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The World Poker Tour 'Action Clock'

by Mike Sexton |  Published: Jan 30, 2004


When you watch the Travel Channel's World Poker Tour Battle of Champions on NBC on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST), you will discover the World Poker Tour has taken another innovative step in changing tournament poker. The change is with a timing device called the "Action Clock," which gives a player one minute to act on his hand or his hand is automatically folded.

I believe the WPT Action Clock is much better than the system we now use to deter slow play. Currently, we essentially go to an action clock after someone at the table thinks a player has taken more than a reasonable amount of time to act on his hand. That person asks the dealer to call for a floorperson to "put a clock on the player." Once the floorperson reaches the table, the player gets one minute to act on his hand. If he fails to act in that minute, his hand is automatically folded.

There are several problems with the current system. First, the process takes too long. Second, most players don't like calling the clock on someone else. In many instances, if you call a clock on someone, you make an enemy at the table. Some people who get the clock called on them take it personal and get offended. They also claim they didn't take too long, that others take longer, and so on. To retaliate, they might then call the clock on the person who called it on them (or perhaps anyone else at the table) at every opportunity. All of this slows down the game and creates a bad atmosphere at the table.

The Action Clock eliminates the human element of fellow players having to request a clock. It doesn't put anyone in an uncomfortable position of calling the clock on someone else. Most importantly, it speeds up play. This enables the tournament to get in more hands per level and makes the game more enjoyable and fun to play.

During the WPT's Battle of Champions, the floorperson started giving warnings every 10 seconds with 30 seconds to go, and then started a countdown with five seconds to go. (Everyone likes drama on TV.) At the end of one minute, a red light came on, which meant the player's hand was dead if he had not acted. In my opinion, this system could be improved by eliminating the floorperson from verbally counting down the clock. A yellow light could come on after 45 seconds and start flashing at 55 seconds, and then turn red at the end of one minute. Everything would be automated.

The WPT is succeeding in trying to make a sport out of tournament poker. Many sports have a clock to speed up play. There is a shot clock in basketball, a clock to get a play off in football, a clock in tennis for the amount of time that players can take between serves, a clock put on PGA golfers who play too slowly, and so on. Why shouldn't poker have one, too?

There also could be some tweaks to the WPT Action Clock, such as being able to stop the clock for 10-15 seconds if you want a chip count on your opponent, getting more time if your opponent has gone all in or perhaps if you will be all in if you call, or utilizing some type of time bank (say, 60-90 seconds total) for players during a tournament. Although some players believe 90 seconds to act on your hand would be better, I believe one minute is plenty of time to act.

During the Battle of Champions, players were given a "time button," which gave them a second minute to act on their hand if they needed more time to make a crucial decision. Players were told to simply pitch their time button into the pot prior to their time expiring, and they would be given an additional minute to act on their hand. This is something that could also be "standardized."

Hats off to the WPT for this innovation. I love the Action Clock and vote a resounding "yes" on it. I believe it's good for the game and would like to see it used in all tournaments.


Mike Sexton is the host for and a commentator on the World Poker Tour (which can be seen every Wednesday on the Travel Channel – and on NBC on Super Bowl Sunday).