The Perils of Slow Playing

Waiting until a later street to raise a nut hand is not always the best lineA lot of players, especially at the lower le...

Posted Feb 23, 2015


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

Waiting until a later street to raise a nut hand is not always the best line

A lot of players, especially at the lower levels, get overly excited when they flop a big hand and as a reflex always want to slowplay. Not only is slowplaying generally a bad idea because of lost value but also more importantly slowplaying can backfire if our opponent does not continue the betting lead, which is most of the reason why we would just call on the flop with a big hand. Also when we wait until the turn or the river to raise our hand looks very strong and the action actually may let our opponents off the hook.

Let us take a look at an example from one of the podcasts on, “Crush Live Call-ins” which streams live on every 4:45PM PT on Sundays. In this hand a caller named Frank said that he was UTG1 in a $1-2 game and flat called a raise of $7 with 55 from the UTG player. Two players to Frank’s right also called. The flop came out 6 2 5 giving Frank middle set. The preflop raiser led out into the field for $22 and Frank just called stating that he was not really scared of anything and that he wanted to allow the players behind to tag along. He did note that he thought the preflop raiser had something, however, as he never would have bet out so much on this type of board against three other players. Although, Frank went on to say, that the preflop raiser’s preflop sizing was sort of small and indicated to him that it would not be AA or KK, so most likely he would have a hand like 77-JJ given the total action.

I think that Frank’s analysis is spot on if he has seen the UTG player raise larger with big hands. I seriously doubt that this guy would make a continuation bet with AQ in this spot so he does in fact most likely have something and it is pretty logical to conclude that it is an overpair. Since playing No Limit holdem is all about playing off of your opponents’ range, not your own, we should in fact be more concerned about what he has, not the fact that we have middle set. It is also very difficult to just call and “tag” along our opponents behind us with bad hands because the mere flat of that sized continuation bet is in fact VERY strong. We block a lot of the combinations of pair plus straight draws so the only real hands they could have behind us that might call are 64, A4, A3, etc. But more important here is the fact that we think the preflop raiser is strong. You see it would be an absolute disaster, if the preflop raiser is willing to call a raise and commit himself to the pot now, to just call and have something happen where we do not get all of his money by the end of the hand.

Frank’s plan was to wait for the turn, then raise there. There are a couple of problems that I have with this logic. Number one is the fact that if we do put the preflop aggressor on 77-JJ there are many cards where he actually might shut it down and not bet again. Even though an ace, king or queen coming on the turn does not really change the nature of the hand I’ve seen tons of guys check when overcards come to their overpairs. So we have those overcards that might induce a check, both of the cards that bring in one liners (4 and 3) quite possibly a 6, which would pair the top card on board and maybe a 9 if the preflop raiser is scared of us having a straight draw with 78. That’s a full 26 cards that can kill our action and cause the preflop raiser to not continue with the betting lead. So this board is not really all that “safe” to flat.

The other flaw in Frank’s logic is the fact that raising on the turn actually looks much more strong than raising on the flop. At the lower levels of no limit later street raises almost always are indicative of better than one pair hands. If we raise small on the flop there is almost no chance that this player would ever fold an overpair and with these stack sizes we can easily get all of the money in by the end of the hand. I think it would have been ideal to raise the flop to maybe $50-$55, which is just over a min raise. After he called the pot would then be about $130 and we would have $220 left in our stack. At that point we could bet about $75 on the turn leading to a half pot sized shove on the river. If we instead just flatted the bet on the flop and our opponent checked to us on the turn, now we are looking at having a pot of $72 with $260 left in our stack. This would cause us to have to bet almost full pot on each street in order to get the money in. And again it would be an absolute disaster if our preflop raiser bet-folded say a card on the turn like a 7-J.

One of the other things that small flop raises can do is make you seem to be overplaying a weaker hand. We have all seen the situations before on the flop when a guy raises a $25 bet to $55 with 88 on a 652 flop to “protect” their hand. We can use this play to disguise the strength of our hand. In fact if I was in a spot with an overpair and got min raised on a raggedy dry board like say T72 I would never in a million years ever fold my hand because I would think that my opponent would be overplaying weaker. That is why I am such a strong advocate of the play. Inherently we are being more deceptive by actually playing our hand hard because so few people do it in the rest of the player pool.

Lastly whenever I am sure that someone is not bluffing do to the action in a particular spot I see no real reason to slowplay, especially if they are not capable of laying down hands. You can make the case, however, of allowing your opponent to “continue” bluffing you. However most of the time when a continuation bet is made by the preflop raiser on a board that typically would not hit their range AND it is in to multiple opponents that usually indicates that they are not bluffing unless they are a complete maniac with no fundamental idea on how to play the game. These types of “LAGtard” maniacs are rare at the low levels of live no limit as usually people are bad players in the way of being much too loose passive.

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