Slow rolling in poker is a test of strategy and etiquette. Deliberately delaying the reveal of a winning hand, this tactic can evoke strong reactions at the table.
Ashley Adams, a seasoned poker player, will help explore the nuances of slow rolling, bringing his many years of expertise to the discussion.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
Dive in and explore the subtle dynamics of this controversial play.
In poker, slow rolling refers to the act of deliberately taking a long time to reveal a winning hand during the showdown.
This behavior is frowned upon as it's seen as a way to unnecessarily prolong the suspense for the other players, often perceived as a lack of respect.
Let’s take a quick example, from the movies:
It is the final scene of an old western. Two gunslingers are settling their differences at the poker table. There’s a whole lot of money at stake.
The Villain, with an evil grin, pushes in all of his stack, saying “I bet it ALL”. The hero says, calmly and slowly, “I call you friend!” The Villain smirks, and says triumphantly, “Full House – Aces and Tens” as he spreads out his hand for everyone to see.
The hero, looking disappointed, says, “Well, I just have two little pair…” He pauses, and then, a few seconds later, he slowly turns over his cards, one at a time, and says “Two pair of FOURS!” revealing four 4s, the winning hand.
The crowd goes wild, the theme song plays, and the credits roll.
That’s the movies.
And that’s a slow roll - the delayed reveal of the winning hand, for dramatic effect.
It isn’t against the rules. But it is considered a horrible breach of poker etiquette. It won’t get you banned from a poker room. But it will cause others to dislike or even despise you.
Let’s look at the correct procedure for revealing cards at a showdown.
The rules for showing down your hand in a poker game are fairly simple.
If there is any betting action on the river, the person who shows the last aggression has to show first.
They should do so quickly, without delay. If there is no aggressive action on the final betting round, then players show their hands beginning to the left of the dealer.
Here's an example of a proper showdown:
Player B should show their hand immediately, as they raised and were called.
But Player B delays showing his hand, and might say to Player A, “What do you have?”
Player A may correctly insist that Player B show his cards first.
Here’s another example:
It’s the turn.
Player A says to Player B “What do you have? You were the last aggressor.”
Player B says, “What do YOU have, you have to show first.”
Player A should show first, as there was no action on the river.
It doesn’t matter that Player B was the last aggressor on the turn. Since there is no betting on the river, the players show their hand in order from the left of the dealer.
Unfortunately, some players try to delay showing their hand until their opponent shows down theirs. This is gamesmanship that should not be rewarded.
But insisting on the proper order of showdown, especially with an inattentive dealer, often delays the game, as people argue about who should show their cards first.
Don’t get angry or argue with someone who is wrong.
I wouldn’t address them at all. Just calmly ask the dealer to follow the correct procedure. If the dealer doesn’t do so, or hesitates to do so, you can call the floor.
Ideally, a good dealer will confidently, and clearly tell the players to show their cards, and settle the hand. When they don’t do that, you can call the floor. You are well within the rules of poker to insist that your opponent showdown first.
Even so, even though you are well within your rights to do so, sometimes, in the interest of keeping the game moving, it may make sense to give in to a stubborn opponent (even though they are wrong).
Sometimes, proving you are correct is overrated, and the better action is to just give in and move on. It’s a judgment call.
There is only one good reason for slow rolling. You have a physical or neurological problem that causes your hands or arms to move extremely slowly.
When that’s the case, people will excuse the slow speed of your card exposure at the end of a hand.
I played poker with a guy with no arms at all. He picked up his cards with his feet, on a special wooden ramp designed specifically for him so he could play poker.
When he turned over his cards at showdown it took him about four seconds. No one ever complained about him slow-rolling - because he had a physical disability.
That’s the only good reason for a slow roll in poker.
There is no other good reason to slow roll. There are excuses. And there are bad reasons. But, I repeat, there are no other good reasons.
1. I didn’t know that I had the winning hand. I was waiting for my opponent to show their hand so I could fold without showing.
Players should always know that they have a winning hand. And even if they really don’t know, they should reveal their hand quickly at showdown anyway.
The microscopic advantage you may theoretically have by not showing an opponent your losing hand is hugely offset by the possibility that you may have won the hand. Always show your hand when you are called. And don’t play games by trying to get the other player to show theirs first.
Just show your damn hand.
2. I thought the other guy was going to show his hand first.
You should show a called hand right away, even if you think the other guy is going to show his hand. Don’t wait. Just show your winning hand.
1. I wanted to put my opponent on tilt.
This is not a good reason.
From my experience, you win more money from happy and relaxed players than from pissed off players. But even if I’m wrong, life’s too short to deliberately try to get opponents angry, even if you might get them to play worse as a result of that anger
2. I thought it would be funny.
Nope. Not funny. Even in a friendly home game, there’s nothing funny about a slow roll. Want to be funny? Make fun of yourself or tell a good joke. Slow rolling isn’t funny anywhere.
3. He slow rolled me.
The way to exact revenge for a slow roll is not with your own slow roll. That just perpetuates the animosity, causes you to be disliked by other players who observe the slow roll, slows the game, and creates bad vibes. Bad vibes tend to diminish, not increase action.
The way to exact revenge, if that’s what you really want, is with winning play. Win your opponent’s money and you’ll be getting even.
Do it while still maintaining the admiration of your other opponents, and you’ll end up with others playing softer against you - something that will usually help your bottom line.
Kill your opponents with kindness and solid play, not with slow rolling and anger.
Slow rolling in poker is bad for you and bad for the game in general, as it creates tension, anger and animosity.
If you’re a good winning player, you should be interested in having the dealer deal as many hands an hour as possible.
You should be interested in keeping the game light, happy, and fun. Slow rolling interrupts that intent - by starting arguments, creating bad feelings, and by needlessly making enemies out of opponents.
There’s a place for psychological gamesmanship.
But it’s not in deliberately antagonizing a table of opponents - all of whom will gang up against someone who is slow rolling.
Keep the action moving; keep opponents in a laughing, friendly, and gambling mood; and make more money by learning!