"Slow Playing" is one of the deadliest and most effective online poker tactics that possible to use, particularly in a No Limit Hold'em cash game. In fact, it's a beast of a tactic to use whenever you want to squeeze maximum value out of a particularly good hand that you received in the hole.
In short, Slow Playing is an extremely sophisticated form of bluffing, except in a way it's a kind of bluffing in reverse. Usually when you bluff you are trying to convince everyone that you have an incredible hand, that it would be madness to call you, and that everyone should just fold and slide their chips over towards you and go home crying - when in fact you have absolutely nothing.
By comparison, when you employ the tactic of Poker Slow Playing, you are actually holding the nuts. However, you don't want anyone to know this.
The reasoning is fairly obvious. If anyone realises that you have an unbeatable hand, they will get out and spare themselves a whole lot of damage. But if they think that you just limping along in the hopes of pairing up one decent card that you have in your hand, they will start to make big raises, either in the hopes of forcing you out, or to take advantage of what they perceive to be your stupidity.
How Slow Playing works
Rule number one of Slow Playing is that you must never, ever raise. You must only ever call, and you must do so extremely reluctantly.
If you're playing a live game, try dropping a tell to indicate that you are thinking hard. Good ones include tapping your fingers, licking your lips or rubbing your chin. Take your time with your decision to check or call.
This gives the other players the impression that you are having difficulty making a decision, or that you don't have full confidence in your decision. Anyone who believes this will usually try to force you out, which is exactly what you want, especially pre-flop.
If you're playing at an online poker room, the best thing you can do is to use the entirety of the time that you have been assigned to act. So don't act immediately. Wait until the timer has almost expired, and then check (or call).
No matter what happens, you don't raise. It is imperative that your opponents believe you are only coming along with them because you are praying that the flop, turn or river is going to get you out of a progressively larger hole that you are digging, presumably by producing a decent pair for you.
You just keep calling their raises, but take your time about it. The technique is called "Slow Playing" after all. Finally, the hand will make it all the way to the showdown, where you will win the pot, taking down far more chips than had you been brash and shoved all in pre-flop.
Slow Playing in practice
Let's take a look at an example of a slow play: Suppose that you're playing in a cash game, and you have just been dealt the nuts: Ace King of clubs. After thinking for a while, you check. Someone else raises twice the blinds, and a bunch of people fold. You think some more and then call.
The flop comes down Ah, Jc, 10c. Since it's you to act, you think for a moment and then check. At this point, you have top pair and a flush draw with about a 36% chance of hitting it: you're in excellent shape.
Your opponent doesn't know this, though. They think you are limping. Again, they raise. Since this is live poker, you make a show of looking at your cards again and thinking a bit, and then you call.
The turn is the Queen of clubs. What a scary card. Actually at this point you are holding top pair, plus a Royal Flush. But you CHECK. You do NOT raise. You simply call the raise of your opponent, after some thinking.
When the river card arrives, your opponent raises up massive. You think for a very long time, and then go all in. He calls you instantly – he must have something, and he thinks you're bluffing desperately.
He shows a straight, which is why he was feeling so confident. But you still take all his chips.