Five Thoughts: The Shot-Clock Debate, Lisa Simpson Plays Online Poker, and More

Posted at 10:10 2012-11-14 by Rich Ryan

With the World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table in the rear-view mirror, and Full Tilt Poker now fully operational, the news cycle will be a little bit slow until the 10th annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure begins in January.

Of course, there are a few notable tournaments remaining on the 2012 schedule, including EPT Prague, the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, and, on the East Coast of the U.S., at least, the Borgata Fall Open. There could also be breaking news considering the online gaming legislation in the U.S., but I’m not holding my breath during this lame duck session. Sen. Harry Reid and company have teased me enough, particularly during the 2010 lame duck session.

So rather than leading with a news story — if anything happens in the coming weeks then I’ll obviously pull a Peyton Manning and call an audible — I plan to lead with a few hotly debated topics. This week, we’ll kick things off with Daniel Negreanu’s topic de jour: the shot clock.

1. Shot-Clock Violation

On Nov. 22, 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons defeated the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 in the lowest scoring game in NBA history. There were four total points scored in the fourth quarter. Basketball writers condemned the Pistons for holding the ball, and NBA executives were fuming because attendance was plummeting. It took four more years, but in the 1954-55 season, the 24-second shot clock was introduced. In the final preclock season, teams averaged 79 points per game. In the first shot-clock season, teams averaged 93 points per game. The NBA became more exciting.

Initially, there were players and coaches against the shot clock, but most changes come with some opposition. Can you imagine the NBA without a shot clock, though? It would be like poker without blinds or antes. You need something to force the action.

The shot clock trickled down into college basketball, and it’s even used in some high school conferences. The Catholic Athletic Conferences in California, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington (State), and Washington (D.C.) all use a 35-second shot clock, and it’s removed stalling completely. Oregon has voted down a shot clock, which resulted in one of the most boring state championship games of all time earlier this year.

The shot-clock argument has been debated in poker for a while now, but it heated up during the live stream of the WSOP Main Event Final Table. A handful of professionals, led by Kid Poker himself, were bored. Very bored.

Even Seth Palansky, the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Caesars Entertainment, joined in with the #WillWSOPEndBefore hashtag:

Live poker is boring. Live poker without hole cards is even more boring. And live poker without hole cards and with players who are tanking forever is almost unwatchable. Casual viewers already prefer the prepackaged, documentary-style WSOP episodes that air on Tuesday nights, so the last thing we want to do is make the live stream of the Final Table less and less interesting.

A shot clock would do wonders because it would control the pace of the action and force players to make quicker decisions. Controlling the pace of the game isn’t just important during the WSOP Main Event Final Table, however, it’s important during an entire poker tournament. A shot clock would increase the number of hands per hour, it would police stalling on the bubble (even if the players who want to stall don’t conserve their time bank for later, they’ll only be allowed to tank for so long), and it would ultimately change the way players approach a live poker tournament.

Again, here are a few tweets from Negreanu detailing his proposed rules:

There are a few valid arguments against a shot clock, including the limitations it puts on collecting reads. If you don’t believe me, the next time your put in a tough spot in a live poker game, tank for a considerable amount of time. Your opponent, especially if he or she is a casual player, will struggle to hide emotions for more than a few minutes. The more time that passes, the more difficult it becomes to sit still and remain calm.

Shot-clock proponents would counter with this: if you’ve conserved your time bank, you could use it all in one spot to pick up a crucial read. Again, it would add another wrinkle, which would benefit solid, thinking players.

The biggest obstacle that the shot clock faces is implementation. We’ve seen it put in place at the Aussie Millions, but in order for it to advance further, there will need to be a strong group of poker tours that go all in. I have a feeling the PokerStars sponsored events will take the lead with Negreanu’s help and implement a shot clock in a few tournaments. Maybe PokerStars will find a way to sneak a shot-clock event in the upcoming PCA schedule.

Check back next week when I tackle another hot topic in poker: the rise of open-faced Chinese poker.

