Understanding a Slow Roll in Poker

Poker, in all its various formats, is a popular game all over the world. Not only is it a fun game of skill, but it brings people from all different backgrounds together. Once you know the rules of poker, and of the particular version you are playing, you are ready to get started. The dealer is often responsible for setting the tone of the game, but for it to be really enjoyable, there are a few other things you should know.

Observing poker etiquette is crucial to a smooth and quick game. It can take some time to understand where to draw the line in poker. On the one hand, you are expected to bluff, boast, and maybe even disparage your fellow players. On the other hand, no player should do anything that destroys everyone’s enjoyment of the game.

We set out to explain some basics of poker etiquette, including how to know when to act to throw your opponent off, and when you will be crossing a line. We’ll focus on one particular move that could upset everyone at your table, the slow roll. What is it, and why is it a no-no? Let’s find out.

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Poker Etiquette 

There are rules to poker, and then there are unwritten rules or poker etiquette. Some casinos might enforce certain aspects of etiquette, but most of it relies on your respect and understanding of the game. A straightforward way to draw the line is to decide whether you would want someone to do something to you, or whether it would spoil the game. If you can’t take it, neither should they.

Breaches of poker etiquette include removing your cards from the table. This can mislead the dealer with regards to who gets the next card, and it might give a player sitting next to you an advantage, as well as arousing suspicion about cards being swapped. Don’t take too long over your decisions as this slows down the whole game, if you need a little extra time, ask for it. 

How you place your bets is also key to the pace and fairness of the game. Splashing the pot is a breach of etiquette. Your chips should be placed on the table in front of you rather than thrown into the pot. That way, everyone including the dealer, can see that you have bet the correct amount. Always bet or raise the proper number of chips in one movement and clearly state your intentions to raise.

Now we come to a crucial element of poker etiquette, connected to the slow roll in poker. There comes a time in poker when you need to show your cards. If no one calls your final bet or raise, you don’t need to reveal your hand. When you do need to show you have a winning hand, you should place all cards face-up on the table for everyone to see.

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The Slow Roll

A slow roll can be hard to define, but anyone who has done it or had it done to them will know what it is. It generally involves knowing you have the best hand but hesitating or taking a long time when it comes to revealing those cards. Since you know you have the best hand, you can’t slow roll by accident; it is a deliberate act.

Poker is a game of composure, and players often act to test each other. If they can’t keep their cool, it isn’t your problem. Except when you’re sitting at the table, and you’re the only player who knows that the game is over, and you have the nuts. You don’t have a good reason to ‘get at’ your opponent anymore, and everyone else wants to see the result and move on.

This is why a slow roll is unacceptable in poker etiquette. Giving your opponent false hope in this situation is bad manners. It serves no purpose and slows down the game. It’s a power play, which fits with the concept of the game but not with the spirit of it.

What a Slow Roll Looks Like

Slow rolls come before a big win but can happen in several ways. A player has the nuts, a term referring to the best possible hand. You could be facing a river bet, and if you pause at that moment before placing your big bet or going all-in, it’s a slow roll. 

Alternatively, you could call quickly but then delay in revealing your hand. You should turn over the winning cards as soon as possible. Some players put on a performance when it comes to a slow roll, by acting defeated or disappointed after they’ve placed their bet but before they reveal their cards.

Consequences of a Slow Roll

A slow roll is not illegal in poker. Depending on who runs the game, and how it is run, you might get a warning for repeatedly breaking etiquette, including slow rolls. Enough warnings might mean you aren’t invited back or that you are asked to leave the game at the next appropriate opportunity. 

If you are on the receiving end of a slow roll, it is best not to react. Any player who slow rolls is looking to gain an emotional advantage by adding insult to injury at a crucial point of a game. The only thing in your control is your reaction, so don’t give them the satisfaction. When a player slow rolls, most others at the table will be silently or vocally judging them. More often than not, the only outcome of a slow roll is to make the player who did it look bad. Remember it for next time, but don’t act on it.

The Bottom Line

Taking a long time to make decisions or appearing hesitant early on in a game is all part of poker. This is only true when it can affect the outcome of the game, though. If you’re trying to get others to play into the pot or play with a mediocre hand, that makes it more interesting. Messing with someone after the river when you know the outcome, doesn’t add to the fun.