Your Guide to the Slow Roll in Poker (And Why it’s a Problem)

Your Guide to the Slow Roll in Poker (And Why it’s a Problem)

Although fun to play, poker isn’t always the friendliest game out there. Emotions often run at the tables, and things can get heated fairly quickly, it’s just the nature of the game. While it can be annoying at times, it is this very aspect that attracts many players to poker over so many other options out there.

Even though one of the main goals in poker is to throw your opponent off balance and force them to make mistakes, certain limits should never be crossed. These limits are a part of what’s known as the “poker etiquette” a set of unwritten poker rules that the majority of players knows and follows.

The slow roll belongs to this group and is considered a big no-no for most players. The basic principle is that if it is something you wouldn’t like someone do to you, you shouldn’t do it to others.

What is a Slow Roll in Poker?

Although there isn’t a single clear definition of a slow roll in poker, almost everyone who’s played for more than a few weeks is aware of when they do it – and very rarely does it happen by accident.

In the simplest of terms: a slow roll is when you know you have the best hand but refuse to show down your hand in a timely manner.

For example, let’s say you have KhJh, and there are three hearts by the river. You bet, and your opponent calls. Since they didn’t raise, you can be sure you have the best hand even though it’s not the absolute nuts.

Instead of turning your hand immediately, you hesitate and wait for them to show their holdings, giving them an impression they might have the winner.

Here is a perfect example of what you should never do:

Why is Slow Roll Bad Etiquette?

Some people have problems grasping why a slow roll is a bad thing or refuse to accept it is bad manners. After all, it’s all fun, and you want to get your opponents on tilt. If they can’t keep their composure, that’s on them, right?

However, I disagree.

If you pull a big bluff and decide to show it down to provoke a reaction from your opponent instead of quietly mucking your cards, that’s more than acceptable. This is where you can say, if they can’t take being bluffed, they shouldn’t play.

The slow roll is a completely different thing, though.

It is the matter of common courtesy and respect for your opponents. You have the winner, you know you have the winner, so teasing them by sending out the false message that they might have you beat is childish, and it’s only showing your bad manners. A big bluff may show your skills or “heart and commitment” but a slow roll only shows you enjoy irritating other people.

Furthermore, taking forever to show down your hand is slowing down the game, which means that now everybody at the table is suffering because of it. Things tend to move somewhat slowly as it is at the live tables. Slowing the game even further by being someone who habitually slow rolls your opponents fails to achieve anything positive.

Unhappy face
Image: by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Is Slow Roll Against the Official Rules?

Those players who like to slow roll others in poker will often stick to their guns, saying there is nothing to prevent it in official rules of the game.

In theory, this is true, as there is no defined number of seconds or minutes within which you have to showdown your hand when it is your turn to act. So, you’re not likely to get any official penalties like a couple of rounds away from the table.

It is just like using starting poker hands cheat sheet when playing live. You can do it in most games, and players won’t be bothered by it, as long as you’re not taking two minutes on every hand to figure out what you should do with your 6-3 off-suit from the highjack.

However, if you’re playing in a new setting, you might run into a poker room manager who doesn’t appreciate such actions, and if you keep doing it even after being warned, they might still give you a penalty.

Every poker room and manager out there can run their games however they see fit, and if they find you’re disrupting the games, you could still find yourself sitting on the rail for a little while to consider your actions or even completely out of the game if you bother others too much.

How to Avoid Accidental Slow Rolls

Not everything in poker is clear-cut, and we all get confused sometimes. However, you should try to avoid even an accidental slow roll:

  • Muck your hand or turn your cards over when it’s your turn
  • Turn your hand first if you know you have the nuts – unless there is a specific reason not to do it
  • Be polite and turn your hand over when the player says “you’ve got it” or something along those lines

Will you miss on a bit of information this way? Possibly, but unless it is a very interesting situation, you’ll usually know what the other player is likely to have. And if they’re nice to you, show them the same level of courtesy.

Live poker is as much about having people skills as it is about math and ranges. Being nice and polite will likely pay off in the long run – in more ways than you can imagine if you’re just starting.

Is it Ever Okay to Slow Roll?

I would say not.

Well, maybe with an exception when you are playing with your buddies at a home game and simply want to have some fun. In all other cases, you should never do it.

The bottom line is, you don’t want to be that guy who annoys everyone else at the table, and no one wants to play with. It may seem cool to be a villain and put on your “I don’t care” face, but the thing is, if you’re seen as an absolute jerk, this won’t help your win rate or win you any friends, guaranteed.

About The Author:
Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author and founder of MyPokerCoaching.com. He strives to improve his strategy every single day, constantly writes for a range of online publications, and helps other poker players to excel. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!