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Poker : Slow-Play with a Short Stack

A couple of years ago, I was in Los Angeles to play in the $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour LA Poker Classic at the famous Commerce Casino.

On the second day of the tournament, with the blinds at $300/$600 plus a $75 ante, I only had $6,400 chips remaining when I looked down at Kh-Qh from early position. It was decision time: Do I move all-in, raise it up to $1,800 to go, or just limp in?

The standard play was to move all-in as I only had about ten times the big blind in chips. My objective would be to force another player to fold a hand like A-10 or a small pair, allowing me to increase my stack size by about twenty percent. Even if I got called with a hand like pocket tens, I'd only be a small underdog to win the pot, but I'd be in a heap of trouble if someone called with A-K behind me.

Or, I could make the traditional three-times-the-big blind raise. I dismissed this option because it wouldn't provide an easy opportunity for me to fold if another player reraised behind me. Folding Kh-Qh for $4,600 more with $8,500 already in the pot would have been pretty hard to do.

My third option was to limp in and call for $600. While this play would provide me with some added flexibility later in the hand, it's just not a reasonable option for beginners or intermediate players. In fact, most professionals shouldn't attempt this play either.

I decided to limp in. I wanted to trap one of the players behind me, either before or after the flop. Also, by slow-playing my hand, I'd have a way to save most of my chips if I ran into a hand that had me crushed.

The key skill to make this play work is a great reading ability. I had to be prepared to move all-in if someone behind me decided to raise with what I thought was the worse hand, or be able to fold if I thought I was dominated.

And it gets even more complex on the flop.

I'd then have to decide to either slow-play a huge hand or play it fast depending on the texture of the board, my read of my opponents' holdings, and my sense of their ability to fold their hands.

Okay, so I limped in pre-flop as did another player behind me. The flop came 10h-7h-3h. Yes, a big flush for me! Hopefully, someone else also hit a piece of that juicy flop.

All of us checked and the 2h fell on the turn. I hated that card but not for the reason that you might suspect. Sure, I was beat if someone had the Ah, but I was more concerned that the four hearts on the board would kill the betting action meaning a smaller pot for me.

As expected, the players in the blinds checked to me. I continued slow-playing my monster hand and also checked. Then, the guy behind me fired out $2,000. The small blind called and the big blind folded.

Man, I was licking my chops!

I raised it $3,000 making it $5,000 to go. My opponents quickly folded and I won a decent-sized pot.

By the way, had I decided to move all-in pre-flop instead of limping in, I would have won a much smaller pot. My tricky pre-flop limp in netted me a cool extra $4,900. But again, this isn't a play that I'd recommend to anyone but a top professional.

It worked well for me, but then again, I'm Phil Hellmuth -- and you're not.


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