Most players slow play monster hands in poker. It seems that players think that there is something inherently sharp about trying to be sneaky, setting a trap or surprise for one’s opponents. There are definitely times when not to slow play in poker.
Now, the first player who ever slow played a full house or quads was a true innovator. He probably did manage to genuinely surprise his opponents and leave them baffled and poor. But, again, in today’s game, most players slow play monster hands. This automatically means that in most cases you will be better off by betting your big hands.
The basic logic behind slow playing is that you are scared that everyone will fold. In addition, there is something satisfying in making a check-raise, almost as if saying, “I got you.” However, this play has become so common that it is widely expected. Even if someone makes a small bet to try to steal the pot, your raise will be last action you see.
On the other hand, if you make a bet, the average opponent won’t put you on a monster hand, and thus will make a call that can eventually get her into bigger trouble (a pair that later improves to two pair and eventually loses to your trips, for instance).
Let’s consider an example. You are holding A-7 of spades and you hit a flush right on the flop. You are up against two opponents and are first to act. Most players in this situation will just knock on the table for a check. However, what are they really hoping will happen here? Obviously, they can see the three spades on the table and this is a huge red flag for them. None of them will come over the top with any hand, so it is almost impossible to trap them here. They will assume that if someone hit the flush, she will check, so they will be cautious.
However, if you make a bet, you are more likely to confuse them. They might think you are stealing the pot, and try to bluff you by representing a straight, or maybe try to chase another spade if they already have one. In any event, in this situation, you are more likely to get a call than a bet, so you are more likely to make money by betting than by checking and hoping to get a chance to raise.
Another problem with slow playing is that you are often setting yourself up for disaster. Checking gives your opponents a chance to see free cards, something they will relish if they are chasing a monster of their own. There is hardly anything more crippling for your bankroll then a big hand when someone else hits a bigger hand. You should be especially careful for these situations. For instance, if you hit a set on the flop and there is a flush draw, you should not only bet, you should do it very aggressively.
Of course, this is not to say that slow playing should never be done. In a case where you know have an incredibly rare big hand and you are absolutely sure nobody has anything, it might be smart to let your opponents see another card in hopes they catch something.
To illustrate this, let’s say you are holding pocket 7s and the flop hits 7, 7, 5. Obviously you don’t expect that anybody else has caught anything or that someone can draw out on you. Your only chance of cashing your quads here is if your opponents improve on the flop or river. You should give them the chance to do so. This is a situation where slow playing is smart. However, in general this strategy has been so widely used that it is more profitable and “sneaky” to just bet your big hands.