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Slow Playing Gone Wrong

26/04/2018 by Jonathan Little
Hand Analysis

I was recently told about a hand that illustrates why slow playing is such a bad strategy. In a $2/$5 cash game, everyone folded around to a really tight old guy who limped for $5 out of his $1,300 effective stack. Hero decided to raise to $15 with AA

While raising with pocket Aces is obviously the best play, Hero should have made it larger, perhaps $25 or $30. When playing deep stacked, your main concern should be cutting down on your opponents’ implied odds without making it so large that they can easily fold. You will find that most people who limp from the cutoff will call a 5 big blind raise almost as often as they will call a 3 big blind raise, allowing you to get more money in the pot as a clear favorite against what will be a nearly identical limp-calling range. When you have a sizable advantage, you want to get money in the pot, not keep it small.

The flop came A73 giving Hero top set. The pot is $37. The cutoff checked and Hero checked behind.

When you have a premium made hand, your goal should be to get money into the pot. The most obvious way to get money in the pot is to bet. While it may be tempting to slow play, I think the best play is to make a small bet of $15 into the $37 pot. If the opponent happens to have a set, two pair, one pair, or even King high, he will likely call. It is important to think about how you want to play your entire range, not just your specific hand. When Hero does not have a premium hand, if the opponent frequently folds to a small bet, Hero will get away with an incredibly cheap bluff. Of course, if you can look at your opponent and tell he has nothing and is obviously check-folding, checking behind makes sense because that is the only way you can potentially get money in the pot.

The turn was the (A73)Q . The opponent bet $30 into the $37 pot and Hero called.

Once Hero checks behind on the flop and the opponent bets the turn, if Hero raises, it will scream strength, often resulting in the opponent folding. That said, given the stacks are incredibly deep ($1,255 remaining), I think raising to about $90 is the best play. Although the opponent will likely fold most of his marginal made hands and junk, when he happens to also have a premium hand like a set, Hero will get to play a giant pot. Raising also has the benefit of pricing out the various gutshot straight draws like K-T and 6-5 that the opponent may be betting.

The river was the (A73Q)K. The opponent bet $75 into the $97 pot. Hero raised to $300.

I am fine with raising the river, but I think $300 is a bit too much unless the opponent is a calling station. Some people may think raising is too risky, given J-T is now the nuts, but there are many worse hands that can call a reasonably sized raise. I think a raise to $200 will get called by many more marginal made hands (such as K-Q or A-J) compared to a $300 raise, likely making that size ideal.

The opponent quickly moved all-in for $955 more.

Hero first has to figure out if the opponent is capable of bluffing in this spot. Given the opponent is thought to be a tight older guy, the answer is almost certainly no. Next, Hero has to figure out if the opponent will over value worse made hands. Notice the opponent likely does not have K-K or Q-Q, given his preflop limp-call, so the only sets in his range are 7-7 and 3-3. Since Hero could easily have K-K or Q-Q, it seems unlikely the opponent would want to jam all-in with those sets. So, the most likely holding for the opponent to take this line with is the exact nuts, J-T. That is a hand that may limp-call preflop, would likely check the flop, would often bet the turn, and would certainly bet the river and then jam all-in. Hero now has to figure out if he should fold what is the best hand in his range (because he would bluff J-T on the flop if he raised it preflop). In general, you should rarely fold the top of your range unless your opponent is known to be weak and straightforward. Fortunately, Hero knows that to be the case. All in all, I think this is a fine spot to consider folding the second nuts. However, Hero should have played this hand completely different on all streets, leading to a drastically different outcome.

Hero called and lost to JT, the nuts.