Slow rolling in poker is one of biggest sins you can commit. It is extremely frowned upon by all players at the table and will gain you zero respect, friendliness, or warm sentiments from others if you do it.
Essentially, it is breaking the highest form of etiquette and good manners that one can have at the poker table.
DEFINITION OF SLOW ROLL IN POKER
There are a few different meanings of “slow roll”, so to help clarify its definitions, here are the three possibilities:
- Where a player intentionally takes a long pause before calling an all-in bet with an extremely strong or unbeatable poker hand.
- Where a player purposefully takes a prolonged pause before revealing their winning hand (regardless of its strength) at showdown. (Usually, after the other player has already shown their hole cards.)
- Where a player verbally (1a) admits defeat to their opponent; or (1b) mis-declares or underrepresents their hand at showdown, and then (2) ultimately reveals their winning cards.
WHY SLOW ROLL SO BAD
Slow rolling is so terrible because it contradicts acceptable poker etiquette, which states that you should flip over your hand immediately if you have the winning hand and/or if it’s your turn to show your cards at showdown. (NEVER keep your winning cards in front of you face-down for a prolonged length of time before showing them to the table when it’s your turn.)
Another reason slow rolling is awful is because it gives your opponent a false hope of winning the hand. If you know that they’re already going to lose, then taking your time before revealing your winner is only like rubbing salt in an open wound. It’s going to be a harrowing painful experience for them to endure and doesn’t do anyone any good.
Furthermore, slow rolling isn’t going to gain you any friends at the table. In fact, it will probably end up hurting you more than your slow roll victim. Other players will quickly come to dislike you. They may subsequently not want to play with you because you will have ruined the friendliness of the game and gone against good poker sportsmanship - which won’t do yourself any good in the long-run.
SLOW ROLL STRATEGY
In terms of strategy for slow rolling: to put it simply, DON’T DO IT! Steps you can do to avoid doing a slow roll include the following:
- Reveal or muck your cards immediately when it’s your turn to act.
- Call an all-in bet instantly, if you have the best possible hand (or a hand of extreme strength and you’re going to call anyway).
- Always double-check your hand before getting to showdown to avoid verbally mis-declaring your hand.
- If you are newer to poker and still trying to understand hand strengths and which hand beats what, always just flip over your cards right away at showdown and let the dealer figure out which hand is the winner.
Now, that said, while slow rolls are still extremely unethical to do, some experienced and/or better-known players have done it once in a blue moon when a very particular situation merits it. Specific examples can be found in a later section of this article, but to give a mild taste of when it might be done, here are some things to remember:
- If ever done, it is usually between friends who are really (or acquaintances in some way that have a pre-established history or rapport) where slow rolling might be an acceptable taunt - strictly between the two of them.
- If you ever do a slow roll (which you shouldn’t – but IF you do), don’t EVER do it in large or significant pots. Losing large sums of money in a poker hand is never any fun, regardless of whether a slow roll is done or not. Don’t add insult to injury on large pots. If you are going to go at a good friend of yours with a slow roll, smaller or more insignificant pots (or even those done with play money) may be better choices - instead of perhaps a high stakes cash game all-in situation or in the late stages or final table of a tournament.
SLOW ROLLING VS HOLLYWOOD
Be sure to not fall into the trap of confusing “slow rolling” with “Hollywooding”. Slow rolling can only be done when (1) YOU are closing the action during a betting round, (2) your opponent is all-in, and (3) you’re heads-up with this opponent (i.e. no other players still in the pot).
“Hollywooding,” on the other hand, can be expanded to include two similar, yet different points:
- Multi-way Pots: If another player has gone all-in, the action is on you, and you want to make it appear to other players still in the hand that you have a difficult decision, then this is “Hollywooding” and not a slow roll.
- Your Opponent Is Not Yet All-In: When a player has bet or raised, but is NOT all-in, and you take your time before going all-in yourself (trying to induce further action by making it look like you had a decision before shoving your strong hand), then this is “Hollywooding” and not a slow roll.
UNINTENTIONAL SLOW ROLLS
Slow rolling in live poker is highly unacceptable because it is always intentional, as you only have one hand at one table to focus on at a time. Online, however, because many players are multi-tabling (playing many tables at the same time), their attention may become diverted, as they spend time focusing on decisions to be made on other tables.
