Is there any more douchebag move in a poker game than slow rolling?
For most players, a deliberate slow roll is an invitation to lash out. A slow roll creates a gap in time, when the villain waits just long enough before showing a winning hand for you to believe yours is good. Then it’s not. This creates a flash of negative emotions ranging from disappointment to humiliation to rage. The autonomic motor system reacts involuntarily to the arousal with increases in heart rate, blushing or turning pale, bristling hairs, sweating, or churning of the stomach. The slow roller and possibly some of the bystanders revel in watching the victim suffer.
Not any more.
Earlier this week I got slow rolled. The villain was in the small blind. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Stephen.” He’s a full generation younger than me and we play against each other often. I was on the button and over-limped in an unraised pot with a suited queen. Everybody checked on a flop with all low cards including a pair of fours. The turn card was a queen, giving me top pair. Stephen led out with a small bet and I called.
The river was a blank and Stephen led out again, larger this time. The board held out the possibility of a missed flush or straight draw and I still had top pair. The pot was fairly small. It felt a bit like aggro kid tries to bully nitty middle-aged white guy off the pot. Against my better judgement, I called again and showed my queen.
He slowly turned over a blank, then a four that matched the pair of fours on the flop.
After someone called out the slow roll, Stephen smiled and said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “I know it’s OK to slow roll KKing David because he just rises above shit like that.”
Stephen paid me a compliment in this awkward moment. As soon as he said that, I wanted it to be true, and from now on it will be true. Just because someone tries to provoke, it’s not mandatory to react.
Slow rolling takes place after the hand is over. It’s impossible for a slow roll to represent any sort of cheating, collusion, angle shooting or other illegal or unethical way to create an unfair disadvantage at the table. It’s just a psychological warfare tool, sometimes inadvertently done.
In The Art of War, the Chinese philosopher and military advisor Sun Tzu says “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
With formlessness and soundlessness, slow rolling becomes overrated and only the slow roller himself can experience a costly emotional swing. That will be his fate, not mine. Slow rolling is overrated because I say so!
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