In this article, we’ll help you understand when to fast play and slow play a big hand. After all, you’re likely to face this type of decision multiple times during a poker session.

A pair of aces, a diamond and a spade, lie face up on the felt. They are partially covered by green poker chips. Red, black, white and blue chips are stacked on the table.
Knowing just when to slowplay a big hand is a crucial part of a winning poker strategy.

What is Slow Play?

First, a quick definition.

“Slowplaying” a hand, sometimes written “slow playing” or “slow-playing”, is when you make a strong hand but act weak. Imagine you limp preflop with pocket aces or flop a set but opt to check-call. This deception, intended to trick your opponent into a false sense of weakness, is an example of slow play.

What to Think About

There are several points to consider when deciding whether to play fast or slow. Above all, you should avoid doing the same thing in every situation. The key to poker is to mix up your play to avoid becoming predictable and exploitable.

So what factors determine whether a situation is appropriate for slowplaying a hand?

  • The board texture at any moment
  • Hand ranges, both yours and those of your opponents
  • Whether or not you hold potential blockers
  • The mindset, skill level, and behaviour of the other players

Should I Slowplay a Flopped Set?

If you’re debating whether or not to slowplay a hand, the chances are we’re talking about a flopped set. Flopping a made flush, straight, or full house is quite rare. And the chances are that you’ll be so far ahead, the hand will practically play itself.

Since catching the flop with a pocket pair is the most common situation in which to ask this question, that’s what we’ll focus on for the rest of this article.

Board Texture

Okay, the first factor we have to consider with our flopped set is how the board is made up. Is it a dry flop or not? By “dry”, of course, we mean largely uncoordinated. The kind of flop that doesn’t offer much threat in terms of straight draws, flush draws, or overcards. Something like this:

3(Club) – 7(Spade) – Q(Heart)

You may hear some people describe the opposite of a dry flop as a “wet” flop, which is a little gross, but we’ll go with it. This type of flop is dangerous when holding a set. An example would look something like this:

9(Spade) – 7(Spade) – T(Diamond)

There’s an obvious flush draw and there are straight possibilities everywhere. Very “wet” indeed.

As a rule, you should play faster when the board is threatening. You don’t want to give your opponent a good value draw. And definitely not a free one. If it’s dry, there’s less to fear, and you can afford to slowplay and allow them to catch up.

Hand Ranges

After thinking about the flop’s texture, we need to look at hand ranges. Firstly, where does your specific hand fit into your perceived range?

If your current holding is among the best possible hands you could have, avoid slowplaying. Aim to maximise your profits by getting money into the pot. But remember to balance the range with a timely bluff now and then, and protect it with the occasional slowplay.

However, you must factor in the range of your opponent too. If their range is stronger than your own, consider slowing down. If you always play fast with your big hands, an observant opponent can exploit this. When you call, they know you don’t have a very strong hand and can bluff aggressively.

Blockers

There are lots of spots in poker where you must think about what you want your opponent to have. It’s usually when bluffing, but the opposite here is true.

Imagine a board of J-6-2 and you’re holding pocket Jacks. Does it make sense to play fast here? Ideally, you want your opponent to have top pair when you flop a set so that they won’t fold. But you have two of the three top pair cards. So the chances are that’s not what they are holding.

As a rule, try to fast play more when you don’t block the hands you would like your opponent to have. And, of course, lean towards slowplaying when you do.

Your Opponent

You’ve considered all the factors, and it’s still a close call as to whether to slowplay or not. It’s now time to think about your opponent. Knowing a little about their tendencies could help to swing your decision.

For instance, if they call too much, you should make them pay with your flopped set. This would be a good situation to play fast. In fact, not only should you bet each street, but you should consider using a bigger raise than normal too.

Fast vs Slow Play: Conclusion

As with pretty much every situation in a poker game, it’s tricky to make general rules. You must always consider a variety of factors when deciding whether or not to slowplay a hand. What might your opponent be holding and how experienced are they? What kind of texture does the board have?

However, broadly speaking, it makes sense to lean towards slowplaying when a flop is dry. As long as you understand that it will not be the right play 100% of the time, this is a great rule of thumb.

Now that you know when to fast play and when to slow play, why not create a free account with Natural8 and start practicing today?