will bet one amount when weak and another with draws or when strong. If you take the time to make notes then you will find opponents who are ingrained in these patterns of betting. Since you have a guide to the strength of their hand you can often let them build the pot for 1 more street before you take it away with a raise – the best thing is, they will have no idea how you were able to tell they were weak.
Slowplaying – Summary: Mixing Up Your Play Is Great - Just Don’t Overdo It!
For many new players, slowplaying is the 2nd ‘move’ they learn (after bluffing) and it is misused so often that I could fill 10 articles with examples.
Make sure you know why you are slowplaying, and have the right circumstances to do so. I do not want to see SNG Planet readers facing a tiny pot on the river and shoving all in to try and make up for it… This will cause all the hands who might have paid off one more small bet to fold and get you called by those hands which beat you.