What Is a Slow Roll in Poker?


The goal of any poker game is to force your opponents to commit mistakes, misjudgments, and miscalculations. However, in any level of poker game, there are some unspoken rules that you can’t cross. Slow roll is one of these unspoken rules and is one of the most frowned upon actions that players take when at the table.

Slow roll refers to the actions that a player, who has the best hand at the time, takes to pretend that he’s making a hard decision. An example of a slow roll is when there’s 6♠ J♦ 4♦ T♠ 7♦ on the table, and a player with A♦ 9♦ pretends to be making a tough decision to make the hand dramatic.

A slow roll can happen as early as pre-flop, and other strategies have a similar approach to it, making it very confusing for many players. We’ll discuss everything about a slow roll in great detail to help you understand why enthusiasts frown upon this action.

An example of a slow roll in poker.
If you are facing a simple decision (like calling an all-in) on the river with the nuts, don’t take ages to make your play.

Slow Roll in Poker: What You Need to Know

A slow roll can come in many different forms, which accounts for several interpretations of it. However, if there’s one thing that can succinctly describe what a slow roll is, it’s unnecessarily pretending to make a tough decision for the sake of adding drama to the hand.

Some players may also interpret a slow roll as the act of refusing to get to the showdown promptly.

Someone who’s trying to slow roll will wait for the other player to reveal his cards to make him believe that he has the winner. Unnecessarily misleading your opponent to think that he has a chance to win is unsportsmanlike.

If your opponent raises a big pot on the river, and you have the stone-cold-nuts—and you should know that you have it—there’s no strategic gain for you to be pretending that you’re trying to make a tough decision.

A video that shows you how a slow roll can be quite a scene.

The premise of slow roll in poker is the “golden rule” by Confucius: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.”

If you have K♦ Q♦ and you flopped a flush with the Aon the table, there’s no reason to spend more than a minute pretending to make a tough decision. Even though it’s not the stone-cold-nuts, you only have two options: all-in or fold, and no player would ever fold an ace-high flush at the flop.

It’s unnecessary and unsportsmanlike. In fact, even the commentators, who were supposed to be neutral, were rooting for an ace or 6 for justice. Every player doesn’t want something like this to happen to them, so it’s an unspoken rule for you to never slow play your hand. It’s a play that forces other enthusiasts to lose respect for you.

Oversight happens in poker, and it could result in an unintentional slow roll, but it rarely happens.

Instead of turning his hand immediately, Cloutier took a few seconds to look at his cards before putting it on the table. Upon realizing that he has the winning hand, he quickly dropped it and apologized to Hellmuth. It could be intentional or not, but we’ll let you be the judge.

Slow Rolling vs. Slow Playing

Don’t confuse slow rolling with slow playing because these are two very different things in poker. Slow playing is creating an impression that you have a weak hand with the intention of provoking another player to play aggressively against you.

Here’s a video to show you a perfectly executed slow play.

Antonius had a hand of A♦ 4♦ and flopped a full house with 4♥ A♠ A♣. However, despite having the nuts as early as the flop, he still checked three times, even on the river! His slow play created an impression that he has a weak hand, but the intention is to bait Tony G into playing aggressively. If you successfully executed a slow play, you can capitalize on it to inflate the pot and extract value from your opponents.

On the other hand, a slow roll won’t provide you with any strategic advantage. If you already have the nuts at the time you’re making your bet, you don’t have to create unnecessary drama because it won’t help you inflate the pot. In fact, a slow roll is so bad that many players agree there’s no reason for anyone to slow play the nuts—intentionally or not.

Why Would Someone Slow Roll?

If there’s no strategic advantage for any player to slow roll a hand, why would he even bother doing it in the first place? It only gains disrespect from the spectators, so there’s no logical explanation as to why someone would do it, right? There are three main reasons why someone would even have the faintest idea to slow roll, and none of it is good. 

To Personally Attack Another Player

Poker is never personal, but we never know what happens off the table. Some poker players have a long-standing dispute with each other, and sometimes, they’re using slow roll to attack, embarrass, or provoke the other player.

Poker enthusiasts consider it one of the worst kinds of personal attacks in poker because a slow roller won’t gain from it other than the “supposed” pleasure of seeing the other player’s reaction.

Have you heard of the idiom kicking a dead horse? It has the same effect as a slow roll. In fact, it’s what it means if you’re at the poker table. When you slow roll someone, it’s an effort that wastes time because there’s no positive outcome that you can get from it. Even if you think it’s cool to embarrass another player at the felt, no one will take your side. 

More Drama Gets More Exposure

Another reason why a player would slow roll in a televised tournament, and possibly the most unacceptable, is for more exposure or to gain more attention. If you’ve watched enough poker tournaments, you know that the camera will always be at the player who’s next to move. The longer he thinks, the more exposure he gets.

Players who do this always find themselves amused by what they’re doing at the table. However, it rarely impresses anyone, and more exposure through a slow roll often attracts too much negative attention.

A video that shows how a slow roll can be annoying and serve as one of the quickest ways to lose respect.

It’s not for us to decide whether Habb considered folding his pocket kings or not; its pocket kings pre-flop and Abernathy could have pocket aces. However, the actions he made were uncalled for and could go down as one of the most dramatic slow rolls in history

Humans Make Mistakes

The last reason why someone would slow roll is oversight; it’s also the one that has the simplest explanation. Everyone makes mistakes, and that could lead you to slow roll your hand. In fact, oversight in poker is also one reason many players received penalties for violating various tournament rules.

Whether it’s intentional or not, a slow roll won’t make anyone entertained. In fact, players who unintentionally slow roll their hands had to go through great lengths, only to prove that it was only an oversight. That’s how bad it is, and you should never do it while playing.

