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Tanking in Tournaments

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Mar 12, '15

So last night I got involved in a twitter discussion that started with poker pro Jordan Cristos condemning the WPT's structure change to one hour levels at the final table. This has been the practice on the WPT for as long as I can remember, and while it certainly adds less skill to final table play, I fully support this decision. I've said this many times and I will say it again, when you think about what's best for an event, you have to think of yourself as a small business owner (if you are a pro) that has two partners- the venue, and the tournament organizer.

In this case I'll focus on the organizer. Many of you don't realize how expensive it is to pay for a televised production. When you start going into overtime, the costs skyrocket to a point where it's hardly feasible. PokerStars is able to fade the costs because they use these broadcasts as an advertising vehicle. The WPT isn't quite set up the same way with a significant back end revenue stream. There is a huge misconception that the organizers are making tons of money off these broadcasts- it's simply not true.

I said this 10 years ago and I'll say it again, the skill is in getting to the final tables, then sure, you will be in a faster paced structure when the money is on the line, but it's not like one hour levels create a total crapshoot. There is still plenty of play, especially if you don't have players tanking for 4 to 5 minutes for every decision...

Which is a good segue into what this blog is really about- excessive tanking. The player who raised his concerns, Jordan Cristos, is widely considered by most in the community to have taken over the reigns as the new king of tanking. On twitter, various pros chimed in hoping to help Jordan understand that it's not appreciated. At first, he came out forcefully defending his right to tank as long as he'd like to make decisions:

@SavagePoker poker is a game of patience and I'm fine with making k's while they complain. #goodformygame #cameforme #tankingchangedmylife

@DarryllFish @RealKidPoker @SavagePoker I acknowledge a lot of peers/elites disagree with me but that won't change who I am or how I operate

This tweet was very telling. Got it, you came for you. Got it, you see it as good for your game. Got it, you are gonna do you and not change at the community's request. Fair enough, but later you claim that we should all "respect the game and respect your tanks," but if you are unwilling to respect the structure and the other players, why would that warrant us respecting the fact that you are sabotaging the structures for the rest of us?

@RealKidPoker @DarryllFish @SavagePoker Ive never clocked anyone in my life cause I respect the community and the game. Get off ur horse KP

I clock people because I actually DO respect the community and the game! You came for YOU, remember? You are focusing solely on what you think is best for you, and despite the community telling you that you are being excessive with your tanking, you ignore their pleas to have you act more quickly.

You have every right to do that. It's extremely selfish and shortsighted, but for now, you have that right as we don't have a shot clock in poker.

@RealKidPoker @DarryllFish @SavagePoker so much hate for thinking thru decisions like everyone does when it's crucial. I don't get it.

Let me try and explain it for you. No one is saying that it's inappropriate to take your time when decisions are crucial. However, when you are under the gun, first to act, and go into the tank, most everyone agrees that this is crossing a line! When someone 4-bets you before the flop and you take more than 2 minutes to respond, most everyone agrees that this is excessive tanking.

When I play with players who consistently act within a reasonable amount of time, I don't call the clock on them when they occasionally take a few minutes to make a decision. If there is a habitual tanker like yourself, then you have lost that privilege and courtesy.

Dan O'Brien ‏@DanOBrienPoker wrote:

@jcinblue @RealKidPoker philosophical principle Universality: if everyone operated that way, would the system be able to function? I say no.

This. If everyone acted the way Jordan Cristos does in tournament poker, it would cease to exist. Not only would it destroy the structures where you get only 10-15 hands an hour, it makes the game boring for amateurs, which also eats into a pros profits. This is a choice. Jordan talks a lot about respecting the game and respecting the players, but his actions show absolutely no respect for other players time or what is best for the game or the community.

We can all agree that there is a line somewhere. If a player took 20 minutes per decision, I would imagine even Jordan Cristos would think that is crossing the line? So there is a line, there has to be, and the vast majority in the poker community that Jordan Cristos claims to respect think he is crossing it far too often. He claims he isn't going to change. He has that right, but no sir, that will not earn the respect of the community.

In closing, while you claim you are being berated by your peers, I don't see it that way. I have no problem with you personally, you seem like a really nice kid. Having said that, I vehemently disagree with it being ok for you to consistently take as much time as you wish to make decisions. In the future, when I call the clock on you repeatedly, it isn't personal. I'm just doing what's best for me, the structure, the other players at the table, the poker community, the broadcast, the fans, and ultimately YOU.

I get that you don't see it that way, but I tend to think bigger picture when it comes to stuff like this and I know that if behavior like yours becomes the norm then you and the rest of the pros will be out of a job.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


7 years ago

Most of the younger players came up through Internet poker where you get a minute (sometimes less) and a time bank you can draw on to make a decision. So why all of a sudden does it take several minutes to make a decision when you've made countless similar and even identical decisions on-line in 2 minutes or less?

I vote for a "shot clock" -- long overdue in my opinion.


7 years ago

I always give a 1 minute warning about calling a clock for excessive abuse of time. I played with Cristos deep in the WPT event he won in LA. I did not notice that he took a lot of time then. The NHL allows 1 timeout per game. Perhaps poker (tough to regulate) can have a version of a shot clock that the first tank is allowed for say 3 minutes before a clock can be called then gets reduced after each tank to a 1 minute max. I do agree with Daniel on this one.


7 years ago

After reading his tweets, were I sitting at a table with Cristos I would call the clock on this arrogant, self-centered pr1ck after 90 seconds. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.


7 years ago

Unless he has changed lately, I have also played with Jordan Christos in L.A. tournaments and I did not witness any excessive tanking at all. I dunno, seems to me if you wanna rant about a slow player Yevgeniy Timoshenko might be a better target. BTW: on facebook Allen Kessler has some great ideas, make the tanker show his tank/fold hand, that should stop the repeated tanking.


7 years ago

I've played with Jordan and for the most part was playing very fast and a lot of hands. When he tanks, HE TANKS! But so many times he tanks and raises or 3 and 4 bets. Other sports have and are now speeding up the games (baseball 2015 new rules). Jordan is passionate about HIS game and there are rules for both sides of this topic. He can tank and we can call the clock. He shouldn't tank when it's not needed and we shouldn't call the clock just because it's Jordan. Jordan is a smart young man but bull headed when it comes to things he believes in. He'll learn to pick his battles. If he's going to tank this summer he better bring home some gold!


7 years ago

Calling the clock is just as much of a strategy as tankiing.


7 years ago

bob, agreed


7 years ago

Dan O'Brien gets it - well done Dan. HB

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