When To Slow Play Before The Flop

Occasionally, you can find additional earnings by remaining aware of the ranges and tendencies of your opponents. Sometimes the information at hand will lead to slightly unorthodox plays as a means to maximizing profit. One such way is not reraising with a tier 1 pre-flop holding.

Here are a few situations I may consider slow playing big hands before the flop. 1. An opponent opens a very wide range and folds to reraises often.
2. There is a light 3-bettor or squeezer seated behind me.
3. There is a fish behind me that I want to give the chance to get involved.

While trapping with monsters is definitely a weapon to keep in your arsenal, I am by no means advocatingthatyoustartflattingthemajorityofyourbigpairs. Mostofthetimeyouwillwanttobe reraising all your tier 1 hands. You must make sure that you have a very good reason each time you vary from a standard play, or you stand to suffer from fancy play syndrome.

Flat Calling Against Wide Opening Ranges

Against aggressive opponents who have a wide opening range, it is sometimes okay to let them take the lead. Against maniacs, flatting with big pairs can be especially lucrative. However, it is not wise to try this against perceptive players. Anything less than a shove from a small stack basically turns your hand face up to anyone paying attention. Here are a few post-flop examples where playing passivelycanbemoreprofitablelongtermthanwouldbeanaggressiveline. Keepinmindthatthese situations do not arise that often, but are important to consider during the decision-making process.

Example #10.2: Opponent Folds Too Often To 3-Bets No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($29.25) 32/28/28 Opens 24% UTG HJ ($60.75)
CO ($32.20)
Button ($52.30)

Hero (SB) ($9.56)

BB ($51.55)

Preflop: Hero is SB with A♠, A♣
UTG bets $1.50,3 folds,Hero calls $1.25, 1 fold
This is a classic example of profitably giving up the initiative pre-flop. The standard play is to 3- bet all in against a UTG raiser; however, in this example theUTG raiser has a much wider early position raise percentage than your typical reg and will almost always fold to your 3-bet.

Flop: ($3.50) 6♥, K♦, 2♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, UTG bets $2, Hero raises $8.06 (All-In), UTG calls $6.06
The idea is to give our opponent the chance to somewhat connect to the board or bluff with the weaker parts of his range if he misses the flop. And sinceHero only has 19 big blinds, if our opponent C-Bets the flop, he will be giving himself better than 2 to 1 on a call after Hero shoves. This makes it “correct” for him to call it off with many weaker hands in his range, because he will be “getting the right price.”

Turn: ($19.62) 7♥ (2 players, 1 all-in) River: ($19.62) 8♠ (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: $19.62

Re sults:
Hero had A♠, A♣ (one pair, Aces).
UTG had K♣, 10♥ (one pair, Kings).
Outcome: Hero won $18.67.


Example #10.3: I’ll take your c-bet money too, thanks!

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($29.25)
HJ ($60.75)
CO ($32.20)
Button ($52.30) 33/23/35 and 53% Btn Opening Range Hero (SB) ($12.56)

BB ($20.55) 8/8/10 and 8% resteal

Pre-flop: Hero is SB with A♦ , A♠
3 folds,Button bets $1.50, Hero calls $1.25,1 fold
The Button has a very wide stealing range and will not be able to call a 3-bet very often. If we resteal here, we only get his opening raise money the great majority of the time. Therefore, the more profitable play is to flat and give him the chance to spew. Because he will c-bet often on the flop, we potentially get to pocket that money as well.

Flop: ($3.50) 6♥ , K♠ , 2♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $2, Hero raises $11.06 (All-In),1 fold
Another pre-flop factor in play is that, by flatting, you give the player in the big blind the chance to squeeze with hands he would not call your 3-bet shove with, i.e. 66-TT, AJ. The BB only has 40 big blinds, so it is possible he would shove here a bit more often than his stats indicate, since it appears to be a juicy setup for a squeeze. The next example highlights that scenario.


Trapping a Serial Squeezer

Another time that it can be correct to play big hands passively is when you have a light squeezer behind you. The way it works is that you call a pre-flop raise in the hope that a squeeze play is attempted behind you.

Example #10.4: Come on in, the water’s fine.

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.10 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($4.95)
CO ($7.91)
Button ($7.97) HUD- 27/20/35
Hero (SB) ($3.93)
BB ($4.50) HUD- 30/27/40 and has 3-bet from blinds 3 times in 4 orbits

Pre-flop: Hero is SB with A♥ , K♥
2 folds, Button bets $0.35, Hero calls $0.30, BB raises $4.15,1 fold, Hero calls $3.63

Flop: ($8.21) 6♠ , 6♦ , 9♠ (2 players) Turn: ($8.21) 7♦ (2 players)
River: ($8.21) 9♦ (2 players)
Total pot: $8.21

Results: Hero had A♥ , K♥ (two pair, nines and sixes, ace kicker).
BB had Q♠ , J♠ (two pair, nines and sixes, queen kicker).
Outcome: Hero won $7.81.
Normally, Ace King is not the type of hand you want to flat in the small blind. However, in the example it becomes profitable due to the button’s wide stealing range and a very active 3-bettor sitting in the big blind. Even if the plan does not work out, we still take a flop with a disguised hand that dominates a lot of the button’s range.

