Explained: Why is slowrolling bad?

In our guide to the nuances of poker for new players we look at why the practice of 'slowrolling' is considered a huge faux pas in the game.

We have a lot of new players at PokerStrategy.com and we have to therefore remember that a lot of the conversations that experienced players take for granted will sometimes go over their head. So when stories in the poker world come up that only make sense to experienced poker players, I am going to spell out what we are talking about for the newbies.

After a record breaking ten-hour heads-up match it wasn’t much of a surprise that the final hand of the Main Event also took a while, however immediately after the hand the new champion was accused of ‘slowrolling’ – taking too long to call when really it should have been instant.

Not only did this cause a multitude of discussions about whether John Cynn did indeed slowroll, the man who first made the claim, Tony Miles, was so annoyed with himself for suggesting Cynn had slowrolled that he very honourably took to Twitter to apologise for the accusation:

So clearly slowrolling is something to be frowned upon in poker, so much so that a man who had just won $5 million (and really should still be out partying) could not help but make a public apology for suggesting somebody else had done it. So why is slowrolling bad?

Delaying when you know you are ahead

Slowrolling is taking too long to call with the best possible hand, or indeed a hand that is so strong it may as well be the nuts. It is specifically when the action of calling is the final possible action in the hand, ie. when the other person has made an all-in bet. Taking your time to act when there are other people left to act, or there is potential to bet again, is not considered slowrolling (in fact, snap calling in scenarios when somebody else is left to act gives away the strength of your hand).

Because there is nothing else to do in the hand, there is no reason to be deceptive. In a game of deception, this is a rare instance where you should act transparently, simply because the longer you take, the more you will make your opponent think you will fold and/or they have the best hand. The reason why slowrolling is so bad is because all you are doing is torturing the person who went all-in, you give them a false sense of hope then cruelly pull the rug from under them.

It is so cruel, in fact, that slowrolling is often used as a deliberate way to needle or piss off another player at the table. We have all probably been guilty of slowrolling a player who has been rude to us in the chatbox. Slowrolling is also occasionally used as fun banter between friends, but the important thing to note here is that everyone has to be in on the joke, like here:

Unlike in this example, where Deeb had been playing a slowrolling game with his friends, but Mike Matusow was unaware:

Whether something is a slowroll is often hard to ascertain as it can also be ‘nitrolling’ which is when somebody takes a long time to call with a hand that most people would assume was an insta-call, because they are risk averse. This may have been what Cynn was doing in the above example, as AK, KQ, K5 and 55 all beat his hand and he was just taking a moment to double check whether they were possible holdings of Miles. Just as what some people call a slowroll is actually a nitroll, when some people accuse another player of nitrolling what they are really doing is giving away that they are a loose player themselves who doesn’t really consider all the hands that could beat them.

I don’t think Cynn was slowrolling or nitrolling, he had simply played the longest Main Event final table in history and the call he was about to make was worth almost $4 million, so an extra minute to make sure he was good was fine (however frustrating it was at the time for Miles).

Slowrolling is only slowrolling, and thus only bad, when you know you have the best hand and are still taking your time to show off or annoy the other player. Poker is a game where we lie to each other every hand, but only out of necessity, don’t do it to be a dick.

Unless you are this guy, then it’s just kinda funny:

What other poker concepts do you hear everyone talk about but you have no idea what they mean? Let us know in the comments:


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Comments (1)

  • imgoingtomirage


    I agree with your conclusion. If he really thought about folding even for a second in this particular spot then Miles should be pretty happy about his performance during this tournament. He made his opponent double check himself with an obvious +$EV call.