Time To Step Out Of The Tank

Posted at 11:13 2010-07-05

We all know the scene…

You are in a tournament in your local poker room, and you go for it; you re-raise all in! Your opponent who has over half his chips in the middle goes into the tank for a minute, then another minute, then another minute…


Why do relatively simple decisions, that even a blindfolded chimp with a pencil in his teeth could conclude, become such a time-wasting, life-draining exercise in a live casino?

Well, it’s quite simple really. Aside from “turbo” tournaments at Crown where they use the equivalent of egg timers to keep the clock on a player, there is no restriction on the length of time taken for someone’s decision making process.

Have you ever jammed all in and waited a good five minutes for all the players to fold including the big blind who eventually makes a crying fold with 72o?

All we have at this point in time to combat this kind of behaviour at the table is the vague concept of calling “time”. When we perceive a player has taken an inordinate amount of time to make their decision we can optionally call “time” and the player is usually given 60 seconds to act. There are a couple of problems with this option.

  1. There is no standard elapsed amount of time before it is deemed acceptable for a player to call time.
  2. A player who calls time is often looked at unfavorably by other players on the table.

In the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event, Tiffany Michelle called time in a very pivotal pot when there were two tables left and potentially millions of dollars on the line.  She was blasted at the time by tablemate Craig Marquis as well as a chorus of people on the rail and throughout the poker community.

Based on the edited WSOP highlights we now know that the eventual fifth place finisher Scott Montgomery had made a horrendous re-raise bluff with ace-high on a jack-high flop into Paul Snead, a player who already had a massive amount of Montgomery’s effective stack committed with top pair. In fact the call was for 1.76 million chips into a pot that already had 9.48 million chips in it. But the real problem stems from the fact that the hand itself had reportedly been going for twenty-five minutes. What would be an inordinate amount of time here? Three days?

Whilst playing for millions of dollars may somewhat justify, what to me, is an absurd amount of time to make a decision in a game which is meant to be fast-paced and sometimes skill-based, it’s not usually justifiable in any other games. How many truly tough decisions do you face in a live tournament that runs for eight hours? Two or three?  I mean honestly, some players could over-think toast! It is largely this kind of behaviour that leaves live poker rooms with such a limited amount of hands per hour, regardless of the skill level of the dealer.   Online, you invariably have thirty seconds to make each decision and some kind of additional time bank for the occasional tougher decision. Not only is this sufficient for one game but we have many players doing this on a dozen or more tables every day.

So no, there are no cameras recording your fantastic play or reading your hole cards, unless you reach an Aussie Millions feature table.  Feel free to go into a “Big Show” if you get there and maybe you can get some air time when you fold your KQo to a raise, a re-raise and an all-in. But until then, will someone please invent electronically timed live poker tables or I’m going to go postal! And we all know how mild-mannered the moose usually are…

- Jake "The Moose"

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Tiffany Michelle famously called the clock at the 2008 WSOP Tiffany Michelle famously called the clock at the 2008 WSOP

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