Hi Annie: My question is when I get a good hand on the flop, and I want to slow play. What is the correct bet in this situation? For example: I have an Ace High Straight.
This seems like a simple question but, as with everything in poker, it is actually quite complex. What it comes down to is the question of when it is appropriate to slow play a hand. There are several factors that go into the slow play. Let me touch on a couple.
1) What is the texture of the board? Is it coordinated or uncoordinated? If the flop is coordinated (like there is two of a suit on the board) then you should not slowplay. First, if you slowplay and you opponent hits the flush on the turn you have only yourself to blame because you did not make your opponent pay to hit his or her flush. With one to come, a flush is slightly over a 4 to 1 dog to hit. As long as you bet at least half the pot then you opponent is only getting 3 to 1 at best. That is bad math for your opponent and good math for you.
Second, If you slowplay a coordinated board then when the texture completes, like the flush card hits, you now make your decisions very difficult for yourself. This concept is blind to whether or not your opponent actually hit the flush. The problem is that regardless of what your opponent is actually holding, if he bets you now have a tough decision that you did not need to open yourself up to. By slowplaying the flop you have done nothing to define your opponent’s hand and now, when the flush card hits, you have no idea what he has or whether your hand is good or not. That means you are more likely to make mistakes on the hand.
2) How many people are in the pot? If there a many people in the pot it is almost never correct to slowplay because you can think of almost every board as coordinated. In a heads up pot if the board has flush and straight possibilities there are usually over 15 scary cards for you. But in a multiway pot, even if each individual opponent only has a few outs, when you add them all together it can come to the same number of cards out against you as on a board that looks very coordinated. For example, let’s say you have a hand like A6s and the board comes A62. Your opponents are holding AQ, AK and JJ. While each of them individually is in very bad shape against you, as a group they have 8 outs, basically the same as a flush draw. So it is very important to generally play faster in multiway pot.
3) The last piece of the puzzle to look at is to ask yourself what you would do if you didn’t have such a big hand? For example, if you have a hand like JJ, you raised preflop and someone in the big blind called. The board comes KJ3 rainbow. Your opponent checks to you. This is a bad time to slowplay the JJ because you would be betting here pretty much every time you get checked to in this heads up pot. By checking you are alerting you opponent that there is something weird about your hand.
Let’s say you opponent holds KQ. If you just bet the pot, which looks like a continuation bet, you are probably going to get a lot of money out of him. But if you check, the KQ now becomes suspicious of your hand and he is likely to slow down drastically, maybe even getting to fold on the turn. By slowplaying, which you thought was to extract money out of your opponent, you actually can cost yourself money against someone who has an okay hand but not a great one (which is what people usually have in hold’em). Against a great hand it works out the same anyway because you are getting that guy’s money anyway.
So, it turns out, slowplaying is usually not correct.