Slow rolling in poker is when you deliberately take a long time to show your winning hand. It’s often seen as a sign of disrespect to other players and against the spirit of the game.

Read our guide below to learn more about slow roll poker, what it is, how to avoid it, and more.

What Is Slow Playing in Poker?

A slow roll in poker, as explained in our poker terms lists, is when a player pauses before calling (usually before an all-in bet).

This usually happens when the player has a strong or even unbeatable hand. It might also occur when someone reveals a winning hand at the showdown stage.

Slow rolling typically tricks the other person into thinking they’ve won the hand. The real winner will then have a big reveal moment, showing their cards and claiming the win.

One prime example of slow rolling is in a game between professional poker players Shaun Deeb and Mike Matusow.

Deeb has earned a reputation as one of poker’s biggest slow rollers. He put that into action against Matusow on Poker Night in America, as shown below:

The hand began with Matusow opening from the lojack, holding J of Diamonds and J of Spades. Deeb made the call with 5 of Diamonds and 5 of Spades. Deeb got an optimal flop with the 10 of Clubs, 5 of Hearts, and 5 of Clubs appearing. He was holding a four-of-a-kind, one of the best poker hands possible.

Matusow proceeded with c-bets $1,000 on the flop, with Deeb casually calling after that. The turn appeared as a 4 of Spades, and Matusow went all-in, adding 1.5x in an overbet for $4,675. Knowing that he held the better hand, Deeb went into the tank.

This forced Matusow to count out the bet before making the call. Deeb, and others, found that hilarious, but Matusow wasn’t pleased. With his ego taking quite the knock, Matusow threatened to punch Deeb in the face for the slow roll before storming off the set.

Why Is Slow Rolling Bad?

Slow rolling shouldn’t be part of any poker strategy. It doesn’t make you play better, help you work out your opponent’s cards, or add anything positive to the game. The only thing slow roll poker does is upset others at the table.

Don’t waste time taunting your opponents if you are sitting on a winning hand. Making someone else think they’ve won the hand is poor sportsmanship and bad poker table etiquette.
Taking forever to reveal your hand when it’s your turn to act slows the game for everyone else. This means everyone at the table suffers because of you and your showboating.

Is Slow Rolling Illegal in Poker?

If you ever come up against someone who slow-rolls you, their defense for doing it will probably be that it isn’t illegal.
Unfortunately, that’s true. The official poker rules don’t address slow rolling. This makes it difficult to argue against.

As a result, there’s nothing those hosting the game can do to punish people for it either. Most casinos and poker rooms will warn people if they do it. Anyone who holds the game up multiple times might receive a penalty, but it’s at the discretion of the venue or gambling room manager.

Poker Etiquette

There are certain ways to act when playing poker, known as poker etiquette. Here is a top list of things to do and not do when playing:

✅ Don’t Angle Shoot

– Angle shooting is when a player makes an unethical move on purpose. This is used to take advantage of players at the table who are less experienced.

✅ Never Engage in Slow Rolling

– This is when you know you have the best hand but pretend not to. It gives the idea to another player that they’re going to win.

✅ Be Respectful of Others

– If you lose, be good about it. Don’t be rude, start arguments, abuse the dealer, or storm off. Don’t abuse the dealer. Move on to the next round and try again.

✅ Always Act in Turn

– Only declare your move when it is your time. If someone else is in front of you and they are still thinking, never interrupt and announce your action.

✅ Keep Quiet If You’re Not Playing

– Talking at the table when you’re not involved in the hand is poor etiquette. It can distract other players and even give away information.

✅ Don’t Show Your Hand to Anyone

– Even if you’re sitting next to a friend who has folded at the table, you should never reveal your hand. They might react, or someone else might see something, giving your hand strength away.

✅ Always Respect the Dealer

– You should never disrespect the dealer or blame them if things don’t go your way. They don’t control the outcome of the hand. They simply deal the cards, what happens after that isn’t on them.

✅ Organize Your Chips Properly

– Always display your chips properly. Hiding high-value chips is generally seen as unethical, even if not illegal. It’s seen as an unfair attempt to mislead other players.

✅ Never Hit and Run

– A hit and run in poker is when someone wins big early and then leaves the table. It’s seen as bad etiquette as it doesn’t give players any chance of winning money back. It can easily lead to you getting a bad reputation.

