This strategy falls under the trapping style of poker moves. The aim of slow playing is disguise the strength of your hand by playing it relatively weak so that your opponent over-bets or over-calls with a weaker hand. This strategy adds a layer of deception to your poker and can lead to some big payoffs; but there are serious dangers to this type of play and you need to be aware to when it is appropriate and when to stop.

As an example of a slow playing, we have a shorted handed 3 player NL Holdem situation, where you are holding AA in the BB. The button makes a standard 3x BB raise and the SB folds. The typical play would be to re-raise back because you are holding a premium hand. The problem with this strategy is that you have given away the information that you are holding a premium hand. If the button calls, you will only get more action on the flop, turn and river, if he has you beat. So the pre-flop re-raise reduces your potential profits later in the hand. On the other hand, by just calling, there are a huge range of hands you could potentially be holding. Hence the strength of your hand is disguised. You could be in for a big payoff if the other player is a light stacker and makes top pair and believes it to be the best hand. Slow playing is not just a pre-flop move but can run on the flop, turn and river; depending on how aggressive and strong you think your opponent is. 

As a guideline rule, slow plays tend to work better against certain types of players and can be very dangerous against other types, so you need to consider the player’s tendencies. Ideally, the slow play works against wild maniacs who are constantly raising and betting. By slow playing big hands, you can call all the way until the river, where you can snap them. Against these hyper aggressive types, they will always attack weakness and by showing them weakness by just calling they will continue to bet and dig their own grave. On the hand, there are the weak fish, who will not bet unless they have a made hand. It becomes a dangerous situation when there are draws on the board. Because a slow player might check into the weak fish only to have them check as well. Essentially this is just giving free cards away.

This highlights the dangers of slow playing, most players are somewhere in between the two extremes above and so in slow playing you need consider the balance between keeping the strength of your hand disguised and giving your opponents a chance to outdraw you. This brings the final important point, if you are willing to slow play you must be willing to fold once you are beat. Slow playing necessarily increases the chances of being outdrawn. You must be able to accept that fact and fold your hand when lady luck smiles upon the fool. 

The other consideration you should make is how many players are left on the table. Generally speaking, slow play tends to be a more successful strategy when it becomes quite short handed. This is because short handed play, necessarily encourages players to loosen their range of starting hands and also be more aggressive. With a premium that dominates, you want to maximize value by deceiving your opponents and not giving away the strength of your hand. Perhaps the best situation for slow play is when you are short handed in a MTT, where the blinds are very big and players are forced to bluff more and try to win every pot. 

Slow playing is a useful part of every poker player’s arsenal. If you are just starting out with this move, stick to the following rules:

  • Only slow play when there is an aggressive player in the hand
  • Don’t slow play against passive fish types.
  • Only slow play when there are one or two other players in the hand. The more players, the more likely you will be outdrawn on the flop.
  • Stop slow playing when the board is dangerous. That is, if there are flushes or straight draws
  • Fold when you think you have been outdrawn.
  • Do not slow play if you are normally an aggressive player. Alarm bells will go off in your opponent’s minds if suddenly you are playing passive. They are likely to play cautious anyway, defeating the purpose of the slow play.