The Perfect Poker Shot Clock

Steve Ruddock : April 25th, 2016


Following the fairly successful implementation of Protection Poker’s “Action Clock,” which made its debut during the World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions, the poker world may finally be ready to accept that shot clocks will play a part in the future of poker tournaments.

The WPT used a 30-second clock with each player being allotted four, 30-second extensions buttons they could use at their choosing. Anyone not acting on their hand, or using one of their time extensions, within the allotted time would have their hand killed.

The shot clocks are the coming… the shot clocks are coming

There are still players who are protesting their use, but by and large the poker community has evolved fairly quickly on this issue, as it’s becoming apparent that clocks do several important things:

  • They speed up the game and cut down on potential dead air time.
  • They allow each table to play a consistent number hands per hour.
  • They add an extra air of drama for the viewer.

However, the WPT’s Action Clock only solves one of poker’s speed problems; excessively long tanks, and even for a pro-shot clock advocate like myself, I feel it didn’t provide players with enough time to work through a truly difficult decision, which could easily occur several times over the course of a tournament.

More so, it does nothing to solve what I consider the real problem, which is consistently slow, methodical play.

Think of it this way, what’s more problematic, a once every few orbits (unnecessary) two- or even five-minute tank? Or a player taking an extra 25 seconds to make the most mundane decision upwards of nine times every orbit?

It’s the latter, and it’s not even close. Not only does it eat up more real time, but at least with an excessively long tank you can discuss the hand or perhaps tell an anecdotal story. On the other hand, when a player is simply taking too long to fold 9/2 Under the Gun, there is nothing for the commentators to say – well, nothing nice anyway.

Some anti-clockers decided to highlight the flaw that the straight countdown clock possesses, as there were reports of some people routinely taking max time for every decision just because they don’t like the idea of a clock. Unfortunately, these players, who don’t want to be sped up may have just signed their own death warrant, as their antics will likely lead to even more tinkering as tournament organizers work on eliminating this now visible loophole.

I’m of the opinion that the remedy is staring them right in the face, and it would also provide these players with the proper time they need to make difficult decisions.

So without further adieu, and now that we’ve seen an actual shot-clock in action at a major tournament, here’s my version of the perfect poker shot clock, which is just a modified version of my previous thoughts on this issue.

The perfect poker tournament clock

My clock would take elements from the Action Clock and combine them with a typical online poker time bank, to create a modified Fischer Clock that I feel would be perfect for live poker tournaments.

Here is how it works:

  • Each player is given 15 seconds to make all pre-flop decisions.
  • Each player is given 30 seconds to make all post-flop decisions.
  • Each player has a reserve time bank of 15 minutes (this number can be adjusted up or down as needed), but limited to five minutes for any given decision (this number can also be adjusted up or down).
  • Each player is also given three “pause” buttons, that can be played at any time and provide the player with up to two additional minutes that don’t count against their time bank.

A better, but more difficult to implement option would be to reduce the time bank to five minutes, but add any unused time to it. So if a player took five seconds to act pre-flop their time bank would increase by 10 seconds. In this way a player would be rewarded for fast play.

Unfortunately, this alternative option is a bit more complicated, both from an understanding perspective (how easy is it to explain to players) as well as from a logistical one. So, while I think it’s the ideal method, it may be overcomplicated.

The good news is my first method will work quite well. Under my original proposal:

  • No matter how slow a player is, they always have 15 seconds pre-flop and 30 seconds post-flop to make their decisions.
  • A player’s time bank is extremely important, and not something they want to dip into unless truly necessary, as they never know when they may actually need it. While not exactly rewarding fast-play, this should cut down on the amount of time players are taking to make relatively “simple” pre-flop decisions.


I think the Action Clock is a great starting point for tournament clocks, but I’d like to see a bit more tinkering that reduces the amount of unnecessary, 20-30 second stalling, but still gives player’s more than enough time to make their difficult decisions.

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