Example #10.5: Back Raise

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.20 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($18.90)
CO ($20.45) HUD- 28/28/40
Hero (Button) ($5.46)
SB ($12.53)
BB ($47.64) HUD- 41/23/50 22% 3-bet

Pre-flop: Hero is Button with K♠ , K♦
1 fold, CO bets $0.60, Hero calls $0.60,1 fold, BB raises $1.05,1 fold, Hero raises $4.86 (All-In), BB calls $4.21
Having an over-the-top aggressive player in the blinds behind you is a pain in the neck unless you pick up a monster.

Flop:($11.62)7♦,J♦,3♣ (2players,1all-in) Turn:($11.62)K♣ (2players,1all-in)
River: ($11.62) 4♥ (2 players, 1 all-in)
Total pot: $11.62

Re sults:
Hero had K♠ , K♦ (three of a kind, Kings).
BB had J♣ , A♥ (one pair, Jacks).
Outcome: Hero won $11.04.
Chances are, if I had 3-bet shoved in this spot, the big blind would have folded a hand like AJo. By flatting, we gave him a chance to enter the pot with a much wider range of inferior holdings. ____________________________________________________________

Keeping Fish On The Hook

You should always be aware of where the bad players are seated. When a fish is behind you, it changes the entire dynamic of the table. Since it is hard to extract from a player out of position, it is sometimes necessary to get creative. Slow playing big pairs is one such way to do so.

Example #10.6: Fishin’ in the blinds

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($51.94)
HJ ($14.25) 18/14/32 CO ($16.10)
Hero (Button) ($14.25) SB ($92.82)
BB ($44.91) 75/5/17

Preflop: Hero is Button with A♣, A♠
1 fold, HJ raises to $1.50,1 fold, Hero calls $1.50,1 fold, BB Calls $1.00
This is a very profitable setup, since we have a disguised hand and a potential calling station in the big blind.

Punishing Light 3-Bettors

As a short stack, there are two ways to fight back against light restealers. You can either 4-bet bluff or trap with premium hands.

Example #10.7: Facing a 3-bet monkey

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (4 handed)

CO ($34.90)
Hero (Button) ($15.85)
SB ($37.34)
BB ($42.70) 26/20/30 19.5% 3-bet versus Button steals

Preflop: Hero is Button with A♣, A♦
1 fold, Hero bets $1,1 fold, BB raises to $2.50, Hero calls $1.50
With nearly a 20% 3-bet, the big blind will be bluffing here quite often. The fact that our opponent will frequently be forced to fold to a 4-bet shove makes flatting the 3-bet reasonable.

Flop: ($5.25) Q♦, 4♥, 8♥ (2 players)
BB bets $3.40, Hero raises to $13.35 (All-In), BB calls $9.95
With two hearts on board, this is no time for further slow play. Having already achieved an extra bet out of our opponent, we should now just stick the rest in.

Turn: ($31.95) 10♥ (2 players, 1 all-in) River: ($31.95) K♦ (2 players, 1 all-in) Total pot: $31.95 | Rake: $1.55

Re sults:

Hero had A♣, A♦ (one pair, Aces).
BB had 8♦, A♥ (one pair, eights).
Outcome: Hero won $30.40.
Villain pays off with 2nd pair, perhaps feeling obligated to do so in a 3-bet pot with so much of the effective stack already invested. It is unlikely that he would have stacked pre-flop with this type of holding, but by flatting the 3-bet, Hero was able to leverage his opponent into committing over 1/3 of the effective stack on the flop. ____________________________________________________________

When Slow Play Is Not Best

Some situations that seem promising for slow play are actually sub-optimal. The main thing you want to keep in mind is that when the chance to get all-in is reasonably high, you never want to flat call a raise with a big hand.

Example #10.8: Versus a tight UTG raiser

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($29.25) HUD- 20/13/29 and 12% UTG opening range HJ ($60.75)
CO ($32.20)
Button ($52.30)

Hero (SB) ($12.56)

BB ($20.55)

Pre-flop: Hero is SB with A♦ , A♥
UTG bets $1.50,3 folds, Hero raises $12.31
In this example, the UTG player is tight and will probably call your shove better than 40% of the time. Therefore, jamming here is much stronger than flatting. Your ultimate goal with big pairs should be to get as much money in the pot on the current street as possible, while keeping action. If your opponent is tight, he is more likely to pay off pre-flop, so you want to give him that chance. The same goes when facing a 3-bet. If the player only 3-bets a value range, it would be a waste of money to try and trap. ____________________________________________________________

Example #10.9: Reraised by a tight 3-bettor

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (4 handed)

Hero (CO) ($17.15)

Button ($33.70)
SB ($64.65) 3% 3-bet BB ($59.68)

Preflop: Hero is CO with K♣, K♠
Hero bets $1,1 fold,SB raises to $3,1 fold, Hero raises to $17.15 (All-In)
The small blind is almost certainly never folding to a shove here. There is no point in slow playing.

Example #10.10: Too much of a good thing No-Limit Hold’em, $1.00 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($138.94) 40/20/38 with 27% UTG opening range HJ ($35.86)

Hero (CO) ($22.25)

Button ($194.87) 83/2/18 SB ($27.50) 55/15/23 BB ($109.13) 38/0/30

Preflop: Hero is CO with A♥, A♦
UTG bets $2.67,1 fold, Hero ?
At first, this appears to be an excellent spot to slow play. The UTG player is very loose, and we have fish behind us. But the fact that there are multiple fish gives the potential of too many players seeing the flop. We don’t mind a 3-way pot with a big pair, but in 4-way and 5-way pots our hand will get out flopped quite often. And while the situation may still be +EV, it is also a high variance play. A much better option would be a small 3-bet to try and get just one of the fish to cold call.

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