Slow rolling in poker is a controversial subject, some players find it funny, and others think it is the worst thing you can do to an opponent. In this article we list five reasons why you shouldn’t slow roll, and three reasons why you should. But first, you might be wondering, what is a slow roll in poker?
Slow Roll Poker Meaning
As illustrated by the image above, a slow roll in poker occurs when the hand is at showdown. One player shows their hand and their opponent deliberately waits before exposing a stronger hand, thus winning the pot. In poker, there are clear rules as to who shows whose hand first. If there is an aggressive action on the final betting round, the last aggressor must show first when called. If all players check on the final street, the first person to act must show their cards before their opponent(s). If the first player to show exposes a hand that is worse than their opponent’s, it is common etiquette for the opponent to show their winning hand right away. If the player with the winning hand waits, looks back at their cards, says “you’re good” or “nice hand”, or otherwise pretends like they are upset at seeing their opponent’s hand, THEN shows a better one, that is a slow roll.
Let’s look at a scenario:
Two players are left in a hand of No-Limit Texas Hold’em, we are on the river.
Board: AK733 no flush possible.
Player 1 bets and player 2 calls. Player 1 shows AK, player 2 looks at the hand, keeps their cards face-down, and says “nice hand” but after a few seconds turns over J3 and says “but not as good as mine”.
This is a poker slow roll. The comments are overkill, but even without them, this would be a slow roll.
There are situations where someone is not slow-rolling but others may think they are. There are plenty of instances where it is hard to tell what your opponent is showing down. When there is a straight or flush available on the board and your opponent shows two cards close to the straight cards, or two cards of the same color as the flush suit, it can take a second to see if they have it or not. If you have bad eyes or are just having a hard time seeing what your opponent has, don’t worry; it isn’t a slow roll if you take a few seconds to be sure you have the winner before turning over your cards. If, however, you intentionally take your time knowing you have the winner, that is when you are getting into poker slow roll territory.
Slow Roll Poker Goes Against Etiquette
Poker mirrors golf in many ways; it’s no wonder many high stakes poker pros enjoy gambling on the links as well as the felt. Both games require thought, planning, and precision. Both games have a physical aspect (golf much more than poker), but the best players in each will tell you preparation and training are what wins.
Much like golf, poker has many written and unwritten rules surrounding gameplay and etiquette. Some things that go against proper poker etiquette are also rules, like angle shooting or string betting. A poker slow roll is not against the rules, but it is ABSOLUTELY against poker etiquette. Most players consider it the worst thing you can do at a table other than cheating and physically assaulting someone.
Slow rolling in poker is a quick way to get the whole table mad at you, and for that reason…
Here are 5 reasons why you should never slow roll in poker
It creates enemies
We’ve all seen a villain at the poker table at one time or another. Watching previous years’ WSOP Main Event coverage shows there are plenty of poker players who feel they gain an edge from being the “bad guy.” The last standout “villain” that comes to mind is Will Kassouf, some praised his speech play, and others called it bad etiquette. However you viewed his tactics at the table, it was clear he created some enemies during his deep Main Event run. While he may say that gives him an edge, making enemies at the table may not be in your favor.
When you slow roll someone, it is quite possible the entire table will be upset with you or at least see you as the “bad guy” at the table. Unfortunately for poker villains, everyone wants to bust them. It’s hard enough to win multi-way pots in a game like No Limit Hold’em, but it’s even harder when the entire table wants the badge of honor for busting the slow roller. Having a lot of enemies at the table will not be beneficial in the long run, especially if you play in tough games where your enemies are sharp players.
It can scare off the fish
Having a good table in a poker game is extremely beneficial. With the amount of poker information available, many players have gotten quite good at the game, so finding a table with a few fish is amazing. Keeping the fish entertained seems like it is a lost art in poker, but it is an important aspect of the game. If someone is losing money, you want them to at least have a good time while they are doing it. This way they will come back and lose more!
