Thursday, July 10, 2014

To Slow Play Or Not to Slow Play.....

…..That is the question!

I was in the midst of a bad night during a pretty bad run.  Hours earlier, I took my first punch to the gut with—what else?—the dreaded pocket Kings.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

I had them in the small blind, a couple of players limped in, including the button, a really sweet-seeming middle-aged southern lady.  I made it $12 and one other player, in addition to the southern woman, called.

The flop was Queen-3-2, two clubs.  I led out for $20 and after the first player folded, the lady raised to $40.

Hmm.  I considered that she might have limped in with pocket Queens.  Or maybe she caught a set of deuces or threes?  Was she betting the flush draw?  One thing for sure, there was no way she could have two pair.  Not with that board.

I called and checked the turn, a blank.  She bet another $40.  I called.  I still thought those damn Kings might be good.

The river was the third club, and this time she checked.  And announced, “I have two pair.”  Sure enough, she showed 3-2! 

Really?  I muttered “3-2?” in some disbelief.  She said she never wins with big cards.  Aces, Kings, Queens, they all get cracked.  She can only win with little cards.  “Plus, they were sooooted.”  Yeah, they were.  Diamonds, I think. 

I wasn’t felted, but I had to buy some more chips. Hours later, I had had to buy more chips once or twice more, though I’d never lost my entire stack. 

I didn’t see very many good hands in all that time, almost all garbage.  So I was sitting there, wondering just how big an asshole I’d been in my past life to deserve this punishment, when my pal Jack dealt me King-9 offsuit in the big blind.  No one raised, and I was happy to see a flop for free.  I assumed this flop would miss me just like the last 457 had, but no, this one hit me hard.

It was King-9-9, rainbow. Bingo!  Flopping a boat was nice, and of course I was going to slow play it.  I just hoped someone would bet and I could just call.

Someone did bet.  It was the small blind.  In a $10-$12 pot, he led out with a bet—two dollars.

Yes, two whole dollars, American.  Real money.

Shit.  I should point out that the southern lady was long gone and this lead out bet was made by a fairly young Asian guy.  He had won a huge double-up within the past half hour, but really, before or after, he hadn’t demonstrated any huge maniac tendencies.  But that was certainly the first time I’d ever seen him make a flop bet in single digits.  The really disturbing part was that, of all the players who saw the flop, he was the most aggressive.

I called and two others called.  I think one player folded.  Maybe two.

The turn was a low card, a 3 I think, but it did make a flush possible.  The small blind led out again.  For another huge $2 bet.

Are you freaking kidding me?  I just couldn’t see calling the two bucks yet again.  I had a big hand, and I wanted some value for it.  Surely I could bump it up a little and still get a caller or two.

I made it $10.  Small enough right?

Nope.  One by one, they all folded.  Even the Asian with the big stack and the two dollar bets.

Disappointed, I showed my hand and said, “Are you kidding me?”

Note, I wouldn’t ordinarily show my hand, but the promotion is that you get a ticket for a drawing for having a flush or better.  I had to show my hand to get a ticket for said drawing. This month, the prizes are between $100 and $1,000.

The Asian said, “You should have just called.  Maybe the flush comes.”

I said I needed to build the pot.  “I can’t raise it any less, can I?”

Jack said, “You should have bet $4.”  I’m not sure if he was kidding or not.

The session didn’t end too great for me, and although I had a few other tickets as well, I wasn’t picked for the cash drawing.

I probably wouldn’t have thought to isolate that hand to post about, but as it turned out, the next day I noticed that Poker Grump had a new post up, about his most recent session I eagerly read it.  The title was amusing, “Remember: it’s a skill game.”  You can find it here.
Grump talked about a roller coaster session, but one hand he described jumped right out at me.

In the big blind, with 9-4 offsuit, he flopped a boat (9-9-4).  That sounded familiar.  Even the two 9’s part.

However, in Grump’s story, he led out on the flop, and the turn, and the river.  He was called on the flop, called on the turn and then the poor sap raised him all in on the river (with Ace-9).  Grump was all too happy to call and get a nice double up.

I immediately thought of my flopped boat from the night before.  Of course, Grump had gotten lucky in that his opponent had caught a much bigger part of the flop than any of my opponents had.  But I was really curious about the fact that Grump led out on the flop. I think most players would have checked that flop in Grump’s shoes.  I would have for sure.

But Grump is a much better player than I am, so I asked him for his reasoning there.

His comment back to me was, “the short answer is that the pot was small, with no preflop raise, and I wanted it to be big. The way to change a small pot into a big one is to put money into it.”

Which of course, is why I ended up raising on the turn—to get the pot bigger.

When Grump was living in Vegas and playing every day, there was no better poker blog than his.  So he didn’t have to give me a detailed response.  He already had.  He listed links to two of his earlier posts that covered this very subject.  You can find those posts here and here.

Naturally, Grump makes a pretty compelling case for just betting those big hands, and not trying to slow play them.  He even quotes noted poker experts Mike Caro and Ed Miller to help convince you.

In the past, I’ve generally avoided slow playing most big hands.  I’d never slow play a straight—way too vulnerable.  I don’t think I’ve ever slow played a flush—certainly not anything less than the nut flush, for sure.  I used to slow play sets because I saw so many people do it (and get paid well for it).  But I stopped some time back.  Although the reason for that was mostly because I’d gotten burned a few times and lost to straights and flushes when I did it. 

