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He Bet, She Raised – A Married Couple’s Ongoing Strategy Debate- Tanking in Tournaments

Katie Dozier and Collin Moshman Debate


Katie DozierIn this column, Katie Dozier and her husband Collin Moshman debate strategy and current issues in the poker world.

The ESPN coverage of the 2012 World Series of Poker main event final table made for interesting and exciting TV, but only for those of us firmly rooted in the poker world. The casual poker fan, however, may have been turned off by the slow pace of play which was showcased in excruciating detail by a broadcast that featured each and every unedited hand.

In this edition of He Bet, She Raised, the husband and wife team debate whether or not poker should institute a shot clock.

Collin Moshman: So this month, I thought we’d talk about an interesting hand I played where I tanked for over 12 minutes—

Katie Dozier: Wait, what?! I don’t think there’s any time where tanking for that long is acceptable, and actually this is something I’ve been meaning to talk about with you. I hope you’re kidding, but if not, consider this your tanking intervention!

CM: Come on, everyone’s been in the tank for a long time at some point. What’s the longest you’ve tanked?

KD: This summer in a WSOP prelim I took just over 2 minutes to make a hero call on the river, but it was the last hand of the break, so only the guy that I won the pot from was annoyed.

CM: Poker isn’t a game of avoiding annoying people though!

KD: But it’s not a game of seeing two hands an hour either! There are so many reasons that long tanking is bad for the game. Besides just seeing fewer hands, it’s alienating to the recreational players at the table. If I was new to the game and saw someone tanking for five minutes, I would feel intimidated that they even have enough thoughts about the decision to fill that amount of time.

Also, many players are so concerned with balancing timing tells that they’ll fake tank for a long time before making an obvious 3-bet with aces. It also makes poker less entertaining to watch on TV, which sounds superficial but actually matters. We want to bring as many new players into the game as possible!

CM: I’ll agree that some players take tanking to an extreme, but a lot of times people have a legitimately difficult decision. Do you actually expect them to make a poor decision because they’re not given enough time to think about the hand?

KD: Poker is a game of making the best decision in a limited amount of time, and then studying to improve your thought process by devoting time to improving when away from the table. If someone makes a bad decision because they didn’t have enough time to think, then that most likely means they should spend more time studying at home and do a better job of predicting how they’ll respond to different actions before they actually occur.

Realistically, I don’t think we can expect for people to just stop excessive tanking because it’s bad for the game in the long run, since many players presumably think that it gives them an advantage. That’s why I think we need a shot clock in poker tournaments.

Collin MoshmanCM: The problem with a shot clock is that it is tough to implement. It would require more from poker dealers, which in many cases could cause the dealers to make even more mistakes in series filled with novice dealers.

KD: Most big changes seem difficult to implement at first, but the effort of implementing a shot clock would be well worth it. After the dealer judges it has been a minute, he could click a simple timer that gives the player 60 seconds to act. Players could be given a larger amount of tanking time when the tournament gets deep (much like how PokerStars adds to a player’s time bank at scheduled internals deep in the tournament). Some players may be annoyed at first, but they would most likely be the ones guiltiest of excessive tanking, and in the long run even they would appreciate getting to see so many more hands per hour.

CM: Even if one large tournament series agreed to it, getting all the series to run it would be a long time off. It would mean extra expense (in the form of a timer mechanism) and annoyance to dealers. I think a good alternative would be getting rid of the stigma of calling the clock, so that it was a more frequent occurrence and players could do so without feeling guilty.

KD: Abolishing a stigma is a much more difficult thing to do than add a dinky timer to a dealer’s responsibilities! I’ve never called the clock on someone, which isn’t to say that’s a good thing; just that I think the negative effects would outweigh the benefits for me. This is especially true because I enjoy maintaining a chatty and upbeat presence at the tables. Also, since an infamous clock call by a woman a few years ago in the WSOP main, I feel that there’s even more of a stigma against a woman calling the clock than a man.

Though I have never called the clock, I do have a strategy that has a pretty high success rate. When someone is taking a very long time to act, I often stand up from the table, and will start pacing if more time elapses. This is a pretty clear signal to the person that I think the decision has gone on for a very long time, yet it isn’t directly aggressive. Perhaps others could employ this as well.

