When To Slow-Play in MTTs

Slow-playing is one of the most effective, but at the same time most dangerous tricks of an experienced poker player. When employed properly, this trick allows the player to claim a large part of his opponent’s chips. However, a failed attempt could cost the player enough to make an impact on the entire game. Therefore, slow-playing should be used with caution and should not be abused. In this article, we will look at the conditions necessary for the successful application of slow-playing in multi-table tournaments.

slow play poker

Slow-playing is a style of playing the game in which the player is trying to force an opponent to bluff and/or invest his money in the pot. For example, such a player could make a small bet or simply passively respond to someone else’s aggression instead of actively playing his hand. Thus, the poker player is luring the opponent into the trap of trying to get the most value out of the pot. In such a case, slow-playing means resigning from protecting your hand: the player has to allow his opponent to cheaply move onto the next street, which in the end can allow the opponent to make a winning hand. Furthermore, slow-playing can be a disadvantageous alternative, as the opponent can simply refuse to add to the pot leaving the player with no significant profits.

In general, in order to attempt slow-playing with a high chance of success, as outlined by David Sklansky, the following conditions have to be met:

— The player must hold a very strong hand;
— The free card should help to ensure that the opponent hold the second-best combination;
— The free card should not threaten the position of the player attempting slow-play. The probability of the opponent making a winning combination must be negligibly small;
— The player must be sure that in case of aggression the rival would be force out of the hand. Consequently, slow-playing might bring more chips than big bets;
— The pot should not be too large.

Once you go through this list, you might immediately ask yourself what can be regarded as a very strong hand? Depending on the case, the answers might differ. Perhaps the strongest hands could be considered the combinations no lower than a set formed with a pocket pair. For example, if a player holds a pocket 7 7 and the flop comes K 2 7, than the situation is simply excellent for the purpose of slow-play as long as the hand isn’t seriously threatened. Assuming that your opponent also has a strong pocket pair like TT, the probability of him also receiving a set equals to as little as 4%. The flop in the example situation didn’t really introduce a possible flush or straight draw. If the turn was a second card of the same suit, the player will still be able to make a big bet that will force an opponent out of the hand. Therefore, slow play can be employed. Other example of hands that can be used for slow-playing purposes include a full house, a straight or a flush. The key feature is the lack of a real threat in the next street.

If the situation was slightly different and the player (let’s call him player 1) held 7 7 on a K 2 7 flop, then delaying the attack wouldn’t really be worth it, as another hearts card could come on the turn giving the opponent a possible flush. Even if neither you nor your opponent made the nuts, the situation will become nervous as it’s reasonable for a player to fear the flush… and folding a set in such a situation would not be easy, as the line between correct and incorrect play would become somewhat blurred.

It follows that slow-playing in any case doesn’t really fit the appearance of the board, whether it’s a straight draw or a flush draw. Obviously, the chances of the opponent completing the draw are small, but is this kind of play worth the risk? For example, if you take our case, the probability of player 1 winning the hand is about 75%. Nevertheless, the opponent still has a good, 25% chance of claiming the pot. Obviously, giving him a free card is not necessary in such a situation – if you really want to allow the opponent to chase that straight or a flush, than make him pay for his pursuit to the fullest!

At the beginning of this article we talked about the fact that slow play should bring more money than the standard rates. Let’s take a closer look at what we really meant. Slow-playing is an effective weapon against opponents who often resort to bluff. The goal when playing against such rivals is not only to force them out of pots, but also not to scare them away and let them bet more chips out of their own free will.

Another crucial principle we mentioned is that the bank shouldn’t be too large. Once again, the idea is simple – a large pot doesn’t give a decent player any choice. He has already committed to the pot by investing too much money, hence the meaning of slow-playing the hand would be lost. The player who decided to take advantage of playing a slower game should clearly understand why does he do it. Isn’t it better to bet and force the opponent to make the call? Many professionals say that strong hands must be raised – which basically means that you shouldn’t lose opportunities to build bigger pots. To stay true to this principle, the slow-playing player must be sure that his opponent will invest more money into the pot than he would be willing to bring in response to a bet. It’s very important to remember that.

A common feature of multi-table tournaments is that you will come across hundreds or even thousands of players throughout your career. Among them will be those who are willing to make plays and fill the pot by themselves. You need to be able to read your opponent and to recognize whether slow-playing the hands will work against him or not. Once you begin doing that, you will realize that there’s plenty of opportunities for slower handling of your pots – but remember that the main idea is not to take any chances.

In general, there are no restrictions on slow-playing your hand during MTTs. This technique can be used at any stage of the tournament – the main thing is to meet the requirements listed by David Sklansky before employing it. Good luck at the tables!