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Should You Ever Stall?

Whether your call it tanking, stalling, or slow playing, we’re sure you’ve seen it. Sometimes, even after making up their mind, poker players will sit there and let the clock run while they ‘think’—or rather, pretend to think.

Maybe they’re hoping that this will frustrate their opponents. Maybe they’re Hollywooding to sell a bluff. Or maybe there is some actual strategy behind this move.

Without further ado, it’s time to go over when it’s a good move to try to stall the game.

Default: Play Quickly

If you watch pro poker players, you’ll notice that they play pretty fast. They’ll usually only think about their moves for a few seconds, and because of this they’re sometimes able to play several online tables at once.

Why do they play so fast? Well, it’s all simple math. If you’re a winning player, then you want to play as many hands as possible. Every time a winning player gets dealt cards, they get a positive expected value (EV), and so playing more hands directly leads to winning more chips.

If you only play half as many hands because you’re playing slowly, then you win half as many chips. That’s why, in general, it’s best to play fast. However, this doesn’t mean to play so fast that you don’t have time to think through your moves and come up with reasons for making decisions.

The Exception: Min-cashing a Tournament

One of the main exceptions is a tournament corner case. If you have a pretty short stack, probably aren’t going to win the tournament, but just have to wait for a couple other players to bust to cash, then it can be worth stalling to try to make it past the bubble.

While this can get you over the hurdle to the cash, it’s not a good strategy for winning the tournament. Since you’re going to be playing less hands, you’ll have less opportunities to double up and grow your stack—and that’s how you win tournaments!

If your stack is too shallow, don’t do the strategy because you could just blind out. It’s much better to have a chance at winning a pot to double up than just slowly bleeding out to death.

Don’t Try to Tilt People

It’s always wrong to try to tilt people by slowrolling them. Not only is a jerky thing to do, but you have no idea if you’re actually going to tilt them off. For all you know it could give them time to meditate and focus, making them play better. You shouldn’t assume that your opponents’ mental games are actually that weak unless you have a good reason to believe so.

If you’re a winning player, trying to tilt people by playing slow just means that you’re going to play less hands and win less chips.

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