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5/03/2009 No. 73
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Thur 5 Mar 2009
How to avoid losing a huge pot

The other day, I was glad to see an article in a poker magazine about "slow-playing disasters". There is a lot of advice around, for the aggressive young online player, about not overplaying hands: AK isn't as great as you think; it is possible to pass a big pair before the flop; the best players make their serious decisions after cards, and so on. But there is little advice, for the more cautious enthusiast, about the dangers of slow playing.


Those who are just starting to take poker seriously will have figured out that the aim is to deceive your opponents. So it can seem obvious to play your strong hands weakly. But the first problem is: it's too obvious. Canny opponents will recognise it immediately. The second is: with cards to come, it's a rare hand that cannot be beaten, however good it looks.

If you allow three or four players to see a flop when you have aces, you run a high risk of getting trapped for all your chips against a weird hand that hits. If you check a flush on the flop, a fourth suited card can come down to kill you. Top pair on a middling flop, or even bottom two pair, are other hands where you can easily get stuck when an opponent improves and you can't bear to fold.

I say: don't get cocky, bet your good hands. Bet for value. Bet to protect them. Bet to see who's interested. Slow-playing is actually more dangerous than overplaying. Besides, you'd be amazed how often opponents refuse to believe your open bet, making huge sceptical raises when you're sitting there with a monster.

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