What is slow roll and should you use it in poker?

Queue-cutting. Sneezing without covering your mouth. Chewing food loudly. Getting your feet out on public transport. Talking loudly in a crowded area. All rude, obnoxious, and painful acts pale in comparison for a poker player when it comes to being on the receiving end of the dreaded slow roll.

Some observers believe there are fewer infuriating gestures regarding disrespect at the poker table. Prolonging the agony of an opponent when you have the nuts is, they deem, needlessly needling.

Others regard it as a legitimate psychological technique, a method by which players can tilt others at the table, causing them to make rash decisions and lose control.

In this article, we dig into the psychology of the slow roll, its reputational standing in the game of poker, and famous examples of its use at the poker table.

What Is The Slow Roll?

a man holding cards in the hand while playing poker

It involves taking an extended amount of time to reveal your winning hand when you are sure no other player at the table can beat you. This usually happens after all bets have been placed and players are ready for a showdown. Instead of immediately showing their hand, the player will pause for an extended period, creating tension and anticipation among their opponents.

There are different ways to expose the winning slow roll - some choose the annoying, knowing smile. Others choose a toxic "oh no, I've lost - just kidding, I have won" approach.

Should You Use The Slow Roll In Poker?

There are fierce debates that happen every day - online and in brick-and-mortar poker rooms - about the use of the infamous slow roll.

There is an argument to be made that it is a legitimate tactic for professional poker players to use it at the highest level.

Four Reasons To Use The Slow Roll

Psychological Strategy

The slow roll is just one weapon in their psychological arsenal. By using this technique, they can create an air of mystery and unpredictability, leading to mistakes or hesitation on the part of their opponents.

Building a Strong Table Image

To be successful in poker, players must have a strong table image. This means that their opponents see them as skilled, confident, and unpredictable. By using the slow roll sparingly, professional players can reinforce this image and keep their opponents on edge.

Exploiting Opponents' Emotions

In poker parlance, this means putting them on tilt.

Poker is a game of emotions, and experienced players know how to use this to their advantage. The slow roll can be used as an emotional manipulation, causing frustration or anger in opponents who may feel like they have been "tricked" or "duped." This can throw off their game and give the slow-rolling player an upper hand.

Adding Drama to the Game

At its core, poker is a form of entertainment, and the slow roll adds an element of drama to the game - helping to entice millions of clicks and views, especially in the online format.

It can create tension, excitement, and heated discussion as viewers wait for the final reveal. Some might argue it is good for the sport!

Four Reasons Against Using the Slow Roll

While there are many proponents of the slow roll, there are likely more in the sport who utterly abhor its use.

Here are four theories as to why the slow roll is a big no-no:

It is disrespectful to your opponent.

We have outlined why, but it's worth reminding you of the pitfalls of the slow roll.

When you slow roll, you show your opponent that you believe they are not worthy of a quick and honest reveal of your hand. This can be seen as rude and arrogant, creating tension at the table. Poker is a game of strategy and skill, ultimately, and maintaining respect for your opponents and the game itself is always a good thing to practice.

It can backfire on you

While slow rolling may give you the temporary satisfaction of seeing your opponent's reaction, it can also affect your game.

Your opponent may become more cautious or aggressive in future hands, making it harder for you to read them. Additionally, if you are caught slow rolling, it could damage your reputation at the table and make others less likely to want to play with you.

It goes against the spirit of the game.

Poker is a game of integrity, where players are expected to act with honesty and sportsmanship. Slow rolling goes against these principles and can create a hostile atmosphere at the table. It takes away from the true essence of poker: outsmarting your opponents with skill and strategy, not childish antics.

It can ruin the overall experience for everyone involved.

Not only does slow rolling create tension between you and your opponent, but it also affects the other players at the table. It slows down the game and can be frustrating for those waiting for their turn. In a friendly game of poker, this type of behaviour can ruin the overall experience for everyone involved.

A Famous Slow Roll Example...

It's one of the most famous clips on the internet and one of the best examples of the practice going badly wrong.

At the Irish Open, eight people were left on the final table, with each player having fought off a massive field to guarantee some serious prize money and a shot at a prestigious title.

Andreas Gann had flopped an ace-high flush with the king of diamonds in his holding - colloquially referred to as the nuts. His opponent, Irish poker legend Donnacha O'Dea, flopped two pair. The money always looked likely to go in the middle for a heads-up showdown, and indeed O'Dea obliged, forcing his opponent all in.

Inexplicably, Gann spent nearly a minute deliberating before making the call.

Sweet justice was about to occur, however. O'Dea filled up on the river to make a Full House and send his opponent packing.

Commentators remarked at the time: "This is absolutely disgraceful". You can still find the clip on the internet.

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Lucas Goldberg
Lucas, a seasoned site editor at CasinoCanada, boasts a decade-long journey in the gambling industry with a focus on providing players with meticulous reviews and insights of online games and casinos.
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University of Toronto
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Last updated on: 20.02.2024

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