Poker Basics

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In most cases, for a slow play to be correct, all of the following must be true.

You must have a very strong hand.
The free card or cheap card you are allowing other players to get must have good possibilities of making them a second-best hand.
That same free card must have little chance of making someone a better hand than yours or even giving that person a draw to a better hand than yours on the next round with sufficient odds to justify a call.
You must be sure you will drive other players out by showing aggression, but you have a good chance of winning a big pot if you don't.
The pot must not yet be very large.

Point 1, having a strong hand, needs to be true for points 2 and 3 to be true. Suppose in seven-card stud you have made a full house in five cards, and it looks as if your opponents are on flush draws and straight draws. When you slow play and give them a free card, you would like all of them to make their hands so that you will get more action when you bet. At the same time, you are not worried that a free card will give them better hands than yours or draws to better hands with proper odds to chase. (However, you should not slowplay against these come hands if you think they would call when you bet.) In contrast, with three-of-a-kind in this situation, you should probably bet right out since there is a good chance a free card will allow one or more of your opponents to draw out on you when you don't make a full house.

Points 4 and 5 are also related. Opponents are much less likely to call a bet when the pot is small than when it is fairly large. As the pot gets larger, it becomes less and less likely that a slow play is the correct play. The reason is that your opponents are getting larger and larger pot odds, and it is less and less likely that you could actually want them to get these odds. Therefore, when the pot becomes large, you are less inclined to slow play because the odds you are giving opponents are so great that they can probably take them and not make much of a mistake, if any mistake at all. Furthermore, since opponents are unlikely to fold when the pot is large, it is not necessary to slow play to keep them from folding.

Nor should you slow play when you are showing obvious strength on board. Most players will know what you are doing, and they will not pay you off when you bet later. Players who don't know what you are doing, despite the strength of your board, will call an early bet anyway if they have any kind of hand.

When you are slow playing, you are giving your opponents free cards or cheap cards. The Fundamental Theorem of Online Poker Games suggests such a play is incorrect unless your expectation is to show on a later round a larger profit than you would expect if you bet early. In other words, your deception has to have more implied value than what you would gain by betting immediately. At the same time, it is important that when your opponent calls on a later round, after getting a free or a. cheap card, he is still not getting proper odds. Otherwise, it cannot be right to give him that free or cheap card, for you have given him the opportunity to develop a hand he is justified in playing even if it is not yet the best hand. Before slow playing, then, you should make sure there is little chance you will be outdrawn. In seven stud and hold 'em games, you must be especially careful that you are not up against a possible straight draw or a flush draw unless, as we noted earlier, you have a straight or a flush beat already.

Ironically, you would tend to slow play with excellent hands but not with the pure nuts. With the pure nuts you should bet and raise immediately in case someone else has a strong hand too. Don't make the mistake made by a friend of mine who flopped a straight flush in hold 'em. He kept checking it on a slow play only to find someone else was doing the same with an ace-high flush.

To elucidate this point further, let's take two situations from draw lowball. If the player to your right raises the blind, you should just call in middle position with a pat. You have a strong hand and hope other players will call the original raiser and stay around for the draw. At the same time, there is the slim possibility that the original raiser has you beat. However, with a pat bicycle - A,2,3,4,5 - you'd like to win some money from the first raiser. So you should reraise in the hope he has a monster and is happy to reraise you. The other players will probably fold, but you might beat the original raiser out of many bets before he discovers you have the pure nuts.

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