Slow-playing Big Hands in Poker is a Common Problem Among Beginners.

Aug 23 2012 |

slow playing big hands

Slow-playing big hands is a common problem among beginner pokers players. Far too often, I see players check down every street only to show a monster on the river and get no value from this big hand. Making a strong hand such as a set or flush doesn't come that often, so you need to be getting as much as possible when you do get them.

There will be times to slow-play a hand, but more often than not it's usually correct to go ahead and bet it. It is likely that a player will fold when you bet string hands and this could be the reasoning for beginners to do this. They are too results oriented and fail to realize the bigger picture. They only remember the time they flopped a straight and everyone folded, so this time they're going to slow-play it and hope someone else bets out.

This tactic has many negative repercussions. If you are only betting when you have medium hands, this will become obvious to other players. This is especially true if you are the pre-flop raiser and you continuation bet on most flops. If you suddenly check it will become suspicious and easy to pick up on. You will be expected to bet, so always betting regardless of the strength of your hand helps to throw your opponents off.

Let's look at an example to drive home the point and see how betting string hands works.

We are dealt AK on the button and a player limps before us. We isolate and make a 4X raise. We get 2 calls from the small and big blind that are on half stack sizes. The flop comes down Q 2 K rainbow. We now have top pair with the best kicker. It's checked to us and we have to bet. For one, there are many hands that can call us here. Weaker kings, second pair and also straight draws. 

The turn brings another king and we are left with only the big blind in the pot. They check to us and we are left with a decision. Here's where most players will check, thinking they are trapping. If we break it down, we can easily see why betting is best. The player called us on the flop, so they think their hand may be good or have some type of draw. The King really only changes our hand and if they called with a Queen or straight draw on the flop, they will likely feel their hand is still good and call another bet on the turn. The second king makes it less likely that we have one, further increasing the likelihood our opponents will call.

A half sized pot bet would be the perfect amount to get a call from all hands we beat. If we bet too large it is possible they will fold, so keeping it on the smaller side keeps them in. Too small and it looks fishy.

The river brings a blank and we are checked to again. Our opponent now only has half a pot bet left in their stack and will likely call any hands unless they have a missed straight draw. We have an easy choice to bet the rest of our opponent’s stack on the river and look to get a call. We do bet their stack, and they do in fact call showing us Q9 for second pair.

Slow playing big hands in poker

You can view the full hand history here and see exactly how it played out.

No Limit Holdem ($0.10/$0.25) 2012/08/12 02:53:00 UTC 
Seats: 6 
Seat 2/ Hero: ($18.18) 
Seat 3/ SB:  ($5.17) 
Seat 4/BB: ($12.50) 
Seat 6/ Villain: ($11.90) 
Button is seat 2 : posts small blind $0.10 : posts big blind $0.25 

HOLE CARDS 
HERO: AK spades
Seat 2/ Hero: dealt 
Seat 6/ Villain: calls $0.25 
Hero: raises $1 
Seat 3/ SB: calls $0.90 
Seat 4/ BB: folds 
Villain: calls $0.75 

FLOP:

Qh – 2s – Kc


SB: checks 
Villain: checks 
Hero: bets $1.50 
SB: folds 
Villain: calls $1.50 

TURN:

Qh – 2s – Kc – Kh


Villain: checks 
Hero: bets $3 
Villain: calls $3 

RIVER:

Qh – 2s – Kc – Kh – 4s


Villain: checks 
Hero: bets $7.50 
Villain: raises all-in $6.40 
Hero: pulls back uncalled bet $1.10 

SUMMARY: 

Pot: $23.55 | Rake: $1.25 | BBJ: $0.25 | 

Board:

Qh – 2s – Kc – Kh – 4s

Seat 2: Hero won $23.55 with Trip K’s
Seat 3: SB lost -$1 
Seat 4: BB lost -$0.25 
Seat 6: Villain lost -$11.90 and shows Qh – 9s (two pair, kings & queens) 
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