There has been a rash of slow rolling on televised poker recently, so let’s discuss it!

Slowrolling is when someone knows they have the best hand either at the showdown or when facing a final bet, but they act as if they have the losing hand before eventually revealing the winner.

While this has no impact on the game (because the best hand always wins at the showdown), it causes some players to get angry because they thought they were going to win the pot, but instead lost. Many people view slow rolling as a personal attack and get angry, often resulting in suboptimal play or raging tilt.

If you get angry when someone slow rolls, you need to do some soul searching.

Why does it bother you? Perhaps you don’t like thinking you won and then having that money “taken” from you. Obviously though, that money was not yours, and winning or losing individual pots does not matter in the least bit in the long term.

Why should it bother you if someone takes a few extra seconds to reveal their hand? It should not (besides the fact they are slowing down the game). You are allowed to take as long as you want with your hands. There is no rule that states you must table your hand immediately when you have the nuts, and there should not be, because many players don’t even know when they have the nuts.

Why should you care if someone “attacks” or “targets” you? You should not. If you take things personally in poker or life, you will find yourself playing into your attacker’s plan. Realize that in poker, your opponents are out to beat you. It is their job to utterly destroy you. Many players will use every trick within the rules to beat you. It is not unethical to do so. It is their job.

I recently made a short one-minute Little Poker Advice discussing why people slow roll. Check it out:

Reasons to Slowroll

As far as I know, people slow roll for three reasons (although there may be more, feel free to share in the comment section below):

  1. They are playing in a casual game with their friends and want to create good-natured excitement and drama.
  2. They think their opponent will go on tilt.
  3. They know they go on tilt when someone slow rolls them, and assume their opponent must have the same thought process.

For Fun

If you are playing in a fun, casual (often small stakes) game where everyone is having a good time, a slow roll is not malicious at all. Get over it. For what its worth, I have only slow rolled in this manner and even then, very rarely.

To Tilt You

If someone thinks you will go on tilt due to being slow rolled, that is excellent information for you to have. They are essentially announcing to everyone that they think you care about the money and that you do not understand that poker is a math game. Knowing this, you can adjust your strategy to take advantage of their assumptions.

Because They Would Tilt

If you are a strong player, and most everyone knows you are a strong player, and someone slow rolls you, it essentially says that the slow roller would go on tilt if they were slow rolled and they are trying everything within their power to get an edge on you. Of course, this is futile because you know that it does not matter if someone slow rolls. This is excellent information to have because it shows the slow roller does not understand that poker is a math game and may be playing too large for their bankroll. I especially like being slow rolled in this manner because it lets me know a lot about my opponent’s mindset.

How to React

Instead of getting angry when someone slow rolls you, your reaction should be to figure out why they slow rolled you and then to adjust accordingly. Going on tilt, getting angry, or starting a fight are not viable options. Remember, your opponent wants you to go on tilt. If you go on tilt, you justify their slow roll. If you do not go on tilt, you completely nullify their strategy.

If the slow roll is for fun, have fun with it. You are playing for fun!

If the slow roll is to try to tilt you or if it was done because it would tilt the slow roller, you have two reasonable options (again, there may be more).

  1. Observe it and then do nothing. Act as if nothing happened (because in reality, nothing happened). This will often make the slow roller feel silly and look like an idiot to everyone else at the table. I enjoy making malicious players look like idiots.
  2. Act as if you are on tilt. I cannot get away with this because most everyone knows there is a 0% chance that I go on any meaningful form of tilt, but if you are a recreational player, it can be a powerful strategic adjustment. When people go on tilt, they usually bluff way too often, leading their opponents to hero-call more often. So, adjust your range (especially for large bets) such that it contains fewer bluffs and more value hands. Easy game! Of course, this adjustment relies on you being able to act as if you are on tilt while not actually being on tilt, and also requires you to make some hands in the near future. If you do not make any hands, you can simply sit there and play conservatively for an hour or so.

Nit Roll

A slow roll is very different than a nit roll, which is when someone actually does not know if they have the best hand, either because they are confused, do not properly understand hand strengths, or cannot properly see/read the board. A recent example of this was the final hand of the 2018 WSOP Main Event where John Cynn had an effective nut hand (trips) but took a while to call. In this instance, he had been playing the tournament for over a week and heads-up for many hours. I know my brain would be fried after that, and when playing for millions of dollars, it makes sense to spend some extra time thinking each situation through. His slow call was certainly not malicious and anyone who sees it that way is oblivious to how the brain works.

Another example of a nit roll is when you bluff the river with a hand like 4h-3h on a board like Kh-6h-5d-9d-Td and the opponent thinks for a minute before revealing their hand (often one-pair). Clearly the seven red cards on a coordinated board will confuse most.

Nit rolls should never be looked down upon because they are not malicious, and if anything, the nit roller will occasionally make an egregious error by talking themselves into making a big fold. I have tabled the nut low one time in a $5/$10 cash game on a coordinated board and the opponent mucked his hand because he misread the board, awarding me a $2,000 pot. I have also witnessed this happen with two tables left in a WSOP event. This should be obvious, but when you are bluffing, you should always table your hand just in case your opponent cannot read the board.

Summary

Slow rolls do not matter. Don’t let them bother you. If anything, they let you into the mind of your opponent, allowing you to make better decisions. Free information should be valued, not despised.


 

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5 Comments

  • Black Diamond says:

    I have been slow rolled many times. I wont get angry anymore, it doesnt help… but generally a slow roll is in my opinion a bad ettiquette. A slow roller does not respect an opponent nor the game.

  • daonna says:

    Hey Jonathan. I’m new to your content and I just want to say the cold approach you have to these aspects of poker is inspirational.
    Slow-rolling the nuts isn’t a factor in my game due to the “turbo” format (strict 10 second shot clock) that’s played in my neck of the woods, but there are other situations where equanimity amongst the general population of recreational players, with their illogical behaviour and beliefs, can only be profitable.
    Obviously most (winning) professionals will have a working knowledge of what’s actually important on the felt (the cold math and the player reads) and will be mainly unaffected by things that tend to tilt other players, but from what I’ve seen you take all that to an aspirational level for someone like me who needs to constantly work on the mental game. Thanks.

  • bigzin says:

    I have another reason for slow rolling an opponent and I have used it just a few times. It is to just twist the knife a little bit when there is a loud, annoying and usually over aggressive player at the table. I do not let those guys get under my skin or alter my game, but if the opportunity arises I will give them a slow roll . It’s a way to get them to shut up for a little while without any heated confrontation, but I never really thought about using it to put them on tilt.
    I always thought that Cliff Benger missed the opportunity to pull maybe the best televised slow roll ever against that blow hard Will Kassouf in the 2016 wsop main. Instead of jumping around screaming, I would have not said a word and taken a couple minutes turning those aces over one at t time. I would have been glorious and you don’t really want any celebration when there are 5 more cards coming,

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