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I don’t know about your thought process at the tables, but I consider an awful lot of factors and still never need more than a minute or so. I have no idea what some players are thinking about when they are taking as long as ten minutes to make a decision on a hand, but there has to be a limit and a shot clock would definitely get us all more hands per level, effectively improving the structure of every tournament.

The idea of implementing a shot clock in poker has been around for quite some time, but it has gained traction recently with players like Daniel Negreanu calling for it’s implementation. I myself have sorely wished for a shot clock when playing cash games with a time charge rather than a rake. There are times during a poker tournament when having a shot clock would be nice, and I think it could be implemented in a simple way that wouldn’t cost poker rooms a lot of money or make significantly more work for poker dealers.

What Would A Shot Clock Do For Me?

Improving the structure of the tournament with a shot clock helps players by offering an effectively better structure with more hands per level, while it doesn’t hurt the house by extending the length of the tournament. That’s a win/win for the house and the players, a no-brainer. It would also decrease frustration and arguments and ensure that everyone was able to go on break rather than missing half a break waiting for an opponent to act on their hand.

How Do We Implement A Shot Clock?

Dealer has a cheap clock, hits the button anytime anyone starts tanking and they have one minute. Clock is flipped up so they can see it and there is no need for a floor. Dealers are instructed to hit the button any time a player is taking more than two seconds and they know it is their turn. Could give each player a time button that gets them two more minutes once per tournament.

Implementing a shot clock in poker does not have to be complicated. In fact, there are simple solutions. If every dealer tray had a simple electronic timer that could be bought for $4 on, we could have a shot clock in play tomorrow. A simple set of rules to govern the use of the clock would make it fair for everyone and keep the complaints to a minimum.

1) Each dealer has a clock with a one minute timer on it. If a player appears to be thinking about a hand for more than four seconds, the dealer should hit the start button on the timer and place it so that the player can read the remaining time.

2) If the timer goes off and the player has not made a decision, their hand is dead.

3) It is the dealer’s job to start the clock as soon as a player appears to be thinking about a hand for more than a few seconds. Any critique of a dealer for starting the clock too early results in an automatic one round penalty for the player.

As an added rule for major events, players could receive a one time chip that allows them an extra two minutes. Upon receiving the chip, the dealer would add two minutes to the clock. The shot clock for the final table of a major event could be set for a longer period of time to take into account the better structures and the fact that decisions often involve large amounts of money.

That’s it. A $4 clock and three simple rules. This isn’t something that we need the TDA to form a committee to study, it’s something they could implement immediately.

Just a Small Change

Poker players are resistant to change, but this change would be small and fairly unobtrusive. The players who take an inordinately long time with their decisions might not like the change, but no one else would complain, or really even have to pay attention to the change because it wouldn’t affect anyone else.

The timer would quickly become a part of the game, just like it is in most other organized competitions. Competitive chess, organized sports like football, and even my wife’s Scrabble club use a timer. You may not be on a shot clock when you play a pick-up basketball game at the park, but any official game has a time limit, and it’s time for serious poker to implement a clock too.



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Chris Wallace

Chris "Fox" Wallace is a professional poker, author, and poker coach from St Paul, Minnesota. While he spent most of his career playing cash games,Fox recently started playing more tournaments and won a bracelet in the $10,000 HORSE World Championship in 2014. Follow him on twitter