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Ten Second Rule and Slow Roll Coming

by Adam Schoenfeld |  Published: Jul 11, 2012

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Adam SchoenfeldNo decision in limit hold’em should take more than ten seconds. 
Since my life was ruined by Black Friday, over a year ago, I’ve been slogging it out in live poker at the low limits, rebuilding a bankroll that is partially stuck online and partially debilitated by the loss of my lucrative Full Tilt red pro deal.

I’ve spent a lot of that time playing the $10-$20 limit hold’em at Bellagio in Las Vegas. There are certain things that just seem super clear to me now that I’ve actually put some hours in on the live grind. My conclusion about taking time in limit hold’em is one of those things. There are finite options on each street in the limit game. Preflop, you can fold, call or raise. That’s it. There’s no spot ever in limit where you can’t make that preflop decision in ten seconds. 

Post-flop, things do get slightly more complicated. There is pot size to calculate, you have to be sure of the action ahead of you and potentially behind you, and you are well advised to take some time to really know the texture of the flop and to plan for eventualities on later streets. So, again, being generous, I’d say that should take, in extreme circumstances…ten seconds.

In tough river spots, where the pot is large, and you may even be facing a tough overcall or fold decision, I can absolutely understand if you want to take a little extra time. I’ve calculated the amount of time that should be…you’ve got it, ten seconds.

Even in one of the most important spots in poker, the slowroll, you can get the job done in ten seconds or less. I want to be clear. Intentionally taking extra time to fool an unwitting opponent into thinking they’ve won the pot is usually a despicable tactic that you only see from truly depraved, unfeeling, bitter losers. But, I do it myself from time to time.

Sometimes, just like a war of brushback pitches in baseball, you’ve got to protect yourself by retailiating against some of the lowlier players. Hence, the slowroll. I prefer to take my revenge against those who have committed a violation at random intervals, sometimes years after the initial offense. I simply make a mental note of the person I’m going to destroy, and then I wait. I call this my “Slow Roll Coming” list (after Bob Dylan’s 1979 album, Slow Train Coming).

There’s a guy who slowrolled a friend of mine at Binion’s Horseshoe, during the World Series of Poker in 2003. Incidentally, the offender in this case is bracelet winner. I am still waiting in the weeds for my chance to retaliate. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold. Revancha!

Even in these extreme cases, however, I get the dirty job done in ten seconds or less. Recently, there was someone in my game who was incredibly annoying. She was shooting more angles than Euclid, was surly, unpleasant, and generally unattractive as a person. Although the slowroll is usually performed when you call your opponent and they table their hand first, since I try to be the aggressor in poker, I don’t get the opportunity for the classic slowroll too often. I have to resort to the reverse slowroll.

This is where being a master of revenge comes in. I bet on the end in limit holding pocket aces on an innocuous board where a queen was the high card. I was absolutely sure I was good. My bad natured opponent checked, I bet in my usual rhythm. She called. I then took about four nanoseconds longer than usual to turn my hand over. Because I normally act instantly, I believe that even this nearly indiscernible delay caused an almost subconscious thought in my nemesis’ mind that she had won.

No. I turned my hand over and took the pot. Slowroll achieved in well under one second. I know that this worked, because a friend of mine who happened to wander over and observe it, immediately went and told another one of my known associates that he had seen me do the micro-slowroll (they both mentioned it to me later). I don’t think any of the other players at my table took any notice. But my foe knew, and I knew, and that’s what matters.

I absolutely cannot understand why people have to go into the tank in limit hold’em. Not only is it unnecessary, it really hurts the game. As Sklansky/Malmuth pointed out many years ago, when you demonstrate that you are really thinking hard about a spot, it causes more casual, worse players to realize that there’s something that they should be thinking about too. Is that good? No. You want there to be a light, rollicking game where people are gambling it up, even if you are a human borg performing advanced Bayesian calculations in your head.

I’m not suggesting that you forego your advanced metrics and deep thinking. Just do it faster. Creating a grim slog hand after hand will eventually drag your entire game into a paroxsym of slow action and bad action.

On a strictly EV note, many limit hold’em games are charged a time fee. Instead of rake, there’s a set fee for each dealer down of thirty minutes. At Bellagio, for example, the $20-$40 players pay $5 per half hour. The $40-$80 game has a $6 per down time charge. In these games, the regulars should really be acting quickly to maximize the number of hands they get in for their time fees. Going into a protracted huddle is costing everyone at the table valuable time. Winrates per hour will simply plummet if even one or two thinking pros do their thinking slowly.
Try and act more quickly when you’re playing limit hold’em. The other regulars in your game will thank you and your winrate will improve. ♠

Adam Schoenfeld is a professional poker player, writer and analyst. He has commentated upon the Monte Carlo Millions, the World Series of Poker, and other poker TV shows. Follow him on Twitter @adamschoenfeld.