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Archive for Monday, November 27, 2006

Slow play can be smart

November 27, 2006

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In the $1,500 buy-in pot limit Hold 'em tournament at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) this year, more than 1,100 players began the day looking for a coveted gold bracelet, and more than $340,000 for first place. Two days later, nine players sat down at the final table, including top pros John Juanda and Can Hua, high-limit player Rick Chase and "Tilt Boy" Rafe Furst. Juanda was eliminated when his Q-Q lost all-in before the flop versus Hua's A-K.

With the blinds at $10,000-$20,000, Furst looked down at A-A on the button. He decided just to call the $20,000 bet in order to induce some action. In the old days, a common poker maxim was this: if you slow play your big pair and lose a big pot, then you get what you deserve. This rule seemed set in stone when I first came around the scene in the late 1980s

In my books, DVDs, and online courses, I talk about why slow playing big pairs can be a great strategy sometimes.

After Furst smooth called (made a call with a raising hand) the $20,000 bet, the player in the small blind called the bet with K-10, and then from the big blind Hua decided to raise it up $60,000 more with 7-2 off suit. Now Furst decided to smooth call one more time, and the small blind folded his K-10. Now we had a rare match up indeed: in fact, we had the worst hand in Hold 'em (2-7) versus the best hand in Hold 'em (A-A). The flop came down Q-7-7, Hua bet out $55,000, and Furst smooth called one more time. Of course, Furst was continuing his "trap" of Hua, not knowing that Hua had already outdrawn him. On the turn, a three came off, Hua checked, Furst bet out $53,000, and Hua raised Furst's last $60,000 or so. Furst called instantly, only to find out that he was a 20-to-1 underdog with one card to come - Furst needed an ace, and there were two aces left in the deck.

I do not mind Furst's pre-flop smooth call for $20,000. His smooth call of Hua's $60,000 raise is more questionable. Furst limped in to induce action, and that he did! But why not raise it back another say, $80,000 or so, and take that $60,000 raise - that you induced Hua to make - down into your stack (after Hua folds)? I mean how much money are you trying to win when you limp in with pocket aces? How many free cards will you give your opponent? You have to ask: wouldn't that $120,000 pot look good to a guy that only had another $227,000 in chips? If so, then re-raise and try to win it right there. On the other hand, I don't mind the super slow play so much. I mean, by smooth calling right the $60,000 raise Furst is also inducing a bet or a bluff on the flop from Hua. So all-in-all Furst's $60,000 smooth call was slightly worse then the re-raise.

Amazingly, the last card was an ace, and Furst went on to win his first WSOP bracelet.

Slow playing big pairs:

A) is dangerous

B) is a bad play to old timers

C) may induce extra action

D) all of the above

Answer: D

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