In the past when I’ve been in a situation where seeing more hands is of the utmost importance to me, particularly when I’m short-stacked, I’ll occasionally say something like, “Do you think we could come to a decision soon?” with a friendly smile (once my getting up from the table tactic has failed). Overall, these two ways of polite feedback have worked pretty well for me.

Reversing the stigma on calling the clock would require too dramatic a shift in eliminating a taboo, especially for such a largely disjointed group as poker players. Adding to the problem is that some of the biggest offenders are well-known pros that a novice would be especially unlikely to call the clock on. Hopefully calling the clock in after a reasonable amount of time is becoming more acceptable, but I still think that a shot clock is the best immediate solution to the many problems long tanking creates for poker.

CM: Well, for the record, I’d like to state that we as a poker community can erase the stigma of clock calling. It doesn’t have to be a nasty, aggressive tactic if administered in the right circumstances. Take, for example, that hand I was trying to talk about to you earlier. When I was in the tank for twelve minutes and—-

KD: I’m calling the clock on you!

Katie Dozier is an award-winning blogger, lead coach for Team Moshman, and one of the Grindettes. An accomplished super-turbo and MTT player, she produces videos for Drag The Bar and Poker Strategy. She co-authored “Pro Poker Strategy,” and “The Superuser” with her husband Collin Moshman. She tweets @Katie_Dozier, and can be reached through her website:

Collin Moshman is the author of “Sit ‘n Go Strategy,” “Heads-up No Limit Hold ‘em,” and “The Math of Hold ‘em.” He co-authored “Pro Poker Strategy,” and “The Superuser” with his wife, Katie Dozier. He heads Team Moshman, a coaching and staking team, and produces videos for CardRunners and PokerStrategy. He tweets @TeamMoshman, and can be reached through his website:



over 5 years ago

Poker needs a shot clock. If you are at a table with two or more people that are trying to out "tank" each other than you spend the whole time praying for your table to break. The people that tank the most seem to consider themselves "the best" tourney players.... if that's so why would they want to see less hands per blind level? 45 seconds then move on.


over 5 years ago

It is a crazy thing, the idea of a shot clock. If the tourney was actually a "Speed Tourney" then hey lets put a clock on... With a tourney as big as the WSOP Main... I don't know. I would be hard pressed to just throw away chips in a blink just for the sake of the clock. For me a buy-in as big as that I feel would warrant some thought on some hands. At the same time it is like the old saying "Poo or get off the Pot, I gotta go." But I guess it really doesn't matter b/c can't see myself having that dilemma anytime soon. I can't afford the


over 5 years ago

taking more than 2 minutes to make even a difficult decision is completely ridiculous.....i'd like to see hoodies, head phones and sunglasses banned as well, gee, maybe i'll wear a snorkel jacket popular in the seventies where i can zip up the snorkel part so nobody can see any part of my face when i'm playing.....or maybe i'll wear one of those jackets the eskimos wear that you can only see out thru a very small slit....get the point?....people should not be allowed to hide and if so then to what crazy extremes is too far?.


over 5 years ago

12 minutes! Wow. Honestly, how many possible options could there be? If you can't make a decision in a couple of minutes then essentially you are at a loss to accurately determine the scenario and you are really only trying to get comfortable with your decision.

The only problem with this is that you are effectively punishing the rest of the table with your indecision. If you have gone two minutes and know that a decision is no where in sight then at least let the rest of the table know so they can take an early break!

For live tourney shot clocks here is my idea:

when you get your chips at the beginning of the tourney, you are also issued 3 "clock" chips. Each chip has a different time value. You get a two minute, a three minute and a five minute chip. If you take longer than one minute to make a decision then you have to pick a clock chip and give it up. That starts the clock. When you are out of clock chips then you are going to need to make your decisions in one minute or less or take a penalty. By making this a rule of the tournament, stigma for calling people out on abusing the clock is removed automatically.


over 5 years ago

Those arguing against a shot clock are arguing against becoming a better player.

If it takes you longer than one minute to make your decision, you are lost in the hand. You have not been anticipating the many circumstances of the next card dealt.

Tanking leads to guessing, and that is death in NLH. And no, the chances of being correct on the guess after tanking are not 50-50.


over 5 years ago

After two minutes, and you haven't made a decision? Sorry bud, but you haven't accurately kept track of your opponent's range or betting tendencies, and you are lost in the hand. Do us all a favor and just guess, you are more likely to be right than if you used your 'judgement'.