2. Lisa Simpson’s College Fund

On Sunday, Season 24 of The Simpsons continued with an episode titled “Gone, Abie, Gone.” One of the subplots focused on online poker, and for a blow-by-blow recap of the events, please read Monday’s edition of The Nightly Turbo.

Here’s a short summary: Homer puts Lisa’s college fund on a poker site because it’s “safer than the bank.” Lisa is horrified when Bart starts playing with the money and tries to win back what Bart lost. She ends up winning $360,000, then loses an $800,000 pot to Bart, but the site takes away all their money except for the original $5,000 when they find out Bart and Lisa are both under 18 years old.

Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons and avid poker player, seems to take a lot of jabs at the government and poker itself during the episode. First, the notion that an online poker site is safer than a bank is both hilarious and ironic. We all know that after Black Friday this is probably untrue, unless your funds were on PokerStars, but we aren’t too far removed from the 2007 banking crisis. Who can you trust more? Poker sites that are generally forced to keep your money in separate, secure accounts, or banks that reinvent and lend your money to third parties?

The episode also takes a small jab at conservatives who believe that poker is morally wrong. Ned Flanders, the Simpsons’ overtly religious neighbour, goes out of his way to tell Lisa that gambling is “Satan’s most potent recruiting tool.” Lisa dismisses this claim.

With the help of Jennifer Tilly, the writers satirized poker training, as well. During the episode, Lisa attributes her success to two books, Al Roker on Poker and Fold Yourself Rich, and also an instructional DVD of Tilly saying, “Use a little girl voice and take everything they’ve got.”

If only poker was that easy.

Finally, the ultimate theme of the subplot comes to fruition when Lisa loses everything she’s earned. After running her account up to $400,000 Isildur1 style, she loses an $800,000 pot with aces full of threes. A player, whom she believes to be Sideshow Bob, but who is really Bart, flopped quad threes, and when Lisa loses, she is distraught. Although TwoPlusTwo posters, who for the most part disliked the episode, will tell you that Lisa used poor bankroll management, most casual viewers will see Lisa’s loss as a lesson learned. Unfortunately, this episode gave online poker a very large and impressionable stage for exposure and it ended with a “told you so” type of conclusion.

Non-poker players who watched the episode will most likely walk away convinced that poker is still just a form of gambling and not a game of skill. That’s a bit of a shame. The episode was enjoyable though, and I’m certain that Simon was thrilled to bridge two of his favourite pastimes.

3. Full Tilt in Full Swing

As reported on Friday, the Full Tilt Online Poker Series will return in December with FTOPS XXI. The 21st edition of the tournament series will run from Dec. 2 through 16, and will feature 35 tournaments with millions of dollars in guarantees.

FTOPS XX ran post-Black Friday and wasn’t wildly successful, but FTOPS IXX crushed, awarding more than $9 million in prizes during the $600+$40 Main Event alone. American Blair Hinkle grabbed $1.1 million after making a deal at the final table, and is still waiting for the U.S. Department of Justice to help him collect his seven-figure score.

The largest buy-in is Event #31, a two-day $2,000 ante from the start tournament. A total of $500,000 is guaranteed in that event, but that’s only the sixth-largest guarantee during the series — Event #1 $200+16 No Limit Hold’em ($750,000 guaranteed) and the $600+40 Main Event ($1.5 million guaranteed) are among the five largest.

Sunday marked the return of majors on Full Tilt, and both the $200K Guarantee and the Sunday Brawl didn’t disappoint. The two tournaments generated a total prize pool of $830,400, and Zebalhao, who took down the $200K Guarantee after making a two-player deal, earned an even $100,000. The nosebleed cash games are also on the rise once again. Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, who played at a few $0.50/$1.00 tables to generate a buzz, played a bit of $50/$100 PLO against the likes of Gus Hansen, Rob “Vaga_Lion” Akery, Alexey “NoPasaran” Makarov, and Ronny “ronnyr37617” Kaiser.

