Poker is a funny game with seemingly contradictory ideas found in abundance. On one hand lying, needling, and even overtly trash talking other players is an everyday part of gameplay. On the other hand, there are lines that are taboo and should never be crossed. One of them is slow rolling. In fact, if you slow roll someone, even accidentally you are likely to become, at best, ostracised at your table and, at worst, may even start a fistfight.
So what is a slow roll? A slow roll occurs at showdown when a player with an extremely strong hand, often the nuts, faces river bet and then delays calling or turning over his cards. This is usually done to give an opponent false hope that he holds the winning hand. Slow rolling is a serious breach of poker etiquette.
Here are three specific examples of ways that a player can slow roll an opponent while holding a strong hand:
- Pausing on the river after facing a big bet or all-in
- Calling quickly but then taking a long time to turn over the winning cards
- Pretending to be disappointed or admitting defeat at any point after the bet or all-in before turning over the winning hand
Why Slow Rolling Is Frowned Upon
Slow rolling is frowned upon because it plays a trick on a person at the exact moment that he or she is losing a lot of money or chips at the poker table. It adds unnecessary duress onto what may already be an emotional time for a player. Basically, when you delay showing a strong hand you give your opponent a false sense of hope that the pot will be going his way. At the poker table, nothing is crueler. Here are a few ways that a slow roll might go down.
The slow roller may:
- Feign disappointment and even sigh before delaying and turning over the winning hand
- Say things to make their opponent think they may have won
- Go “into the tank” and take several minutes before calling
- Hold their cards out over the muck as if to throw them away before quickly turning them over
Is Slow Rolling Illegal?
There is usually no explicit rule that states that taking a long time to call or turn over your cards with a strong hand is illegal. Even so, slow rolling in the wrong poker room might get you banned or worse. I have heard stories of assaults taking place in parking lots outside of casinos due to someone being slow rolled.
I’d tell you to check the local rules before deciding to slow roll but I feel that’s bad advice. You should be focusing on how to beat your opponents, not make them hate you for life. Slow rolling someone is an unforgivable act to most poker players.
What to Do If You Are Slow Rolled
If you find yourself on the wrong end of a slow roll then it is usually best to take the high road. It is likely that someone is slow rolling you to try and get under your skin and get you off your game. Therefore, the best policy is typically to just say “nice hand” and move on.
Even so, make sure you take note of it the next time you are on the river with a really strong hand and face an all-in from this player. You know what they say about paybacks.
What To Do If You Witness Someone Else Get Slow Rolled
If you see another player fall victim to a slow roll, it’s actually best to not react or say anything. For all you know, those two players have a history and it’s a tradition to slow roll each other. In fact, it’s best to think of ways to use the situation to your advantage over the next few hands and keep in mind that the slow rolled person may be steaming.
I know this sounds cruel but emotional control is an important part of poker. Trust me, no one is going to soft play you and you should never do the same. There is no room for nice guys when it comes to forming optimal strategies. Take my advice and be a nice guy outside the gameplay and a ruthless villain with your poker actions.
Can Slow Rolling Happen Before the River?
There is nothing wrong with taking a long time or “Hollywooding” with a strong hand at any point except the river. In fact, it is part of the game for a player to feign weakness in order to keep his or her opponent involved in the hand. If taking a long time to act accomplishes this, it’s not bad etiquette but rather good poker.
What Is the Difference Between Slow Rolling and Slow Playing?
Slow playing actually has nothing to do with how long you take to act and can occur on any street, even the river. Basically, when you slow play you take a passive action with a really strong hand such as checking or calling. The opposite is to fast play, which means you bet or raise a really strong hand,
Examples of Slow Rolling
Giving the play by play of a slow roll could never do justice to actually witnessing one for yourself.
I actually once was accused of slow rolling before I even knew what slow rolling was. While playing a pub poker game I was faced an all-in bet on the turn while holding a flush. I made the mistake of counting out the chips to call before turning over my cards. My opponent immediately accused me of slow rolling and I told him I had no idea what that was. It was explained to me and I apologized.
Here is a video showing various players slow rolling their opponents:
Slow Roll Poker Etiquette
In order to avoid slow rolling someone, it’s best to get in the habit of just flipping your cards up instantly whenever you make a call. Even with a hand that is less than the nuts, you may be perceived as slow-rolling if the other person has a slightly worse hand. By insta-turning your hands up, you also gain a few secondary benefits:
- It speeds up the game
- There is no chance you will accidentally fold the best hand
- You will also confidently show down the marginal hands you are calling with, which may dissuade future opponents from bluffing you
Is It Ever Okay to Slow Roll?
On a rare occasion, it may actually be okay to slow roll someone. Even so, until you gain a feel for reading table dynamics I would avoid slow rolling altogether. Here are a few instances where it’s okay to consider a slow roll:
- Someone has recently slow-rolled someone at the table and you hold a strong hand on the river versus the slow-roller
- You are playing with a group of friends and it’s a tradition to slow roll the nuts
- Another player has been obnoxious and abusive to other players (Make sure you are ready for an altercation if you slow roll the jerk)
- You have the image as a newbie and decide to slow roll to perpetuate that image (don’t overdo it and make sure you pretend to genuinely think you misread your hand)
- It’s the final table bubble in a tournament and another all-in is occurring on an adjacent table
Online Slow Rolling
This is a common question that people ask: Can you slow roll online? The answer is yes!
Similarly to live play, if you face a bet on the river while holding the nuts or near nuts it is considered a slow roll if you take more than a couple of seconds. In fact, since most people are not really paying attention to the action due to the prevalence of multi-tabling, slow rolling is not likely to elicit the same condemning reaction that you would be subject to live. Even so, there’s really no reason to slow roll anyone for more than a few seconds. The only exception would be if you are calling a friend or family member into the room to show off your super-strong hand.
Online slow rolls are generally more forgivable. This is because the majority of slow rolls are actually not intentional. Instead, they are often due to internet lag, multi-tabling, or some kind of external distraction. In fact, people will seldom notice or even comment when an actual slow roll occurs.
While slow rolling may seem like a funny thing to do to a person while you are holding the nuts, it’s best to follow the golden rule. Losing a big pot on the river after believing you might have the best hand is a horrible feeling no matter what the stakes are. Just because you are trying to beat your opponents doesn’t mean you have to disrespect them in the process.