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A Look At The Poker Tournament Shot Clock Debate

Does The Game Need To Be Sped Up For Television Audiences?


Mike Sexton Wants A Shot ClockDavid Sands has retired, and yet, the poker tournament shot clock debate rages on.

During last week’s World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic main event, the players in the field were asked whether or not they felt that poker tournaments should implement a shot clock into the game, speeding up the decision making process and preventing the rampant Hollywooding that’s flooding the circuit today. The result was surprising. An overwhelming 80 percent of those polled believed that a shot clock should be used.

The WPT’s own Mike Sexton, a long-time advocate of a shot clock, believes that the tour may put them into service as early as 2015.

The benefits of a shot clock are obvious. When players make their decisions faster, the table is able to see more hands and as a result, the structure of the tournament improves. Short stacks can afford to breathe a little easier and be more patient. Players will no longer be forced to call the clock on their opponents and stalling, especially close to the money bubble, will be minimal.

The downside of a shot clock is the logistics involved with implementing them into the game and the initial cost for the casino or tour. Dealers will need to be trained to handle the additional job responsibilities, or more floor staff will be needed to police the time banks. Amateur players may also be intimidated by the new rules and avoid playing live poker as a result.

A poker purist would argue that the game has always and should always be self policed. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? An optimist, however, may believe that a shot clock could spark the next mini poker boom. Here, were take a look at some of the pros and cons of the shot clock debate.

30-Second Shot Clock With Two 60-Second Time Banks

According to the WPT, the proposed shot clock would give players 30 seconds to act every turn, with an additional 60 seconds given for difficult decisions.

Pros: Players who learned the game online will be very comfortable with this process. The game is sped up and by the time the field has reached the money, the stacks will be deep enough to support more than just preflop poker.

Cons: Whose job is it to make sure a player doesn’t exceed their time limit? Is the dealer watching a tournament clock or does each player have a timer in front of them? Can a dealer declare a hand dead or will the floor have to get involved?

Shot Clock During Re-Entry Period Only

The shot clock would only be used during the registration period of re-entry and re-buy tournaments exclusively. Play would resume normally after the field is set.

Pros: Players looking to build a big stack or bust during the re-entry period would be able to see more hands and more entries may occur as a result, inflating the prize pool. Decisions made at the smaller blind levels shouldn’t take a long time anyway.

Cons: Players looking to avoid the shot clock may wait until just before the registration period ends, creating a flood of new players for tournament staff to seat.

Shot Clock In Major Tournaments Only

This idea would limit the shot clock to only participating big buy-in tournaments.

Pros: The players in these events are more seasoned professionals who could easily adapt to the rule change. Time is money and players who routinely put up thousands of dollars in buy-ins don’t want to waste theirs.

Cons: Amateur players who would have otherwise played in a major event are now intimidated and decide to stick to the lower stakes. As a result, the game experiences little growth at the higher stakes.

Shot Clock In Televised Events Only

Only televised events, or televised final tables would implement the shot clock.

Pros: Anyone who has watched an unedited, full live stream or broadcast of a poker tournament knows that 95 percent of the hands can be a little boring to even a poker savvy individual, let alone a newcomer. Throwing a shot clock into the mix would at least keep the action moving and might attract some new eyeballs.

Cons: A shot clock added into a tournament only when the cameras show up, which is generally late in the event or at the final table, would be putting pressure on the players at the worst possible time, when the big money is up for grabs.

What do you think? Should poker tournaments implement a shot clock? Let us know in the comments section below.



over 7 years ago

It definitely is needed. Maybe a dealer warning for taking a long time, and then a clock is automatically instituted for that player.
There are some guys that just Hollywood everything and it does get pretty annoying.


over 7 years ago

A shot clock for televised events would be great. Slow play has made it much less enjoyable.


over 7 years ago

Just one more concession to those with add/adhd.


over 7 years ago

So, shot clocks would only be in effect in major televised re entry tournamens before the re entry ends, and on final tables ?


over 7 years ago

A 30 second shot clock should be implemented in all games. If a player takes longer than 30 seconds to make a decision, he is lost in the hand and should throw that hand into the muck. Then refocus his attention so that he isn't lost in the next hand that he plays.

Long "study" periods ultimately lead to guessing, which is death particularly in NLHE. And no, guessing is not a fifty fifty proposition in poker.


over 7 years ago

5 second shot clock. If you fail to act in time you are eliminated from the tourney.


over 7 years ago

It would seem tome that the dealer would have something akin to a chess clock. Once let's say 15 or 20 seconds goes buy the dealer resets it once and at the end of the second 15 or 20 second period you are in or out. That way only one per table is required. As for how long it is used. Perhaps 30 secs X 2 (as above) once (re)entry period is over. Once in the money or final table either expand the time (2 X 1 min for example) or get rid of the clock and the current rules can be used.


over 7 years ago

In all tournaments - one minute until the final table then two minutes. There's nothing wrong with a shot clock as all tournaments have a time element - each level of blinds in the structure lasts for just a specific time. A very slow table could be playing significantly less hands in a given time period than a table where players are not stalling so much. I have played tournaments with twenty minute or faster levels so there's no guarantee that you'll even post the blinds at the current level before they are raised again.


over 7 years ago

I'm not so sure about a 30 second shot clock but a one minute clock with one extensions button per day seems more than fair. It sucks when you play in a tournament with a thirty minute blind level and someone goes in the tank for 5/6 minute on one hand.