Poker: The art of slow playing

THE prime motive of 'slow-playing' or under-betting a hand is to tempt a player to get involved. By giving the impression that your hand is weak, an opponent may be induced to bet, or run a bluff. The only risk is you may get outdrawn, writes David Spanier.

One of the best examples of slow-playing a strong hand ever seen in Las Vegas decided a world poker championship between Johnny Chan and Eric Seidel. In the final round, playing Texas Hold' em, antes and blinds were worth dollars 80,000 a hand.

In the crucial hand, the flop (first three up cards) came queen-10-8. Chan - first to speak - checked, which implied he had not got a hand worth betting. Seidel had something - in fact he had a good hand, probably a winning hand, but not spectacular: a queen in the hole, giving him top pair. He bet dollars 50,000, hoping to buy the pot there and then. Chan simply called.

Fourth up card was the three of clubs - no improvement. Again Chan checked. Seidel, wary of Chan's previous call of pounds 50,000, checked along. Maybe Chan had a queen after all. The final card, known as the river card ('down the river') brought another low card - four of hearts - which did not change anything.

Chan: (? ?) Seidel: (Qh 7c)

Seidel pondered - his top pair was very likely a winning hand. He was hesitating because Chan might have caught a second small pair. But his three successive checks; first on the flop, then on the turn (fourth card), and finally on the river, convinced Seidel his queens were good. Chan, after all, had now passed up his last chance to bet.

There was dollars 140,000 to be picked up. So Seidel moved all in. Chan pushed all his chips forward and flipped over his hole cards. He had a jack and a nine for a straight. If Chan had bet his hand at any stage, he woud not even have got a call. His only risk was a very remote chance that his opponent might outdraw him by hitting a lucky full house queens. As it was, Chan's reward was the dollars 700,000 first prize and the title of world champion.

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