One possible idea for a poker shot clock

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Nov 30, 2012 Posted in Op-Ed, Tournament News | No Comments »

After a marathon final table at the World Series of Poker Main Event that saw even longtime poker players and poker purists denouncing the speed of play, and making the very valid case of how this will hurt televised poker, a debate has been raging over the possibility of adding a “shot-clock” for tournament play.

Players have come down on both sides of the aisle on the need for a shot-clock, and even in the pro-shot-clock camp there have been several different ideas floated around, and potential ways to solve the problem of slow play. In this column I’ll take a look at a few of the suggestions that have been made and then offer up my own thoughts.

First off, it should be pointed out that logistically it would be very hard to incorporate an actual shot-clock for every table of every tournament. Dealers are already taxed enough without having to watch a clock, and arguments over timekeeping will inevitably arise as players (ahem, Allen Kessler) claim the clock begins when a player mucks, when a player looks at their cards, or that it ends at some other arbitrary point. So unless we are talking about final tables an actual shot-clock is not a viable option.

Next there is the self-policing idea Daniel Negreanu first brought to light. The only problem with this is that players who call the clock on other players does nothing to cut down on the 30+ seconds one specific player may use EVERY SINGLE HAND to simply fold their cards pre-flop –which to me is the real problem. Calling the clock only eliminates the very rare, long tanks.

Furthermore, there are decisions that come up in poker that do take an extended amount of time, and it’s quite unfair to punish a player that normally plays fast but who may have three of these in a single day –variance people!

So what is the answer? I think it’s a combination of both ideas. The best idea I have come up with is to start it off as self-policing, but instead of calling the clock a player will be given two warnings for slow play –whether it’s because of a five minute tanks or a 45-second pre-flop fold from UTG. In this way the players at the table could determine if the situation warranted the slow play, or if the player is simply wasting everyone’s time. After the first warning the dealer will inform the floor. A second warning would be given only if a different opponent complained on a subsequent hand.

Once a player has been warned twice they will then be on a clock: and will have to act within 30 seconds if they are first to act and given 1 minute if they can close the action. Violation would then result in a one-hand penalty, with future violations progressively getting stiffer.

My thinking is that this will only punish the worst offenders, while at the same time not burdening the tournament staff with keeping track of potentially thousands of players. Also, by requiring two separate players to complain on two separate occasions we can avoid “revenge” clock calls.

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