Recently, I actually started slow playing sets again, on certain boards, against certain players.  I guess maybe I should cut it out.

And then there are full houses.  I would slow play those on those all too infrequent times I’d flop them.  But should I bet them too, right?

And quads?  Flopped quads?  You don’t lead out on those, do you?  I actually have touched on this subject before—how do you play monsters?  Sadly, you don’t get that much practice.  But see that post here–I definitely slow played a few hands (getting quads twice in one session).  Should I have played them more aggressively?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that getting money into the pot is the better way to go.  If everyone folds, you likely weren’t going to get any money out of them anyway.  Build the pot.

Of course, it’s poker, so there’s nothing that’s 100%.  There are going to be times when slow playing is the right the thing to do.  Knowing when those situations occur is one of the keys to becoming a better poker player.  There’s a lot to learn…..Remember: it’s a skill game.

What say you?  How do you all feel about slow playing?  Do you do it a lot?  A little?  Is it your default play when you have a big hand?  When is it right and when is it wrong? would you have played the hand where I flopped a full house with King-9?

(Edited 7/12/14 to add: Coach has done his own post in response to this one, you can find it here.)

Oh, as to the pictures below.  I just couldn’t think of anything appropriate to go along with this post, so I’m running a couple of pics of Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence showing some serious side-boob.  This has nothing to do with the post whatsoever.  Let me know if this lack of context bothers you.


  1. I have been burned waaay too many times by slow playing. When the flop smacks you hard, why not consider doing the opposite of what most people would do? If you bet you make it look like you are stealing. If the flop also hits someone else .. bammo! Or, in some instances, a player trying to be tricky will repop you to steal your "steal" attempt. If you play the hand passively, likely little money goes it the pot, as Grump apparently said. The key, I think, is betting the flop. Everyone checks the flop, then tries to get chips in on the turn or river. The worst that can happen is that everyone folds but now they see you as someone who steals, which might pay off later.

  2. Agree with lightning. Most players don't bet flopped set, so if you do, they don't put you on that.

    1. True enough, especially if you raised pre and usually c-bet.

  3. Hey Rob, I already "owe you" a post - you had written an entry before which got my wheels turning I said... There is a lot that I can say about this post also. Do me a favor if you would and comment on my blog or send me a tweet if you haven't seen anything from me by like midday Saturday and I will write a "real poker post" in my blog... ;)

    1. So you're saying you owe me TWO posts now, right? :)

  4. I think most of us are guilty of FPS. I know I do it too much. I probably would have done the same as you, and slow played the boat.

    As for when it's right, probably only if you know someone else will bet for you.

    1. Thanks Herb, yeah, you need to have a strong indication that someone is going to try to steal it.

  5. side boobies r always good,sir. BUT the under the shirt boobies r KILLER!!!!!!!!!!!!!. as far as the slow play question. just bet. build the POT( love that word). ABC poker.imo.i miss Grumps poker blog too. now it is just donald duck comics, sleep cycles,walmart shopping sprees,and microwave power watts. LOL. also know any1 in berkeley,cali. FREE POT for low income ppl like me. SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MAYB SOME1 is renting out a mother in law suite or shed. BUT i like colorado but no poker rooms close but legal weed. life is full of difficult decisions. well TAIF BIIIIIIIIIIIITCHES

    1. Umm...ok.

      Colorado has a lot of poker rooms....none near you? You gotta move then!

    2. they r all down in southern colorado,sir. LOL

  6. in other news, pam anderson got divorced AGAIN. SHOCKING. 3rd time. mayb she is going to b the liz taylor of my generation.

    1. Speaking of out of context...Pam Anderson? Doesn't she get married and divorced these days to get her name in the tabloids?

  7. i almost always bet out on flops like 99k and check KK9. people will put me on a king or better with KK9 but with 99K, they will think their K might be good, especially if i then bet less or check the turn. (they dont expect u to bet a set in the first situation, but in the 2nd, they might worry they are drawing dead).

    and if someone is on a flush draw, 3 out of 4 times they will fold the river when it misses. better to try and get a small amount from them before the river.

    1. Good points, Tony. Thanks.

    2. I was going to just say never slow play but the advice Tony just gave is solid.

    3. Thanks, Nappy. I agree.

  8. Rob,
    Poker is all about timing and hoping that others have a 2nd best hand when you have the nuts. Flop comes 994 and Poker Grump has 94 and opponent has A9. Easy Game. Flop comes K99 and you have K9 and several opponents have nothing. Frustrating game.

    The trick is to make sure the dealer gives the other players something too. An extra tip to them may help with this occasionally.

    I've heard that Jennifer Lawrence has a skin problem (acne), but I can honestly say that I didn't see anything wrong at all with her skin. The more shown the better.


    1. Thanks, Cowboy. I hadn't thot of that. I usually tip the dealers to give me good cards, now I realize I have to tip them again to give the other players good cards--but not quite as good as mine. :)

      Ms. Lawrence does have a problem with her skin....she doesn't show enough of it.

  9. Okay, I finally gave you some answers Rob... :P 'Poker For A Change' at ;)

    1. Thanks, Coach. I've edited my post to embed a link to your response in it. I will get over there before too long to comment.

  10. BREAKING NEWS chris bosh signed with the MIAMI HEAT. i was soooooooooo close to burning that jersey too

    1. Big deal. Miami will still suck next season.

      Not as much as the Lakers will, tho.