Therefore, while still unacceptable (as it is still a slow roll), do keep in mind that slow rolls may not always be intentional online.
SLOW ROLL EXAMPLES
Jamie Staples’ Tournament Dreams Crushed by Tonkaaaa’s Aces
LOCATION: Online, Pokerstars, The Big $109 ($50k GTD) (2017)
DESCRIPTION: In the early- to mid- stages of a $109 online tournament, two renowned poker pros squared off preflop in what is usually nothing more than a cooler: Pocket Kings versus Pocket Aces. However, in this instance, after Team888’s Tonkaaaa 3bet the button and Jamie cold 4bet all-in with KK from the small blind, Tonkaaaa decided to slow roll his Aces versus the Team Pokerstars Pro – perhaps the reason he decided to go for the slow roll in the first place. In the video link above, you can see the side-by-side reaction of the two players at the same time, as they were both streaming the tournament at the same time on Twitch! Ironically, that wasn’t the only time in an online tournament that Jamie Staples has been slow rolled by Aces! (In the following clip, Staples get slow rolled again preflop, this time by another member of Team Pro: http://bit.ly/2puRgWi)
Jack Ury Main Event
LOCATION: WSOP Main Event (2009)
DESCRIPTION: The late Jack Ury is best known in the poker world for setting the record as the oldest player at the age of 97 to ever play in a WSOP event. In 2009, Jack played a hand with Steven Friedlander where both players flopped a full house – Jack with 7-7 and Steven with 7-6 on a 6-6-7 flop! Jack bet the flop and Steven raised all-in, saying, “Why don’t we just get all the money in right now?” seeming to taunt Jack to an extent. As Jack put his remaining chips into the middle, he said, “Bye, Bye,” as if to say his opponent was certainly ahead. In reality, the ONLY hand that could currently beat Jack would be the unlikely pocket 6’s for quads. After Steven tabled his 7-6 full house, Jack played dumb and said, “What you got? You’re in trouble.” Then, even when the dealer asked Jack to table flip his cards, he paused for dramatics and waited even longer before finally revealing his hand, much to the amusement of the players at the table. While slow rolling is unethical, there is something to be said about such an elderly man slow rolling a player, not even half his age, after the playful banter they had had earlier in the hand.
Sam Abernathy’s Revenge versus Mikel Habb’s Preflop Slow Roll
LOCATION: Aussie Millions Main Event (2016)
DESCRIPTION: With 15 players remaining the 2016 Aussie Millions Main Event and blinds at 12k/24k, UTG decided to raise to 50k. Mikel Habb then 3bet KK on the button to 112k (from his 476k stack), but threw in a bit of an angle shoot by taking back his raising chips and saying he meant only to call (making him appear weak in a dirty, deceptive way). After the raise stood, Sam Abernathy 4bet shoved 514k from the small blind with 66. What followed the UTG’s quick fold was appalling: a full-on, despicable slow roll with an acting job nothing short of cringe-worthy by Habb sitting there with KK. Did he really think he was up against AA? No, and even if so, it would have been a cooler. In the end, karma was served to Habb as the board ran out Q-9-T-T, culminating with a beautiful 6 on the river, sending him to the rail and delivering poker justice at the Aussie Millions. Even with the antics Habb supposedly showcased earlier to get to this moment, when you’re this deep in a tournament and have so much money on the line, the already-unethical slow roll is just never acceptable.
Bottom line, slow rolling ultimately hurts no one more than the person who does it. It is un-classy, unethical, and a downright horrible part of poker for those who dare to venture there. Your fellow players will not appreciate your unsportsmanlike behaviour and will often frown upon any form of slow rolling. It also gives enough reason for the table to become very unfriendly or even hostile towards you, as players will loathe you for doing it and not even want to have you at their table.
Just as losing with grace is a crucial step to learn in poker, winning with grace is also important. Don’t give false hope to players by slow rolling, and don’t make them feel worse than they already do from losing the pot.
When it’s time to showdown your hand, keep quiet, immediately turn your hand over, and graciously enjoy raking your winnings!