What is Slow Rolling in Poker?

Slow rolling is one of the worst things you can use during a poker play. A slow roll usually happens when a player has a strong hand in a showdown and delays revealing his cards. The objective is usually to make his opponent believe that he has the winning hand. Any player will be tempted to roll their eyes at you if they catch you doing it, and you would lose all respect of everyone at the table.  

Why You Shouldn’t Slow Roll

It’s basically bad manners and breaks all rules of etiquette. Poker etiquette says that you should immediately reveal your cards when it’s your turn to do so in a showdown or if you hold the winning hand. You should absolutely never place your winning cards face down in front of you or take too long before revealing them when it’s your turn.

Another reason why players hate slow rolling is that it can make your opponent believe they can win. If you know for certain that they’re going to lose, it’s just plain rude to delay their agony. And it doesn’t benefit you in any way unless your ego is so important to you.

Slow rolling will especially harm you if you play socially, as it’s a quick way to have players dislike you. They may even choose not to play with you again because they judge you as someone who has violated sportsmanship. And if you don’t have anyone to play with, you won’t be able to win at all.

Slow Rolling and the Rules

There’s no actual rule that says taking your time to reveal your cards when you have a strong hand is illegal. However, doing so in some poker rooms might get you banned, if not worse. So, you should check the rules before you decide to do so. An even better move would be to avoid doing it altogether. You should just focus on winning the game at hand, as opposed to ticking off the other players at the table. 

Why There Might Be an Exception to the “Rule”

While we’ve made clear that slow rolling is an unethical activity, some experienced players have done it occasionally in response to a very specific situation. If done, it’s usually in a game between good friends where there’s a lot of banter going around the table. Even then, the one time you should never slow roll is when the pot has attracted a large amount of money. 

Slow Rolling Before the River

It’s fine to take your time with a good hand at any point during the game that isn’t the river. Pretending that you’re in a weak position to encourage others to bet is just part of the game. So, if you take your time here, it’s not poor etiquette but just good poker playing.

How to Respond to Being Slow Rolled

If a fellow player decides to slow roll you, it’s often best to turn a blind eye. They’re just likely trying to irritate you and take your mind off your own strategy. So, the best thing to do is to smile and forget about it. However, you should make a mental note of it the next time you have a strong hand on the river and that same player decides to go all-in.

If You Witness a Slow Roll

If you see a fellow player being slow rolled by another, don’t say anything or even react in any way. It may be something between those two players where they like to slow roll each other. You could even benefit over the next few hands and bear in mind that the person who was slow rolled may be steaming.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend emotional manipulation outside of poker, but it’s a key part of the game. No one will give you an easy time if it is poker so you should adopt the same mindset. Nice ones don’t always come last in life, but they sure can in poker. So be nice in life but prepare to cross the line when it comes to your poker game. That doesn’t extend to slow rolling, of course.

Slow Rolling vs Slow Playing

Slow rolling shouldn’t be confused with slow playing (also known as “Hollywooding”). You can only slow roll when you are playing heads-up, another player is going all-in, or you’re the last person to play during a betting round. There are also two other similar situations that are actually legit parts of the game.

When another player hadn’t yet gone all-in: When a fellow player has either bet or raised but has chosen not to go all-in, you may take some time before you decide to go all-in yourself. Your strategy here is to look like you’re making a decision prior to revealing your strong hand.

Multi-way pots: If a fellow player goes all-in, you have a decision to make, and like in the above situation, you want to look as though your decision is a difficult one. But once again, this is not the same as slow rolling.

Slow Rolling Online

Slow rolling online is very similar to slow rolling at a physical poker table. If you hold a winning hand on the river and take longer than a couple of seconds, it’s considered slow rolling. As most players might not notice due to multi-tabling, you probably wouldn’t get the same reaction as you would at a live game. However, there’s no reason to take longer than a few seconds. The one exception would be if you were showing off your amazing hand to another member of your household.

It’s also worth pointing out that it’s possible to slow roll unintentionally online. Again, because of the multi-tabling, your attention maybe divided as you focus on your various hands. So, while it remains unacceptable to do so, slow rolling without realizing it is always a possibility when playing online.

The Bottom Line

In the long-term, slow rolling hurts only those who do it. It’s poor etiquette and shows poor sportsmanship. And other players at the table will lose all respect for you, which may result in them refusing to play with you any further. Being a sporting loser is regarded as a positive trait in poker, but then being a sporting winner is also important. Just make sure you respect your fellow players and they will continue to respect you, too.