Wednesday, March 05, 2014

On the Clock (It’s a Matter of Time)

All of this “shot clock” talk happening these days in the poker world -- and gathering a lot of momentum of late -- has been interesting to follow.

In fact, I’m finding the whole dynamic of discussion-slash-debate among players and tournament organizers that seems a constant presence in poker diverting. Seems like everything is on the table these days, perhaps more a function of social media than any specific poker-related development.

Rich Ryan reported on the vote among players that happened this week at the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic, the one that resulted in 80% of players saying they favored the introduction of a “shot clock” on the WPT next season. We had a piece on Learn.PokerNews discussing the topic as well. That pic, by the way, is an inset from one taken at an earlier LAPC event a couple of weeks ago in which a clock was used.

I find it hard to drop the scare quotes because the term isn’t exactly descriptive. The clock being proposed would limit the amount of time a player has to act, and shooting hasn’t really been a common feature of poker since the Old West. Still, everyone knows what is meant by the idea of a shot clock in poker, and indeed the subject has been discussed for more than a couple of years now.

I personally don’t like the idea at all. I understand the problem of excessive, unnecessary tanking and definitely would encourage measures to prevent it. But introducing a shot clock -- especially a 30-second one such as was used in that A$100,000 Challenge event at the recent Aussie Millions and was being discussed at the WPT LAPC -- seems to me like it would introduce several more problems (and probably not even satisfactorily solve this one).

Looking at it from the perspective of a non-pro player, I also dislike the idea and imagine many other non-pros feel the same. While people can adapt to just about anything, my sense is facing the prospect of playing with a shot clock would prove a big turnoff to newer players.

I guess I also find the idea of a shot clock a little too great of a violation of the “natural” rhythm of the game, which like baseball contains a kind of beauty precisely because of the way it accommodates individual differences when it comes to the pace with which each person plays. (Of course, there’s a similar discussion happening in baseball, too, over whether or not some time restrictions should be introduced to shorten games.)

All of which is to say I think a shot clock in poker could be interesting here and there, but wouldn’t like seeing it become a standard part of the game. That said, it is starting to feel like the introduction of this shot clock thing in tournament poker might be only a matter of time (pun intended).

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