Slow & Fast Playing In Poker

The following poker article aims to look at situations where I believe it is optimal to either fast play or slow play the flop and the various reasons for doing such. We will look at which boards are best to fast play, which are best to slow play, how position effects this and how your opponents will interpret your play.

First of all, I would like to say, one of the biggest mistakes new players make when they first start playing poker is that they will slow play far too many hands. When we have a strong hand like a set, a straight or a flush we want to win a big pot. If we slow play, we take away our ability to win a massive pot and stack our opponents. When we have a big hand, we want to get as much money into the pot. Remember, big hand, big pot!

Dry boards are better to slow play. Wet boards are better to fast play.

The reason why dry boards are better to slow play is because our opponent is very unlikely to have a strong hand. For example, our opponent raises pre-flop and we call with 55 and flop a set on T52. In this spot if our opponent bets and we raise our opponent will only be able to continue with Tx and over pairs. However, if we cold-call and say a queen rolls off bringing a flush draw, if they bet into us on the turn and we raise, our range can appear a lot wider. Not only does it look like we can have more hands, our opponents are likely to have more hands that can play back. The queen brings a whole new array of top pair hands, straight draws, flush draws and combo draws which we can both have, and consequently we are likely to get more action.

This leads us to talking about how wet boards are good to fast play. The reason behind this is because we can represent a lot wider range of hands and our opponent is more likely to hold a strong hand himself that he will continue with in some shape or form. For example, imagine we hold QJ on 89T with a flush draw. In this spot if our opponent bets, we want to never slow play here ever. Firstly, if we raise, we get the opportunity to get it all in, beating otherwise very strong hands such as 88, 99, TT and 67. We also never get folds from hands that hit the board like 89, 9T, flush draws, straight draws, pairs and pairs plus straight draws like TJ. In this spot holding the nuts, we should be rubbing our hands with joy because it's such a profitable situation to raise.

Whenever we have a strong hand, and can represent lots of semi-bluffing hands it is a very good spot to fast play. Not only are we able to represent all of the hands listed above, but we get action from all of these hands as well. The final reason we want to raise is because our opponent will often have equity against us, we want to put in as much money as possible whilst we have good equity.

For example, we hold TT on 89T with a flush draw, raising not only gets value for our most likely best hand, we get to charge draws, protect our equity, take down the dead money and perhaps induce a raise or shove from a worse hand or draw. These are all fantastic things! Don't slow play in these spots! If you flop a set on a wet board and take a tough beat by say a flopped straight, don't sweat it, it's just a cooler, you also had good equity and sometimes make a full house to crack the nuts.

Slow play more with position, fast play more out of position.

Position gives us leverage to increase the size of the pot. That is why, when out of position, you should rarely slow play unless you have a good reason to do so. Also, when out of position your opponent is less likely to fold less to your flop check-raise. For example, let's say you have 55 and you call a pre-flop raise from the big blind. The flop comes down T52 like before but this time you are out of position. Instead of slow playing, I would advocate check-raising this dry board. The main reason for this is because with position, your opponent is likely to play back and call your check-raise with hands such as Tx, 5x, all pocket pairs and perhaps sometimes will even float you with ace high. When out of position, your opponent will almost always fold all hands worse than Tx. Position will allow your opponent to delude himself and call you down lighter!

The other reason why it's not best to slow-play out of position is because you lose the option to put in more bets. For example, if you check call the flop and check it to your opponent, you give them the opportunity to check behind and control the size of the pot. You may end up getting to the river with only the flop continuation bet going in, that is not a good thing when you hold a set! When you have position, you can make sure at least one bet goes in on every street.

The only valid reason to slow play when out of position is if you are playing a very aggressive player who is likely to barrel a wide range of turns. Against these aggressive players, it may be more profitable to trap them by check calling both the flop and turn and going for a river check-raise. Aggressive players may convince themselves that you called two streets with a marginal strength hand and are now turning it into a bluff to combat there extreme aggression. Be warned, slow playing in these spots is often a mistake, so make sure you have a good reason for doing it.

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