Can You Slow Roll Your Hand?

Anyone can slow roll their hands. No rule in poker prohibits anyone from doing it, and you won’t get penalized—unless you consider the adverse reactions that you’ll get as a penalty. However, it’s one of the unspoken rules in poker, and you should never do it when playing with other people.

The only situation where a slow roll is acceptable is when you’re playing with friends, and you want to make it a bit fun. It’s the same with name-calling; it’s something that might be okay when you do it with friends but never acceptable when you do it with other people.

One of the most important things that you need to remember is, despite how cool it may seem for you, a slow roll is something you should never do. It’s bad etiquette and not something that you’d want to be doing in a gentleman’s game. 

Slow Roll: Bad Etiquette in a Gentleman’s Game

Many people disagree with the notion that slow rolling is bad. In fact, they’re still doing it to prove their point. One of the arguments that they make is: why is it okay for someone to pull off a big bluff and show their cards—some organizers and players even encourage it—but not when you slow roll?

Both actions may seem comparable because it has the potential to tilt the other player. However, there’s a deeper reason for it, and it’s far more than forcing your opponent to lose composure.

If you pull off a bluff and show your cards to your opponent, it provides him with valuable insight into how you’re playing your cards. Some organizers and even the other players on the table might encourage you to show your cards after a big win, which is fine. If your opponent tilts because of a big bluff, perhaps, poker isn’t the game for him.

Slow rolling doesn’t do anything other than to amplify the loss of another player or make it unnecessarily dramatic. It won’t provide anyone with valuable insight and isn’t beneficial in any way, other than to provoke an adverse reaction from your opponent.

If you have the winning hand and try to delay the showdown or mislead your opponents into thinking that they won, you’re childish. Pulling off a big bluff is a display of skills while a slow roll reveals a player’s lack of manners.

Slow Rolling in Tournaments, Casinos, and Online

There’s nothing in the rule book that prohibits anyone from doing a slow roll. If you want to do it, despite knowing that you’ll be the villain of the night, you’re free to do so. You won’t get penalized for a slow roll, but no one will appreciate your actions, especially in a televised tournament.

A video that shows how oversight of cards can quickly turn any poker table hostile.

Slow rollers will always get adverse reactions from the commentators, crowd, and even the other players on your table. In fact, all of them will be rooting for your opponent, and it’ll be embarrassing to get your act crushed at the felt.

If you’re playing in a casino, you can also slow roll. There’s nothing that stops you from doing it, except for a manager who doesn’t appreciate such actions. Again, there are no penalties for doing it, but you’ll receive a warning. However, repeated and intentional slow rolls can still get you penalized. Although it depends on the room manager, would you risk your game just to see your opponent’s reactions?

Aside from that, remember that you’re playing at a casino to meet new acquaintances and not to attract negative attention towards you. Repeated slow rolls will force every other player on the table to do the same to you when they get the chance. When it happens, you will, most certainly, not like the feeling of getting slow rolled.

When playing at an online poker site, it’s easy to get away with a slow roll. Many factors can affect the time a player needs to move, such as slow internet connection, disconnection, and distraction. These factors can make a player move slower than he intends, making it less likely for them to flag a slow roll.

Aside from this, there is almost no reason to slow roll anyone in an online poker site. When you’re playing on a platform with tens of thousands of other players, it would be hard to keep track of everyone for you to plan for a slow roll.

There are also no cameras watching you while playing online poker, so unless you’re streaming your game, there’s no reason to look for more exposure. Even if you need the exposure, you’re streaming, so everyone’s eyes are on you, making it harder to get away with a slow roll.

Oversight is the only acceptable reason for someone to slow roll in an online poker site. But you should still be careful because you’ll never know the kind of reaction that you’ll get from the other players. So, let’s try to avoid this move at any table and make sure that we’re doing our best to avoid unintentional slow rolls. 

How to Avoid Accidental Slow Rolls

Poker is not perfect, and it will never be perfect. There will always be room for error and improvement. The same is true with slow rolls. Other players, especially those who have the reputation of playing nicely with others, can get away with an accidental slow roll. However, someone who’s been doing it quite often may not get the same level of treatment.

The best way for you to avoid unintentional slow rolls is to hardwire yourself into playing nicely. Here are some things that you can do to prevent it from happening:

  • When you reach the showdown of cards, don’t spend time analyzing your cards and think about what you could’ve done better. There’s nothing that you can do about your hand, and it would be best to muck or turn them as soon as you can.
  • If you think you have the nuts or at least a strong hand, always be the first to turn it on the table. There’s no reason for you to delay it. Even if you think that your opponent won’t do the same, it’s a sign of courtesy to be the first to show your cards.
  • Unless it’s uncalled for, don’t overdramatize post-flop. There’s no reason for anyone to create unnecessary drama; the best thing that you can get from it is to annoy the other players on your table.

These are basic steps that anyone can practice. If you’re new to the game, it can be tough to follow these steps. However, as you learn the basics of poker and play with more experienced players, it becomes instinctive. They’re expecting you to be courteous enough to never slow roll a hand. Playing nice will pay off in the long run, more than the temporary pleasure that you get from seeing your opponent’s reaction.

Conclusion

Slow roll is a move that intends to create an impression that your opponent may have the winning hand. There’s no strategic gain to it, and it can cost you the respect of other players on the table. Although it can happen accidentally, there are things that you can do to prevent a slow roll.

As you learn the game and understand different strategies, do’s and don’ts, and the most effective ways to crush your opponents, always remember one thing: a slow roll isn’t something that you should do.

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Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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