In Texas Holdem you are not trying to win a lot of pots. You're trying to win the most money. In fact the player who wins the most pots will usually be a losing player because they are playing too many hands. Two ways you can increase the money you win is with the slowplaying and check-raising. Both of these tactics have sometimes been referred to as "sandbagging" (especially in home games) but there is nothing underhanded about either tactic. It is an acceptable practice used by smart players to maximize their winnings.
Slowplaying is when you play a strong hand weakly by checking or calling, instead of betting or raising, to deceive your opponents. When you slow play you're trying to entice the other players to bet or give them a chance to draw into a hand that will be second best.
For example, after the flop if all the players checked to you and you check because you think everybody will fold if you bet, you are essentially giving them a free card. You are hoping that the next card will improve your opponent's hand but not enough to beat yours.
When you slowplay you are trying to set a trap for the other players, but sometimes this can backfire on you. You must know when and when not to slow play a hand. To be successful:
Example: You raise before the flop with Ace of hearts and Jack of spades. You get two callers and the flop is: Ace and Jack Diamonds and Jack of clubs.
You have a full house and unless someone holds the other two aces (which is unlikely because you probably would have been re-raised) you have the best hand. A player with K-Q, K-T, or Q-T has a straight draw. In this situation you don't mind checking and giving a free card.
If it is bet and there are players still to act after you, just call since a raise may drive out the other players. You are hoping that someone makes a hand that will be second best to your full house. You will also get action from anyone holding a single Ace who made top pair or a Jack who has just made trips.
One of the biggest mistakes that many players make is to slowplay before the flop with pocket Aces and Kings. Instead of raising they just call with their big pocket pairs and then complain when they get beat by someone who would have folded if they had raised. Big pocket pairs play best against a small field so you raise to narrow the field. If you are in early or middle position and decide to slowplay your hand, it could be a costly mistake. If you merely call with AA, you are allowing everyone into the hand for a single bet. The more players in the hand, the more likely it is that one of them will flop a hand that can beat you.
Slowplaying can be a valuable tactic but many players use it too often when they flop a good, but not great hand such as top pair, two pairs, three of a kind or a set. Many players will decide to slowplay a set rather than bet it. If there are two suited cards or a straight draw on the board, chances are somebody will be chasing a flush or a straight. In the long run you will make more money by just betting your set rather than trying to slowplay your set. It is always better to a rake in a small pot than to lose it completely by giving your opponent the chance to draw out on you.
As with any other strategy in poker, you first have to analyze the situation and be aware of which opponents may be chasing before you slowplay a hand. You don't want to give free cards to players who could beat you and turn what would have been a small win into a major loss.
Until next time remember:
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