The Slow Guy at the Poker Table

By David Sasseman | September 24, 2009

If a player acts faster than me, they are a maniac; If a player acts slower than me they are a bore.

There is always that guy that takes too long. Not just during one hand but consistently. Picture a fun table. There is a natural relaxing flow going. Poker is paramount but players are talking, happy, and throwing around some chips. You are in the zone and joking. Then boom, the slow guy. Why does it take you so darn long to call?

”Is it my turn” syndrome. He is slow because he talks and pays no attention to the game. If you are the one asking if it is your turn, it usually is!

Self-conscience syndrome. He thinks everyone is watching him so he acts flamboyant. Looks around, moves with big gestures, and gives a speech before acting.

Look into your soul syndrome. Is that guy really staring me down to get a read? Heck, I just want to see a flop. Let’s go. I plan on playing for four more hours but it will seem like six with this guy at my table.

Emulate the TV star syndrome. He waits, looks at everyone, looks at his hole cards, looks at everyone, waits, looks back at his cards – the other players are thinking, “come on!”

‘Know it all’ syndrome. The guy that slows the game down to discuss the hand just to show off his knowledge, inadvertently influencing other players to fold or collude when you have the nuts.

Slow motion syndrome. It’s 3am and you’re at a casino that serves free drinks. There are only three ways to deal with this guy; be happy and assume he will give you chips, switch tables, or just start drinking.

Picture your own nightmare; The slow Hollywood actor? The guy that watches TV? The one the dealer has to tell every hand that it is his turn? Cell phone guy? The eater? Text messenger? Table captain? The complainer? The guy that prints out poker lessons from and reads them at the table? Earphone guy that cannot hear the dealer? Splash the pot guy? – and so on it goes.

Of course there are reasons to take your time before acting in poker. One reason poker is such a great game is because it can require running back the history of every hand you have ever played especially with the players involved in this hand, thinking of thousands of scenarios and doing millions of calculations. Computers can play chess but not poker. For the player who takes too much time when it is not to their advantage, shame on you. For the rest of us if we are asked why the heck it’s taking us so long, just smile, relax, and think to yourself:

  • I have to think about the amount to bet and what I have bet in the past with this group.
  • What will happen on the next street? Will he bet? Will I bet?
  • When on a draw, do they have a big enough hand, that if I make my hand, will I get paid-off?
  • Do they have enough chips to pay me off?
  • How many chips do I have?
  • What range of hands could each of my opponents have? Assign rough percentages for each possible hand.
  • What is my game plan at this time? (And my over-all game plan?)
  • What is my table image? Have I set anyone at this table up for this situation?
  • Run back entire tables history and then the history of this hand.
  • Who is in front of me? Who is behind me?
  • Calculate pot odds and implied odds.
  • Sometimes if I see a tell, in order to stay deceptive, I do not act on it immediately because, my opponent may be alerted.
  • Waiting can make money later. I am going to fold but if I wait for just a moment, I may get a tell on the tight player. He has been quiet, but now, he is breathing hard, and protecting his hole cards- is he bluffing or does he have a made hand?

And, the top eight reasons to take a long time making a call at the poker table are:

  1. To get a Red Bull if it includes vodka.
  2. Looking at a pretty railbird or waitress if she is a 10/10 and you are under 50 years old.
  3. Napping- only applies after 3am and if you are over 50 years old.
  4. If you are explaining to your wife, “Yes, I did lose $600 but I can play for free till that little white button gets here”.
  5. Digging (for some more money) or going to the ATM.
  6. Selling your jewellery for another buy-in.
  7. If the slow guy is getting under the skin of the rude dude that has been beating me all night, it is just fine.
  8. And the eighth top reason to take a long time to call is, “Sorry I was just spacing out, Dude”.

I could talk about politeness, etiquette, courtesy, respect, unwritten rules, the bad reputation a slow player gets. Everyone has a certain tolerance level for speed at the table. If you are overly bored or emotional with a player that slows the game down, you may make an expensive poker mistake. Go eat, take a walk, or ask the floor for a table change. Expectations differ. Pros may be less tolerant. They make money by the hour and play at higher money levels. While a $1/$2 game is usually more social, with some inexperienced players, talking, and drinking. Please don’t chastise a new player. Do not be mean to a slow player that is losing. Do not call a clock on me and please do not get me started about slow online players.

By David Sasseman

David lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and has played over a million hands online and many thousands of hands in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Las Vegas casinos.


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