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We've discussed this topic in past lessons, so now let's look into slow playing in a little more detail.

What is slow playing exactly?  To understand it best, let's look at its opposite - fast playing.  This involves using maximum aggressiveness during a given round whenever we have the advantage.  We bet, we bet big, we raise, we raise big.

Let's again look at this in terms of limit poker for now, and we'll deal with the more complicated situations of no-limit later on.  The principles are the same, except for the factor of determining the bet and raise amounts.  Our decisions become much simpler in limit, where we are limited to betting, raising, checking, or calling.  In terms of fast playing in limit, we're either going to be betting or raising.

Now, why would we not want to bet or raise whenever we have the advantage?  We want to have the maximum amount of money in the pot whenever we have the advantage, right?  Yes, but fast playing focuses on a particular round of betting only.  We need to look at the big picture - the whole hand - to determine the best way to proceed to get the most out of the hand.  And this may or may not involve fast playing a particular round of betting. 

So we will choose to slow play whenever it is our advantage to do so.  This will ensure we make the most amount of money when we win hands.  Does this mean we will always slow play, or even slow play a lot?  No, because betting the hand out is often the best way to build the pot.

As mentioned before, many players shy away from slow playing, and actually hold it in contempt.  In some cases it's due to a misunderstanding of the situation, and in others it may be because they just don't like losing hands, as discussed previously.  In any case, we can't set aside a weapon like this when it's in our interest to use it.

So what situations would it be beneficial to consider slow playing in limit poker?  Well first of all, of course, we need a good hand.  In fact, we're going to need a stronger hand generally than one we would fast play normally.  Even some hands we would consider raising with might not be strong enough to slow play.  The reason is that we are making it cheaper for our opponents to see the next card, and our hand needs to be strong enough so we aren't going to worry about this as much.  For instance, we may have top pair top kicker against several opponents, and we're a bit concerned about one of them drawing on us.  So we would want to bet it to make them pay for the draws.

If we have a stronger hand though, say 2 pair or better, and the board doesn't look too threatening, it's often better to look to the turn or river to make our move.  The reasons are twofold.  We don't mind players being in the hand with us of course, and the more they put in, the more pot committed they are.  Second, when we do raise, we get paid double on the more expensive streets when we get a call.

So why can't we do this every time we have a good hand?  Again, we don't want to give opponents who have a decent chance to draw out on us a free card.  Now, there's usually going to be opponents drawing in a hand, and if we've got the best hand now, as a rule we want them to pay for the privilege of drawing another card.  Not only does this make us more money when we win, but those players who call without the proper odds to do so are going to be put at a disadvantage by calling, which is something we want, because if our opponents are at a disadvantage this way, it places us at more of an advantage relative to them.

But if we have a very good hand, the kind we'd consider slow playing, why would we want to risk giving our opponents free cards in this case?  Well first of all, our very good hand eliminates some of their outs.  For instance, if we have top two pair, we're not worried about opponents hitting two pair.  Or if we have top trips, we're not worried about our opponents hitting either two pair or trips.  And so on. 

Of course, as stated, this depends on the kind of board that's out there.  If there's a real risk of someone drawing to a better hand, we often will want to make them pay.  This depends on the texture of the board, how many opponents are in the hand at that point, and their tendency to draw generally.  What it comes down to though is if you're afraid of the board, it's best to bet it out.  Keep in mind though that the more opponents in the hand, the more you have to worry about these things.  Against a single opponent, 2 to a flush isn't really going to worry us much at all, but if there's 6 opponents in the hand, it will.

When we do choose to slow play though, this has the added benefit of adding more deception to our game.  When we play passively on the flop, this may or may not mean we have a very strong hand, since when we do, we often don't represent its strength on this street.  And the same will hold true for the turn, if you vary your aggression between the turn and the river. 

And, any time we get aggressive on a different street than our hand was made, this makes our hand harder to read, because opponents will not have the benefit of knowing the last card that fell made our hand, and then try to figure out what we may have hit.  And by slow playing, we'll have them guessing in general.  Even the looser games have opponents who will look at what card just hit to guess our hand when we show strength, and by slow playing, they will learn that our hands aren't going to be determined so easily, and we'll have them guessing pretty much the whole time.  This becomes even more important as you go up the levels and play against better competition.

So look for big hands to delay your aggression with, when you're not particularly worried about people having a good chance to draw out on you.  Mix up delaying your aggression between the turn and the river, and you'll not only keep them guessing, you'll make more money directly from the hand as well.
Poker Tips 6
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Slow Playing
Poker Lesson 28