✅ Leave Big Celebrations to Later

– Even if you’ve worked out the best way to win at poker and take home a massive jackpot at the end of a great game, don’t showboat. Nobody likes to play with people who rub their wins in others’ faces. Always be calm and respectful to other players.

How to Avoid Slow Rolls in Poker

Part of a good poker strategy is setting aside time to think before you act. However, be careful to avoid slow rolling by accident. If you know you’ve won or lost, turn your cards over or fold them when your turn arrives.

If you want to speed up your play, you can always practice with free online poker games. This increases your experience of different situations you’ll see at the poker table, reducing your thinking time. It also costs you nothing, so if something goes wrong you’ve not lost big bucks over it.

Make sure you double-check your hand before reaching the showdown stage, too. It should stop you from incorrectly declaring your hand, something else that will annoy other players.

If you’re new to playing poker and still learning which hand beats what, flip your cards over quickly at showdown. The dealer can then figure out which hand is the winning one.

When Can You Slow Roll?

There’s never a right time to start slow rolling, especially if you’re playing people you don’t know.

When you’re friends with all the players at the table you might get away with it if you have the right relationships. It can be fun to trick friends, as long as it’s done in good spirits against someone you know can take it the right way.

It’s never acceptable to slow roll when there’s a big pot, regardless of how friendly you are with other players. Nobody likes losing large amounts of money. You wouldn’t want them slow-rolling you over a big loss, so don’t do it to them.

Slow Rolling vs. Hollywooding

Confusion around slow rolling comes from a similar, but very different, part of the game called “Hollywooding”.

Slow rolling is when someone takes too long to show a winning hand, usually done when closing the action at the end of games to humiliate an opposing player.

Hollywooding is when someone takes a long time to make a move and is done to mislead people about the strength of their hand during the game. While slow rolling is often done as an insult or to show off, Hollywooding is more strategic and designed to deceive.

While Hollywooding is less annoying to other players than slow rolling it’s still frowned upon by most players.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t slow roll or Hollywood when you play poker. Neither will make you popular, and you’ll get a reputation for bad sportsmanship and possibly lose out on invites to games as a result.

Slow Rolling Online vs. In Person

Someone slow rolling in person or online is annoying, but arguably to different levels.

When playing live poker at a brick-and-mortar site, slow rolling will always hurt worse than if it’s done online. The slow roll will be face-to-face, making it a more personal insult than when there’s a screen between players.

It’s also just a bit more excusable in online play. Someone might be playing at multiple tables, making the slow roll accidental. There might be a lag in the internet connection, or some other incident happening off-screen which might delay the response.

While there’s a bit more forgiveness for slow rolling online, you should always try to avoid it.

Examples of Slow-Rolling

We previously mentioned an example of slow rolling between Shaun Deeb and Mike Matusow. Another example was in a game between Phil Hellmuth and T.J. Cloutier in 2003.

Hellmuth set off with A of Clubs and 3 of Hearts. Cloutier called in the small blinds with 10 of Spades and 9 of Clubs. Phil Gordon then checked from the big blind.

The flop came as King of Spades, 7 of Spades, and J of Hearts. The action checks to Hellmuth, who bets and gets called by Cloutier.

The turn provides an A of Spades. Cloutier sees this and leads out, while Hellmuth, now holding a top pair, calls. The river comes and the 3 of Spades is dealt. Cloutier puts out a big bet and is called by Hellmuth.

Cloutier announces, “You win, Phil”, as Hellmuth tables his two-pair. Yet Hellmuth didn’t win – Cloutier did. It was a rare accidental slow roll, though, as Cloutier believed he had an inferior 10-high. Instead, he had a third nut flush.

Despite Cloutier noting he didn’t realize he held a spade, Hellmuth is still angered by the outcome.

Responsible Gambling

You should always engage in responsible gambling when you play online poker. This ensures you aren’t spending more than you can afford. It includes:
  • Making sure that the decision to gamble is your choice.
  • Never chasing your losses.
  • Checking the amounts you are spending on poker games regularly.
  • Making sure know the rules of the game you’re playing.

If you think you’re struggling at any point, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) can provide help. They have self-assessment tools, plus the option to text, chat, or speak to someone for advice. Your gambling activity needs to be safe at all times.

Poker Slow Rolling – FAQs

Why is slow rolling frowned upon?

Is there a difference between slow play and slow rolling?

Is slow rolling ever acceptable?

What does it mean to be slow-rolled?