Poker Etiquette - Slowrolling

In the game of poker, there are two separate codes of conduct. One is governed by the official rulebook of the casino or establishment where you are playing. The other code is one of honour, which depends on human decency, respect and acknowledgement of the game's moral standards.


The act of slowrolling undoubtedly falls into the second category. Slowrolling is a deliberate act, whereby a player with the certain nut hand delays turning over their winning hand after all betting is complete. A slowroll could also take the form of a player taking excessive time to call an all-in bet when holding the nuts. Many slowrolls are also accompanied by acts of apparent indecision, or words that may convince other players that they will win the hand. 

Why not slowroll?

Dating back to the times of riverboat gambling, poker is a game with a highly-valued moral code. Players are expected to treat each other with respect via their actions at the table. Moreover, poker is a serious game. As money is involved, one should be particularly sensitive to the strong emotions that are attached to wins and losses. Swings in either direction can provoke feelings of frustration, guilt, regret, self-loathing or excitement, joy and self-actualisation. 

To toy with people who are in such a volatile emotional state is very cruel indeed. Even in freerolls or games where the money at stake is not life-changing for any participant, slowrolling still affects people adversely due to the self-confidence issues illicited by losses or wins in such a skill-oriented game. 

When playing poker, the clear aim is always to take the cash (or chips) of your opponents. Although one could contend that this aim is often achieved via deceitful methods such as bluffing, or under-representing your hand, these tactics are welcomed within the rules of the game. Slowrolling, on the other hand, is a disrespectful and shameful act, which shows a lack of respect and empathy for another person's feelings.

Slowrolling v Nitrolling

Coined by Ship It! Holla Balla Phil Galfond, the term 'nitroll' has entered the poker lexicon in recent years. A nitroll occurs when a player agonises over a calling decision with the second nuts, or a hand that is clearly winning given the betting action of hand. Nevertheless, the cautious player (a.k.a. nit) is reluctant to commit any of their stack and takes what seems like an inordinate amount of time to make the call. Different from a slowroll, a nitroll is generally done without any malicious intentions and stems from the player's lack of experience and unwillingness to commit chips without a certain winner. 


Correct Course of Action

To avoid accusations of slowrolling and become known as a respectful and likeable player, you should follow the following tips:

- When facing an all-in bet in a heads-up pot with the nut hand, call instantly and expose your hand. 

- Turn both cards over quickly. Never turn over one card and slowly expose the other. 

- When holding the nuts facing an all-in bet in a multi-way pot, it is acceptable to take longer to call (or raise) and feign indecision in the hopes of gaining other callers. This is not a slowroll. 

- Never make a defiant speech or proclamation before calling and exposing your nut hand. Show some class: call and win with dignity.

- Although technically you can ask to see your opponent's hand if they moved all-in before your call, it is considered poor form to exercise this right. You should flip your hand quickly.


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