Slow rolling in poker is one of biggest sins you can commit. It is extremely frowned upon by all players at the table. And it 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 at the poker table.

Table of Contents

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. Even when holding an extremely strong or unbeatable poker hand.
  • Where a player purposefully takes a prolonged pause before revealing their winning hand. This scenario typically occurs 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.

Watch Kara Scott Interview with Ana Marquez on slow roll in poker:

 
 

WHY SLOW ROLLING IS SO BAD

Slow rolling is so terrible because it contradicts acceptable poker etiquette. You should flip over your hand immediately if you have the winning hand. You should also do so 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 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 is like rubbing salt in an open wound. It’s going to be a harrowing painful experience for them to endure. And it 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. You will have ruined the friendliness of the game and gone against good poker sportsmanship.

poker player

Slow Rolling Ruins the Good Sportsmanship in Poker

 
 

SLOW ROLL STRATEGY

Regarding strategy for slow rolling: 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. You should do this when you have the best possible hand (or a hand of extreme strength).
  • Always double-check your hand before getting to showdown. This act will avoid verbally mis-declaring your hand.
  • If you are newer to poker and still trying to understand which hand beats what, always flip over your cards right away at showdown. Let the dealer figure out which hand is the winner.

Now, that said, some experienced players have done it once in a blue moon when a particular situation merits it. Specific examples can be found in a later section of this article. 

But here’s a mild taste of when it might be done:

  • If ever done, it is usually between friends. They have a pre-established history 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. 
  • Don’t add insult to injury on large pots. If you are going to slow roll a friend, smaller or more insignificant pots may be better choices. Avoid 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,” can be expanded to include two similar, yet different points:

  • Multi-way Pots: Another player has gone all-in. The action is on you. You want to make it appear to other players still in the hand that you have a difficult decision. This situation may call for “Hollywooding” and not a slow roll.
  • Your Opponent Is Not Yet All-In: A player has bet or raised, but is NOT all-in. You take your time before going all-in. You are trying to induce further action before shoving your strong hand). In this scenario, you are “Hollywooding” and not slow rolling.

LIVE VS ONLINE SLOW ROLLS

Slow rolling in live poker is highly unacceptable because it is always intentional. You only have one hand at one table to focus on at a time. 

When playing online, many players are multi-tabling (playing many tables at the same time). Their attention may become diverted. They spend time focusing on decisions on other tables.

While still unacceptable, keep in mind that online slow rolls may not always be intentional.

SLOW ROLL EXAMPLES

1. Jamie Staples’ Tournament Dreams Crushed by Tonkaaaa’s Aces

In the early- to mid- stages of a $109 online tournament, two renowned poker pros squared off preflop. The hand turned into what is usually nothing more than a cooler: 

Pocket Kings versus Pocket Aces

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 Pro

In the video link above, you can see the side-by-side reaction of the two players at the same time. 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 gets slow rolled again preflop. This time by another member of Team Pro: http://bit.ly/2puRgWi)

2. Jack Ury Main Event

LOCATION: WSOP Main Event (2009)

The late Jack Ury set 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 held 7-7 and Steven had 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?” He seemed to taunt Jack. Jack put his remaining chips into the middle’ Then 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. He 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. Especially after the playful banter they had had earlier in the hand.

3. Sam Abernathy’s Revenge versus Mikel Habb’s Preflop Slow Roll

LOCATION: Aussie Millions Main Event (2016)

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 he threw in a bit of an angle shoot by taking back his raising chips and saying he meant only to call.

The act made 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. Habb put on a full-on, despicable slow roll with an acting job nothing short of cringe-worthy. 

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. The river delivered a beautiful 6, sending him to the rail and delivering poker justice. 

When you’re this deep in a tournament, the already-unethical slow roll is never acceptable.

FINAL WORD – SLOW ROLLING

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. They 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.

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 essential. 

  • Don’t give false hope to players by slow rolling.
  • 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
  • Graciously enjoy raking in your winnings!
About the Author
By
Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.
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