Blom also splashed around at $100/$200 and $200/$400 PLO, earning a total of $290,867. Hansen, a fellow member of The Professionals hasn’t run as well and is down $348,409.

It’s exciting to see the action at Full Tilt back in full swing, and I’m very excited for the upcoming FTOPS.

4. ACOP Results

On Sunday, Xing Zhou won the 2012 PokerStars.net APPT Asia Championship of Poker Main Event. After a six-hour heads-up match against Ying Kit Chan, Zhou walked away victorious, earning $454,808. Chan, thanks to a two-player deal, also walked away with $454,808.

Here’s how the entire final table looked:

2012 PokerStars.net APPT Macau: Asia Championship of Poker Final Table Payouts

Place Name Country Prize (HKD) Prize (USD)
1 Xing Zhou China $3,547,500 $454,808*
2 Ying Kit Chan Hong Kong $3,547,500 $454,808*
3 Michael Kanaan Australia $1,731,000 $221,923
4 Jacques Zaicik France $1,384,000 $177,436
5 Alan Sass USA $1,125,000 $144,231
6 Tsugunari Toma Japan $952,000 $122,051
7 Andrew Hinrichsen Australia $779,000 $99,872
8 Tom Alner UK $606,000 $77,692
9 Henry Wang Taiwan $432,000 $55,474

Australian Jeff Rossiter took down the ACOP Warm-Up event. Rossiter survived a tough final table that featured 2010 November Niner Joseph Cheong and back-to-back WSOP Main Event winner Johnny Chan. Cheong (3rd) and Chan (7th) earned $93,718 and $37,372 respectively.

Here are the full payouts from the final table:

Seat Player Country Chips
1 Johnny Chan USA 671,000
2 Rong Fan China 745,000
3 Joseph Cheong USA 854,000
4 Adam Latimer UK 858,000
5 Daoxing "Bobo" Chen China 616,000
6 David Martirosyan Russia 495,000
7 Jeff Rossiter Australia 1,555,000
8 Andrey Shatilov Russia 597,000
9 Jan Zeuschner Germany 645,000

From speaking with colleagues and browsing Twitter, it seems as if both the media and the players absolutely love Macau. Whether it be because the city is nice, the staff is accommodating, or the tournaments began in the middle of the afternoon, allowing everyone to go out at night and get into trouble, there are very few people that leave the island with a bad taste in their mouth. It’s no wonder that poker is thriving there and that so many Western players are making the trek east to play in the higher limit games.

Unfortunately, Chan didn’t comment on the status of Full House With Johnny Chan during the final table. I’m quite curious as to whether or not we’ll be watching his students pay their rents in euro.

5. Aguiar vs. Cantu Part Deux

The long-awaited rematch between recent WSOP bracelet-winner Jonathan Aguiar and Brandon Cantu, the man he defeated heads up, took place last Wednesday in the Aria Poker Room. After a series of negotiations regarding the rules, the two battled in a $130,000 heads-up sit-and-go, which was the difference between first and second in the €10,000 Mixed Max Event that Aguiar won at the World Series of Poker Europe.

According to both of their Twitter accounts, Aguiar took an early lead, but Cantu surged back to win.

If you don’t understand the “crying and complaining” Cantu is referencing, then check out the interview he did with Sarah Grant after busting in Cannes, France.

I am very dissatisfied with this grudge match. Partially because of the result, but mainly because the only coverage it received was a few tweets from the players themselves and out-of-focus photos from Jean-Robert Bellande. You could certainly point a finger at us or any other poker media outlet based out of Las Vegas, but I’d argue that the timing was poor and neither player hyped up the match enough. Had they played right before the WSOP Main Event final table when Aguair busted from Festa al Lago, as they had originally planned, I think the event would’ve garnered the coverage it deserved.

All in all, this was an anticlimactic finish to what otherwise was a great rivalry. Grudges are entertaining, especially when they’re real, and I tip my hat to both Aguiar and Cantu for providing fans with a bit of entertainment.

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*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of PokerNetwork.

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