Blackjack and poker have slow rolls in common

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1991) in Card Player magazine under the title “Blackjack and poker — What do they have in common? Slow rolls feel the same.”

We’ve talked about this problem before, but now someone’s doing something about it. That’s good. For the past two columns, I’ve been laying out some of my opinions for your approval or disapproval. A few months ago, I tested this topic on my radio commentary and the response was favorable. People agreed. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree.

SLOW ROLL. What did I say? I said slow roll. What is it? Well, it isn’t nice. Put yourself in Sheila’s place. She’s a semi-professional poker player. You’ll want to keep reminding yourself that this really happened. I haven’t changed anything except the name, some details, and the principal incidents. The words used to describe this event are exactly as you read them.

Pretty Sheila is on a hot streak and she promotes herself to a bigger-than-usual game. Just to show off she buys in for $10,000 and now, today, she has mountains of chips.

For two hours she plays sensibly, but she just doesn’t get any good hands. Be patient, Sheila. Another hour passes. Now her $10,000 stack of chips looks like a gorilla stomped on it. Picture her face lined with sadness and despair. But just then she gets dealt a full house – three queens and two sevens. You see her pulse start to pound and some of the worry evaporates.

OK, now follow along. All of Sheila’s chips are in the pot and the betting is over. It’s time to show cards and find a winner. Sheila abruptly exhibits her full house. The man on the other end of the showdown sighs and says, “I didn’t think you had that good a hand.” Five seconds pass, an eternity. Then 10 seconds and Sheila reaches to claim her winnings.

“Unfortunately,” says this crude man, mimicking something he saw in a cheap Western movie, “It’s not good enough.” And he turns over four jacks to win.

THE CRUELTY OF THE SLOW ROLL. That, dear readers, is a slow roll in poker. It’s the act of waiting cruelly to turn over a winning hand. It’s psychological torture, bad manners, gross misconduct — especially when you send a player away from the table broke, as was the case with poor, pretty Sheila.

But if it feels bad when a crude customer in a casino slow rolls you, how bad must it feel if the casino itself slow rolls you? Doesn’t happen? Bet me!

Let’s talk about blackjack. Once upon a time most major casinos made their house dealers look at their hidden card whenever there was a possibility of blackjack. Not anymore. Today almost all casinos waste your time by waiting until all the players receive cards. This is particularly annoying when you take a hit and snare 21. You’re sitting there smugly, but when the action is finally over, the dealer, looks and, by golly, gee whiz, he had blackjack all the time!

BLACKJACK RUDENESS. So, if you ask me, that’s a slow roll. And it’s a rude thing for casinos to do to their customers. To be fair, the casinos just wanted to keep dealers from accidentally (or, in rare cases, on purpose) giving away the strength of their hidden card to the players. But the wait-and-look last rule is just too irritating.

So, now comes the good news.

The Las Vegas Hilton was among the first to try a new system. It’s a gadget that reads the dealer’s hidden card by way of optical prisms so that the dealer can see if an ace is present when the top card is a 10-count. The dealer can see blackjack, yes or no, and can then stop the action and take the money immediately. No slow roll. If it’s not blackjack, the dealer doesn’t know what the card is — except that it’s not an ace. Magic? Maybe, but it’s a great system. The Hilton had the device at eight tables in February and it will probably be used at even more tables by the time you read this. Other casinos are testing it, too.

What are the odds that all major Nevada casinos will soon stop slow rolling you at blackjack? I predict that by 1993 there won’t be a single major Nevada casino that still slow rolls its customers.

TEX SHEAHAN GOES OVER. I keep a short list of industry people I respect most. On it is Tex Sheahan, a man of integrity who writes wonderful things about sports and poker and people. On March 25, he turned 75. What comes to mind is something that took place eight years ago. Well, maybe it wasn’t precisely eight years ago and maybe it didn’t actually happen. What difference does it make? Anyway, someone asked me, “What’s the over and under on Tex Sheahan?” Not quite sure what the question meant, I blurted, “Seventy-five.”

So, congratulations, Tex. You just went over! — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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