The last thing you want to do is make the fish embarrassed or angry because then they have no incentive to stay in the game. Slow rolling a fish will likely make them angry, and if they are losing money already they may leave the game. Many old pros will say “don’t tap the glass” when someone gives strategic advice to a fish. The same can be said about a slow roll, although that is more like hitting the glass with a hammer.
It can hurt your reputation
Anyone who has played poker long enough can attest that the poker world is a small one. While you may not know everyone’s name at your local casino, you recognize faces and you likely know someone they know. With social media groups and the growing popularity of poker vloggers, poker players worldwide are more connected than they have ever been. Since we are such a tight community, it is easy for the word to spread when someone has a bad reputation. Tales of cheating, people refusing to pay debts, and players acting like a jerk at the table can spread quickly. If you want to maintain a good reputation in your local poker scene, you do not want to be slow rolling people.
It slows down the game
Slow rolling quite literally slows the game down, I mean it’s in the name. Many players today complain about the pace of poker. Tanking has become more and more popular in big-bet games. We’ve seen the high roller tournaments and live-streamed games start to implement a shot clock for decisions. The whole community seems to think the game is slow and wants to speed things up, so the last thing you want to do is slow it down even more. Especially if you are in an area where card rooms are not 24/7 like New Hampshire, slowing down the game is bad for everyone at the table.
You may lose your seat
If you play primarily in private home games, slow rolling could cost you your ability to play poker. In a regulated casino or card room, anyone can sit at a table unless they are banned from the property. Legally, if a game is being offered, the casino cannot stop you from sitting in it. However, if you play in private clubs or home games you’ll need to be invited back. Slow rolling or otherwise acting like a jerk at the table can get your name taken off the list quickly. If you find yourself in an area with few regulated casinos, you do not want to be removed from invite lists at private games.
Despite the reasons above, there are some circumstances where a slow roll is warranted.
Here are 3 reasons you SHOULD slow roll in poker
It’s funny when amongst friends
If you are playing with close friends, it can be funny to hit them with a slow roll in a small pot. I used to play a regular game with the same few guys and we had a rule where you could slow roll once per session if the pot was under $100 (we played $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em). It was a fun way to mess with each other during our games, which could become a little monotonous at times. If someone scoops a big pot off you, hit them with a little slow roll the next time you two are at showdown in a small pot.
Now I will say, this should be something discussed with your friends before you do it. Every once in a while when I get a game together with close friends, I will warn them as we set up that I am likely to slow roll someone. It keeps everyone on their toes and can lead to some funny showdowns where we are arguing to see the other’s cards even if it is not their turn to show. It keeps the game light and can be a fun way to mess with each other.
You can get a player on tilt
While I believe this is not the best way to defeat your opponents, slow rolling someone might get them on tilt. As outlined above, there are many disadvantages to slow rolling, but the one true advantage is you can get your opponents to tilt. I have seen this tactic used late in a tournament, where the players cannot quit the game so they are forced to stay after getting a brutal poker slow roll. A tilted opponent could gift you their whole stack, or suck out going wild trying to beat you. There may be better ways to beat your opponent, but if you are looking for a way to get someone on tilt, slow roll poker may work out for you.
There are many wise warnings about revenge, “while seeking revenge dig two graves — one for yourself” or “a man who studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green.” Despite the many warnings, sometimes you need to dish out some revenge. I don’t mean getting revenge on someone because they got lucky in a pot or end up on the better end of a cooler against you. But if a player is being a jerk or slow rolls you in a game, sometimes they need a taste of their own medicine. It is not “being the bigger man” or taking the high road, but some good old-fashioned eye-for-and-eye might be exactly what the opponent needs.
A slow roll in poker is not a good thing. It can hurt the game and yourself in many ways. It is best to avoid it altogether to make sure everyone at the table is having a good time. While there are some instances where it can be funny or even deserved, it is best to take the high ground and keep slow rolls out of your game.