What Is Slow Rolling in Poker & Why It’s Against Poker Etiquette

Slow Rolling Poker

As you probably know, poker is not only about being lucky enough to get the right cards, but also implementing various strategies in your game to disrupt the balance of your opponents and increase your chances of winning.

Still, some strategies shouldn’t be used if you don’t want to break the rules of poker etiquette, earn a bad name, or even make some enemies. One of these strategies is called “slow rolling.”

The vast majority of poker players hate the move, and there’s a good reason for this. We’ll tell you how it works, why it’s against poker etiquette, and why you should avoid using it!

What Is Slow Rolling in Poker?

Slow rolling in poker happens at showdown when a player with the strongest hand, the so-called “nut”, intentionally takes too much time to make a call and close the action after the river.

Players do this on purpose to give their opponents false hope that they’re the ones holding the winning hand, or even just to make a player angry right before losing.

Slow rolling in poker is one of the most frowned upon moves a player can make, but it shouldn’t be confused with “slow play,” “trapping,” or even “sandbagging.” Those are moves used by players with strong hands to encourage their opponents to bet higher.

How Does the Slow Rolling Strategy in Poker Work?

In layman’s terms, slow rolling in poker happens at showdown when you delay showing your strong cards, only to taunt and disrespect your opponent right before they lose.

There is nothing as cruel as slow rolling in poker, so you should restrain yourself from giving your opponents false hope and disrespecting them. After all, they are about to lose, and slow rolling will only make them feel terrible.

To give you a better idea of slow rolling in poker, we’ll explain the strategy in a bit more detail. Slow rolling can be done when you have a strong hand and:

  • Intentionally pause on the river after your opponent bets, even if you know you’ll be taking the pot.
  • Call your opponent’s bet or raise quickly, then take too long to turn over and show your strong cards.
  • Pretend to be disappointed and act like you’ll be defeated after betting all-in or calling a big raise right before you turn over your winning hand.

Slow Rolling vs. Hollywooding in Poker

Many people mix up slow rolling in poker and the so-called “Hollywooding”, which doesn’t come as a surprise, because the two strategies are relatively similar.

But what is “Hollywooding” exactly? It’s a term used to describe a situation in which a player constantly slows down the game by dramatizing every one of their decisions and taking quite some time (e.g., 50 or 60 seconds) to think their move through.

The biggest difference between slow rolling in poker and “Hollywooding” is that the former move happens only during the showdown when a player wants to taunt their opponents, while the latter is done at every stage of the game because a player wants to irritate their opponents.

Lastly, there’s nothing wrong with taking a bit more time to make a move in poker from time to time. But, if you’re intentionally slowing down every one of your turns, then you’re simply “Hollywooding.”

Why Is Slow Rolling Frowned Upon?

The biggest reason why slow rolling is frowned upon is that the player who employs this strategy achieves nothing, other than upsetting, irritating, and disrespecting their opponent.

When you take forever to reveal your cards at showdown by slow rolling, especially if you have a winning hand, you’ll only make the remaining players who know they’re about to lose feel even more miserable.

It’s common courtesy to have some respect for the players at your table, even more so if they’re being nice towards you and are playing with proper etiquette. This is why no one likes playing with someone who displays crookedness by slow rolling.

Is Slow Rolling in Poker Against the Rules?

Some players who enjoy slow rolling in poker like to claim that it’s not against the rules, and there’s nothing to prevent them from employing this disrespectful strategy. 

Technically, this is true because there isn’t a defined period of time during which a player has to reveal their cards during showdown, meaning that you can’t even get an official penalty for such behavior.

Still, you have to remember that every poker room has its own set of rules, which means that you can run into a dealer who doesn’t appreciate slow rolling. Oftentimes, you’ll be warned for slow rolling, and if you keep employing this strategy and constantly disrupting the game, you can easily get moved away from a table.

