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William Kassouf came under fire in recent episodes of the WSOP on ESPN due to the speed of his play in addition to his constant verbal escapades. His perceived slow playing has reignited an argument that we’ve seen too often in modern poker. Do players really need to take so long to act on hands? How are games being harmed by the slow play of some players?

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If you watch a majority of TV poker, you will see a lot of this stalling, or “Hollywooding” as it’s known. It has become such an epidemic in poker that some events have started to incorporate a shot clock and it’s likely we will see more of that in the future.

As a player, there are several spots in your game where you can speed up your play so that you’re not part of this epidemic of slow play. Here are five areas where you can speed up your game.

Pre-Flop and First to Open

If you’re first to open (meaning raises) a pot pre-flop, there’s no need to sit there and take an excessive amount of time to make your action. Approximately 15 to 20 seconds should be more than enough time to decide to raise and how much.

Acting in a shorter amount of time also helps to make you a bit more unpredictable. If you’re acting quicker, your players have to pay attention to you because you could raise just as quickly as you fold.

Facing a Raise When You Haven’t Committed Money to the Pot

There are way too many players that like to Hollywood pre-flop, even when they haven’t committed money to the pot. They sit there and they take a long time because they are trying to give the illusion like they have some type of big decision.

We’re not talking about the times where a player has a legitimate decision, such as if they have pocket 8’s with a shove or fold stack and they are facing a raise from a solid player. In this case, we are talking about those that take too much time for EVERY fold that they make.

You Have the Nuts or a Hand That’s Clearly Ahead

Then you have the players that want to take too long to act when they have the nuts or hold a hand that’s likely way ahead. Some think they are disguising their hand strength and can get their opponent to commit more chips to the hand.

Sure, there are times that this is a valid thought, such as if you are sitting with quads on a double paired board and you feel your opponent has a boat. However, if you have quads and your opponent just shoved into you, there’s absolutely no reason to take a long time to call unless you just WANT to be a jerk.

On the Money Bubble

Too many players slow their game down to a crawl on the money bubble, especially if they are a short stack. They are hoping someone busts and they can squeak into the money. While there is a bit of logic in this thinking, all it usually does is prolong the bubble period.

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The craziest examples are on the stone bubble where players decide to continue stalling. In most events, when multiple players bust out on the bubble, they split the first payout or first couple of spots depending on how many bust.

Before the Money in a Tournament

With a few exceptions, there are very few spots where you should be taking a long time to make a decision anytime before the money in a tournament. While many will argue the “take your time to make a decision” strategy, way too many people abuse this and the pace of the game slows down dramatically.
The majority of decisions in the pre-money stages of tournaments are going to be fairly standard. They don’t require 30 seconds or more. Once you are in the money and have a legitimate chance to make the final table or win the tournament, then you might take some extra time in particular spots.

However, taking too much time before the money is unnecessary and just slows down the game.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.

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