What is a slow roll in poker?

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Posted on: July 19, 2023 5:00 pm EDT

A slow roll in a poker game is one of the biggest no-nos in the industry. It breaks the unwritten code of conduct between players, as it’s intentionally disingenuous at a time when you know your hand is unbeatable.

Poker is all about deception, but many poker players argue that slow rolling is unnecessary when you have the nuts – the best possible poker hand. A slow roll is when a player deliberately takes too long to call an all-in bet from an opponent, knowing full well the opponent is drawing dead.

Slow rolling is not the same as “Hollywooding”. Slow rolling is only done when you are the last person to act in a round of betting, an opponent is already all in, and you’d be heads-up against them.

Hollywooding exists when your opponent has not yet moved all in. In fact, if you’re not the last person to act, it’s perfectly fine to take your time over your next move. Similarly, in a multi-way pot, you’re allowed to take your time to call an opponent’s all-in with the nuts providing there’s at least one player still to act after you.

How do you slow roll a hand at the poker table?

Let’s explain how you’d go about slow-rolling an opponent using an example hand. Your opponent’s hole cards are pocket aces, also known as pocket rockets. They’ve bet strongly into you, and you have A-K of diamonds. You call their bet to see the flop, which is perfectly fine. The flop comes all diamonds, with no other aces, giving you the nut flush. The opponent checks, and you check back.

The turn is a 10 of spades. At this point, the board hasn’t paired, and the best your opponent can hope for is landing a third ace on the river, but even then, they are well beaten by your nut flush.

Your opponent moves all in on the turn as they’re comfortable their over pair is good. Knowing your hand is already the winner, you decide to tank instead of insta-calling like you should with the nuts. After a minute or two, you eventually call and show the nut flush, leaving his pocket aces well and truly cracked and the rest of the table dumbfounded by your unnecessary actions.

Is slow rolling poor poker etiquette?

Absolutely. Slow rolling goes against all acceptable forms of poker etiquette. Most experienced poker players deem slow rolling to be a flagrant lack of respect for opponents. Slow rolling when you have the nuts is a harsh move. It gives opponents false hope that they might just have the best hand at showdown, even though you know that’s not possible.

It leaves a bad taste in the mouths of well-travelled poker players, who believe it’s unnecessary to rub salt into the wounds of players on the wrong end of a cooler.

Reasons why you should slow roll your poker opponents

  • If you’re playing poker in a laid-back, informal environment with close friends, slow playing can be a funny move to surprise your pals, especially in a game where there’s not so much riding on it.
  • The act of being slow-rolled is enough to put many poker players on tilt. A slow roll could give you the upper hand if you’re looking to gain an emotional edge over an opponent at the table. It’s an especially powerful move to make deep in a tournament, as it could tilt an opponent into throwing away the rest of their stack, trying to get redemption against you in later hands.
  • Speaking of redemption, a slow roll in poker can be a good move if you’re looking to get a slice of revenge of your own. If you’ve been slow-rolled by an opponent already, don’t be afraid to give them a taste of their own medicine. It’ll be well-received by the rest of the opponents at your table!

Reasons why you should avoid slow rolling

  • Being known as a slow-roller can make your fellow poker players take a dim view of you. It’s not worth damaging your reputation at the tables for the sake of a single slow roll. Once you become a so-called ‘poker villain’, you become public enemy number one, with the biggest target on your head. This isn’t beneficial in the long term.
  • The act of slow rolling slows the pace of the game down, quite literally. Sluggish tournament structures are the bane of the lives of many poker pros, and slow rolling is another form of tanking whereby players take longer than usual to act.
  • If you’re sat at a table full of ‘fish’, slow rolling should be avoided at all costs. You should never allow the fish to feel out of their depth when you’re one of the better players at a table. Slow rolling could embarrass fish and result in them leaving the table, taking all your potential profit with them!

The most controversial examples of slow rolling in poker history

We’ve put together a collection of sick, slow rolls which have been cemented as part of poker folklore:

  • The final table of the 2015 Irish Open saw one of the sickest slow rolls in poker history. Andreas Gann flat calls Donnacha O’Dea’s two big blind bets with K-Q suited despite only having five big blinds behind.

    Gann flops the nut flush, although Donnacha has two-pair (A-6). Gann checks then O’Dea bets enough to put Gann all in. The German takes an age to mull over his nut flush before gleefully calling. Nevertheless, O’Dea still had a one-in-five chance of winning – the full house. Sure enough, another six hits on the river to dump out Gann to the delight of the table.
  • In 2003, Phil Hellmuth was locked in a hand with T.J. Cloutier at the Showdown at the Sands. Cloutier makes a runner-runner flush and verbally conceded that Hellmuth had the best hand before realising he’d spiked the third nut flush to the ‘Poker Brat’ irritation.
  • Shaun Deeb locks horns with Mike Matusow in a session for Poker Night in America. Matusow opens with his pocket jacks, and Deeb calls with pocket fives on the dealer button. Deeb flops four-of-a-kind, but it’s Matusow check-betting into the flop, which Deeb only calls. Matusow goes all in on the turn, and Deeb takes an age before eventually slow-playing his quads. Let’s just say ‘The Mouth’ wasn’t best pleased!