Why You Should Avoid Slow Rolling in Poker

Even though slow rolling in poker isn’t against the rules, it doesn’t follow poker etiquette and shouldn’t be used because:

  • It slows down games. The whole community wants the game to be sped up instead, and a majority of tournaments and live games are timing decisions to control the pace of the games. This is why you don’t want to be slowing a game down with a strategy such as slow rolling.
  • It will hurt your reputation. Whether you’re playing live or online poker, the chances are that you’ll recognize other players from time to time, especially nowadays since the game’s popularity has increased. If you slow roll and ruin other peoples’ games, the word will go around that you’re a bad-mannered player, and it’ll only hurt your reputation.
  • You will make enemies. Once your reputation starts to diminish, people won’t want you at their poker tables, and you’ll quickly earn yourself some enemies. Other players will play together against you, and it’ll become impossible for you to earn the pot.
  • It will help you lose your seat. If you get the chance to play in a private club or at a home table, slow rolling will earn you a quick ticket away from the table because no one wants to play with a slow roller.
  • You will scare off the fish. Slow rolling new players, the so-called “fish,” will not only make their gameplay less fun and enjoyable, but it’ll also make them leave the table, meaning you’ll end up playing with more experienced players than you’d want.

Is Slow Rolling Ever Acceptable?

Although it may seem that slow rolling is never acceptable, there are situations where you could use it, even to your advantage, such as:

  • Playing with your friends. If you’re playing at a table with your friends, it’s perfectly fine to slow roll from time to time to get a laugh here and there. Messing around with your friends is okay, but do it only during light games where everyone is playing casually.
  • Getting revenge on your rivals. Have you been facing an opponent that’s constantly acting like a jerk towards you? Slow rolling them can be an easy way to get revenge. Still, outsmarting them and being the bigger person is always a better way to go about the situation.
  • Tilting your opponents. If you can’t seem to win a hand, and your opponents are getting the best out of you, tilting them and getting them to make mistakes by slow rolling can turn the game around more easily than you think. However, there are better ways you can outplay your opponents and win a pot or two.

Having said all this, you should be careful and keep your slow rolling to a minimum, opting for it only on rare occasions.

Slow Rolling in Online Poker Games

Whether intentionally or not, slow rolling can also happen in online poker games. It’s also less easy to spot, and there are other reasons why it occurs, such as:

  • Slow internet connection that stops players from calling the bet
  • Distractions away from the computer such as pets, emergencies, etc.
  • Players participating in multiple online games at the same time.

Because players often don’t intentionally take a long time to reveal their hand at the showdown during online poker games, you should take it more lightly.

The online poker player pool is also huge, which means that there’s far less chance for players to meet their rivals and use slow rolling.

At the end of the day, you should try your best to maintain good etiquette and refrain from slow rolling in poker, whether you’re playing live or online.

How to Avoid Accidentally Slow Rolling Someone?

Accidental slow rolling in poker happens more often than you think. This is why behaving properly at a poker table is important if you don’t want to break the etiquette and ruin someone else’s game.

Here are some tips if you want to be proactive and avoid accidentally slow rolling someone:

  • Always check your hand twice and ensure you know exactly which cards you’re playing with before the showdown.
  • Be aware at all times that the clock is ticking after the showdown, and never take too long to show your hand.
  • If you lose, don’t be a bad-mannered player, but accept the situation and reveal your weak hand.
  • In cases where you know you have the strongest hand, turn your hand first, so the game proceeds as swiftly as possible.

Key Takeaways

Poker is a classy game, and you should never use moves like slow rolling if you don’t want to break poker etiquette and ruin other people’s enjoyment.

To sum it up:

  • Slow rolling happens at showdown when a player with a winning hand takes too long to reveal their cards
  • With the slow rolling strategy, players don’t accomplish anything but irritate their opponents and lose respect
  • The difference between slow rolling in poker and “Hollywooding” is that the latter happens at every stage of the game.
  • Slow rolling in poker is not against the rules, but it’s against poker etiquette.
  • Although there are certain situations when you can use slow rolling (e.g., playing with your close friends), you should still refrain from this strategy.
  • To avoid accidentally slow rolling someone, always double-check your cards, know your hand at all times, and reveal your hand fast even if it is weak.

Gordon Dyke

Poker Expert

Gordon Dyke has served as our poker expert since 2017. Gordon has been playing poker professionally and recreationally for nearly two decades.