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Slow Roll in Poker Explained Plus The Worst Slow Rolls in History

Dominic Field

Apr 21, 2023

Slow rolling in poker

This article seeks to explain the term “slow roll” in poker. We’ll also explore exactly why people do it and discuss whether it’s good or bad. Then, just for the fun of it, we’ll take a look at four of the worst slow rolls the game has ever seen.

Trigger warning: this post contains some absolutely disgusting poker etiquette, so strap in and prepare to get angry!

What is a Slow Roll in Poker?

The slow roll in poker is widely considered as one of the worst possible breaches of etiquette. In essence, it’s when a player has an extremely strong hand at showdown, but they deliberately stall. The intention is to trick the other player into believing they could win the pot, when in reality, they have no chance.

Like many areas of poker, slow rolling is not always easy to detect. Some are obvious, like a player holding a monster who calls and only shows their hand after a long wait. But it’s not always that simple. 

For instance, imagine you are facing an all-in with the nuts. It’s the final bet, there’s nobody to act behind you and you literally have the best possible hand. If you take a long pause before calling or ask for a chip count, these acts would probably be seen as slow rolling. 

Why? It’s not impossible that you’re just nervous in your first-ever live poker tournament. Or perhaps you want a count to fully understand how much you’ll lose if you’re somehow outdrawn. But if you know you are going to call and you’re almost certain to win, why make the opponent sweat unnecessarily? Put them out of their misery and don’t be a jerk.

Is Slow Rolling a Good Thing?

Absolutely not. As with anything in life, you’ll find people who disagree with this statement. But they are few and far between, with the overwhelming majority of poker players in agreement on the subject. 

There are no rules saying that you can’t slow roll in poker, but some things you just don’t do. Slow rolling is one of them.

So Why Do Poker Players Slow Roll?

If everyone agrees that it’s bad etiquette, why would anyone perform a slow roll in poker? Well, a lot of the time, you see it from people who have never really played poker before. They do it once, genuinely believing it to be a funny prank. But after being berated by the entire table, they learn a valuable lesson. This type of slow roll is annoying, but at least it’s partially excusable.

However, there exists a breed of slow rollers who know exactly what they are doing. They are thinking about the benefits of putting an opponent on tilt. They might feel they can make more money from players who are steaming. And one of the best ways to make someone lose their cool in a poker game is to slow roll them.

One of the best-known players who love to slow roll in poker games is Shaun Deeb. A self-confessed “shit talker”, he’s been embroiled in controversies in the past. But he’s possibly best known for his slow-rolling antics. He has explained in interviews that he doesn’t remember when he started, but he finds it a useful way to pick up tells. Plus he finds it funny and uses it to try and make others laugh.

What is the Worst Ever Slow Roll in Poker?

Okay, you’re now up to speed on exactly what the term means. So it’s time to take a look at some real-world examples of a slow roll in poker. 

Brace yourself, as this list contains some of the most horrendous slow rollings you’ll ever see. And of course, we have to start with the master slow roller himself, Shaun Deeb.

#4 - Deeb Slow Rolls Mike Matusow

Arguably the most well-known slow roll in poker, this example was broadcast on television and received lots of attention. Mike Matusow and Shaun Deeb were involved in this episode of Poker Night in America, with the former holding pocket Jacks. “The Mouth” raised and found one caller in the shape of Deeb, armed with pocket fives.

The flop that came was T 5 5, giving Deeb the best possible poker hand for this board. Matusow didn’t know it; in fact, he probably loved that flop – but he would need running Jacks to pick up this pot. He led and Deeb elected to flat call. Matusow quickly shoved on the turn, which was the 4.

Instead of immediately calling, as you’d expect when holding the stone-cold nuts, Deeb proceeded to take more than 25 seconds to act. And when he eventually declared his intention, he did so with an air of faux-resignation, stating “okay, I call”. The reaction upon tabling his hand was a mixture of open-mouthed shock, confusion, and mirth. 

Understandably, Matusow was less than amused. In fact, he was visibly upset, telling the table that he had “never slow-rolled anyone in his life”. As the realisation of what just happened set in, he lost his temper, threatening Deeb with a “punch in the mouth”.

Remember, kids – you’re playing with fire when you slow roll in poker games.

#3 - Mikel Habb on Samantha Abernathy

During the 2016 Aussie Millions, we, unfortunately, witnessed one of the more egregious examples of slow rolling. At least with a player like Deeb, he could claim to be joking. But Australia’s Mikel Habb was certainly not fooling around when he performed possibly the most theatrical slow roll the poker world has ever seen.

