When Slow Playing In Poker Is A Good Idea and When It’s Not

Slow playing is a deceptive move in poker that sacrifices protection for the opportunity to grow the pot. Find out more right here.

Slow playing is a powerful, deceptive play poker players utilize. Some people call slow playing “sandbagging” or “trapping,” but the principles are the same regardless of what you call the move. It is a move every poker player needs in their arsenal, yet one you should not deploy too often. Let us find out more.

Luring your opponents into a false sense of security is the main objective of slow playing. An opponent may fold to a bet or raise, but they may stay in the hand if you check behind or call. Slow playing sacrifices the protection offered by betting for the chance of building a larger pot.

There are a handful of conditions for profitable slow plays:

  • Your hand needs to be very strong
  • You must believe any aggression will drive out your opponents
  • The pot should not be very large at this point
  • Any free or cheap card given should not have the chance to improve your opponent to the best hand

An Example of Slow Playing

Slow playing is frightfully simple to do; simply do not show any aggression. For example, we raise preflop with As-Ad and the big blind calls. The flop falls Ac-9s-3d and the big blind checks. This is an ideal situation for slow playing. We flopped top set, and there are no flush or straight draws out there.

Furthermore, what do we think our opponent has that he calls with? Pocket threes and pocket nines, which are now sets, will definitely call a bet, but it is improbable he holds either of these holdings. Betting here, even 1/3 of the pot, results in the hand ending here and now.

Checking behind and slow playing our top set is a good move here for two reasons. First, it gives our opponent a chance to improve to a better yet still second-best hand. Second, it opens the door for our opponent to bluff into us, thinking we missed the board.

When To Slow Play and Who Against

Dry, non-coordinated boards are perfect for slow playing. Flopping a set with 7c-7h on a Kc-7d-2s board, scream “SLOW PLAY YOUR HAND” at the top of its voice! There are no immediate flush or straight draws. In addition, there are not many cards that can appear on the turn that put your set of sevens at risk. Allowing your opponent a free or cheap card here has very little chance of coming back to bite you on the butt.

Loose, aggressive players are ideal for sandbagging and trapping with solid hands. Good loose-aggressive players fire bets at pots until they have a reason not to; you show some aggression. Allow your LAG opponent to build the pot for you by slow playing your strong hands.

When Not To Slow Play

The opposite of the above is when slow playing is a bad idea. Wet, coordinated boards should not be slow-played on; they are too dangerous. Let us flop a set of sevens with 7c-7h again, but this time the board reads As-Qs-7d or Kc-8c-7d. We are happy with our set, but many turn cards put us in a tricky spot. Playing such wet boards cautiously aggressive is best.

Tight, passive players, the opposite of our loose-aggressive friends, are not the best opponents for slow playing. These players play strong starting hands, so they are likely to call your bets. Calling stations, those who call bets regardless should be bet into so they can do what they do best, call!

Lastly, try not to slow play in pots contested by multiple opponents. Several players in a hand mean it is more likely at least one of them has a piece of the board. This may be with top pair, a draw, or even two pair or a set. Get firing those bets and build the pot the traditional way.

Brad Johnson

You name the game, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Brad has either played it or placed a wager on it! Brad calls himself a natural gambler, and someone who gains as much enjoyment from writing about the crazy game of poker as he does playing it.


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