The Trouble With Slow Rolling in Poker

Slow rolling is one of the biggest crimes you can commit at the poker table, but what is it? As well as giving you the basics and how to not to slow roll, we’ve got a controversial take on why it could be a good strategic move. So, if you want to know about the good and bad bits of slow rolling, let’s get into it…

poker hand

What is Slow Rolling in Poker?

Intentionally taking longer than is deemed acceptable to show a winning hand or call a bet/raise on the river is known as a slow roll in poker. Put another way, slow rolling is when you delay an action, despite being 100% confident you’re going to win.

Of course, there may be times when you’re unsure if you’ve got the best hand or not. Specifically, if you have to show first. In those situations, you may be somewhat tentative.

However, in most cases, it’s clear you have a winning hand, particularly if you’re holding the nuts (aka the best possible hand), and you’re stalling on purpose.

Why is Slow Rolling Bad?

Slow rolling is considered poor etiquette in poker because you’re deliberately being manipulative.

But surely poker is all about mind games? Yes, that’s true, but poker is also about respecting your opponents. Much like any competitive endeavor, there are rules and there are unwritten rules.

For example, there’s nothing in the rules of football that says you have to provide comfortable changing facilities for the opposing team. However, home teams do offer sanitary locker rooms because it’s respectful and they’d like the same treatment in return.

The decision not to slow roll in poker is the same. There’s always a sense of trepidation when someone bets on the river or goes to a showdown. Slow rolling prolongs the tension unnecessarily.

In essence, it’s a form of psychological torture. It’s gamesmanship and, if we’re being pointed, it’s akin to bullying.

 

Put simply, it’s not against the rules, but it’s not a particularly nice thing to do. Poker players see slow rolling as a classless act and, therefore, against the spirit of the game (see video above). That’s why people don’t slow roll in poker.

Is Slow Rolling Against the Rules?

No, as we’ve said, it’s not against the rules to slow roll poker players. In fact, you’re well within your rights to do it.

However, it’s one of poker’s unwritten rules. Players have an understanding that it’s not in keeping with poker’s social vibe.

Even though you’re trying to win money when you’re playing live or online poker, there’s a social aspect to the game that can’t be ignored. That’s why poker can be described as friendly warfare with cards. Everyone wants to inflict financial damage on their opponents but, when it’s all over, shake hands.

How to Avoid Slow Rolling

Okay, so we know slow rolling is frowned upon. If you’re a complete novice and people at the table know it, you’ll be given some leeway if you do it unintentionally. But, if you understand the rules and slow roll intentionally, be prepared for at least one person to say something.

We want you to have fun, so here are some quick tips to avoid slow rolling:

  • Know when to show:
    The rules of poker state that the player who made the last aggressive action (a bet or a raise) has to reveal their hand first at a showdown. For example, let’s say you’re facing a bet on the river and call. The player who made the bet will be asked to show their cards first. If you’ve beaten them, reveal your hand as quickly as possible.
  • Listen to the dealer:
    The dealer in a live poker game will always announce the action. So, if you’re required to call a bet/raise or show your cards, they’ll tell you. Do this as quickly as possible if you’re in a situation where delaying the action could be classed as slow rolling.
  • Pay attention:
    You should always be paying attention to what’s going on at the table. That’s how you develop a winning poker strategy. Why? Because, if you don’t know what players are doing, you’ll never be able to exploit their weaknesses. Paying attention also means you’ll get a feel for the table dynamics. All games have a certain pace and flow. Make sure you’re in step with how fast or slow people are making decisions.

The Controversial Case for Slow Rolling

We’re here to make sure you enjoy poker, so it’s not necessarily a good idea to annoy your opponents. Having said this, we can make a case for slow rolling in certain situations.

Poker is as much a game of psychology as mathematics and logic. Therefore, if you feel like a carefully-timed slow roll could send someone into an emotional frenzy, it might be worth doing.

Be prepared for some backlash, particularly from the player you slow roll. However, if you can handle that, slow rolling can give you a psychological edge – when it’s used sparingly.

The video below shows Shaun Deeb using a well-timed slow roll to annoy the always fractious Mike Matusow. Again, we’re not saying you should do it all the time. But, if it can get you a slight edge, it’s worth considering.

 

Conclusion

In summary, slow rolling in poker should be avoided at all costs. It causes tension at the table and spoils an otherwise friendly vibe. If you know your hand is unbeatable, call a bet or raise quickly. Similarly, if you’re required to show your hand and it’s almost certain to claim the pot, do it as quickly as possible. Keep these simple rules in mind and you’ll be welcome in any game and, moreover, get maximum enjoyment each time you play.

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Daniel Smyth

Daniel comes to Techopedia.com with a wealth of experience in the gambling sector. Over the last 15+ years, he’s written content for WPT Magazine, CardsChat, and Gambling.com. Daniel has also worked directly with many of the industry’s leading operators, including PokerStars, Betway, and Yggdrasil. If it’s about gambling, Daniel has covered it.