The preflop action began with an under-the-gun raise, a re-raise from Habb in the small blind, and 4-bet from Samantha Abernathy. Understandably, everyone got out of the way, including our very own Kitty Kuo. If Habb wanted to call, it would cost all of his chips. A tricky spot, right? Well, no, not really, because he was holding pocket Kings. 

There was nobody to act behind him and if he made the call, we would have a showdown. All he needed was a few seconds to figure out whether Abernathy, holding two red sixes, had Aces or not. Even then, this should be a fairly automatic call. But instead, we were treated to an Oscar-winning performance. More than 30 seconds of heavy sighing, head in hands gestures, head shaking, and leaving his seat.

Abernathy took the slow roll with good grace and a smile, but Habb wasn’t done yet. He walked around the table, kissed his fingers and pointed them to the sky in the most dramatic of fashion. His bizarre antics left everyone watching rooting for a six to save Sam and serve up a little justice. Happily, the poker gods delivered in spades – literally, as the 6 appeared to leave Habb looking extremely stupid.

#2 - Andreas Gann Disrespects Donnacha O’Dea

Another example of a player slow rolling and getting their just desserts. This one took place at the 2015 Irish Poker Open. It featured Dublin-born poker pro Donnacha O’Dea, a widely respected player and total gentleman, against the German Andreas Gann.

The preflop action was relatively straightforward. O’Dea put in a raise holding A 6 and a relatively short-stacked Gann opted to call with K Q. The flop of 8 A 6 gave Gann the nut flush, but O’Dea had the top and bottom pair and far more chips. A straightforward bet for the Irishman, he quickly put Gann all-in.

The commentary on this hand is illustrative of how most people feel about a slow roll in poker. After the initial surprise, they started to question events, assuming that the on-screen graphics must be wrong. Knowing that this was so obviously a snap call, they understood that nobody would ever behave this way intentionally. So they pondered on whether Gann had made a mistake, perhaps not realising that O’Dea had bet. 

Unfortunately, the German knew exactly what he was doing. After tanking for a full 65 seconds – with the absolute nuts – he called. The table’s reaction gives us a little hope for humanity, with almost every player verbally calling Gann out. O’Dea himself, always one to take the high road, remained silent throughout. But when the 6 hits the river to complete a full boat, everyone erupted into raucous cheers and applause.

#1 - William Kassouf Hollywoods on Live At The Bike

Our number one worst slow roll in poker could only go to one person. The most annoying player the world has ever seen, Englishman Will Kassouf. His antics at the table are well-known. He pushes the rules of speech play to the very limits, incurring countless penalties for trash-talking and generally being incredibly irritating. It comes as little surprise to learn he’s capable of such a flagrant slow roll.

The Live At The Bike stream is the scene for this particular crime, possibly the most ridiculous slow roll in poker history. In a five-way pot, Kassouf flopped four of a kind against the full house of a player called Derek. The hand had started with the tiresome Kassouf dominating the conversation as always, chattering relentlessly throughout the preflop action. After checking his cards on the flop and barely stopping for breath, he exclaimed, “Wow, quads! How shall I play quads, guys?”

This type of harmless comment is common in cash games, and it’s on par for the course with Kassouf and his infamous speech play. After slowplaying the turn and a trademark three-minute monologue on the river, Kassouf eventually called Derek’s 3-bet jam. As if the hand weren’t already fairly ridiculous, the intolerable Brit launched into perhaps the most offensive slow roll ever seen.

First of all, it took almost 80 seconds for Kassouf’s full hand to be revealed. Secondly, he turned the cards over one at a time. And finally, he “entertained” the table with a “hilarious” spiel where he pretended to be a magician. But the kicker was the genuine enjoyment that he was getting from trolling this player and playing up to the table. Just a loathsome individual doing what he does best. 

Final Thoughts - Don’t Be “That” Guy

The slow roll in poker is probably the most unnecessary breach of etiquette. There is never a justifiable reason for it and you should expect to feel the wrath of the table if you do. 

As you saw in our rundown of the worst slow rolls, it can make people so angry they literally want to fight. And in the long run, you may find yourself banned from certain games, making slow rolling a negative expectation play. 

For the most part, slow rolling is a choice, so it’s not hard to avoid being “that guy” at the table. But here is a little advice to prevent any accidents:

  • When you’re last to act and the hand ends with your decision, make it immediately;

  • If you have the nuts at showdown, be the first to reveal them rather than wait for others;

  • A heads-up shove into your Aces preflop is always an insta-call;

  • Never pretend to be disappointed or fake to fold before calling.

So, before you hit the Natural8 tables, remember our advice: you should never, ever slow roll in poker games!

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