Slowplaying

D.Sklansky who cut his teeth in poker made the following list of the ideal conditions for slowplaying:

  1. You need to hold a hand with a very high showdown value.
  2. The free card you let your opponents get must enable them to build a second best hand.
  3. Still, that free card mustn’t make one of your opponents the holder of a more profitable hand than yours. Moreover, it mustn’t give them a draw to an improved hand on the next round with enough odds for a call.
  4. You must be confident you can make other players bust out by demonstrating aggression, but you have a good chance of maximizing your earn if you don’t.
  5. At the same time, the pot must be not too large.

Although Sklansky was writing mainly about a fixed betting structure, his outline of the most appropriate conditions for slowplaying can be safely applied to such games as NLHE and PLO that enjoy the greatest popularity these days. One more thing that should be added to that list to make it more suitable for big bet games is that you should weigh the benefits of slowplaying against your possible earnings from second-best hands. In a betting structure with a fixed limit, this typically costs you no more than one small bet if you slowplay the flop. In No Limit Holdem, it will cost you far more since pot and bet sizes increase geometrically.

Demonstration
Let’s assume that you flop the unbeatable hand and the pot is $100 at the moment. When you make a value bet, you decide to bet around eighty percent of the pot. However, at first you should think whether it’s better to bet 3 streets or to check the flop and make a bet on the turn and river.

If your flop bet is called, there would be $260 in the pot on the turn. 80% of $260 makes up $210, which will increase up to $670 pot on the river provided someone calls. So, your river bet would be $536, and if someone called, you would get about $826 after flop gods showed you mercy and you flopped a monster.

By checking the flop, you would get the possibility to earn only the first two bets. The task of slowplaying is to increase your odds of getting those bets paid off to make up for your fiasco at building the pot from the flop.

Aggressive Players
It makes more sense to slowplay against those players who tend to run big bluffs and make bets of a low showdown value. Let’s suppose you were out of position and thought that other player would be willing to bet eighty percent of the pot with top pair on three streets if you were checking and calling all the time.

In that situation, slowplaying would be justified since you will not only provide your opponent with a possibility to turn a pair if he doesn’t have one, but you will also get the possibility to win even more chips from his top pair if you check-raise the river. Even if he doesn’t dare to call, you wouldn’t lose anything.

Note that if you are in position, betting the flop is a must for you because your opponent would not get the chance to bet his top pair in case he was planning to do so, as your check brings the action to a halt.

Relatively Strong Hands
Good hands but not absolute Brazils are more suitable for slowplaying. If you lack the confidence that your hand will withstand value betting on all three streets, then you should check the flop or turn just like you do with absolute Brazils and you won’t end up leaking your chips.

If you are playing against straight-forward players who are typically playing their own hand, you are recommended to check the flop and bet later.

Less straight-forward players might expect a c-bet on the flop and therefore won’t buy it if you check. They would guess that you hold a hand that does not require bluffing, and they would not make insensible decisions on future streets. You’d better give such opponents the bet they await from you on the flop and then check the turns and value bet on the river.

Summary
If the strength of your hand is sufficient for betting three times for value, you assume a great risk by slowplaying in a big bet game. Nevertheless, slowplaying can be very profitable under certain circumstances.