If I were Poker King for a day….
Clocks and muzzles would be the rule.
I haven’t played a lot of live poker, but I’ve played enough and watched enough of the World Series of Poker to see a few things that I would change if I could be made the Poker Commissioner for a day.
It’s Time for a Clock
Poker is a fun game, but it can be quite boring if you spend most of your time watching other players think. If an NFL team can decide which play to call and then execute the play within 40 seconds, surely a poker player can make a decision reasonably quickly, too.
When an offensive coordinator calls a play, he has to take into account numerous factors – down and distance, field position, the score, personnel, maybe even weather issues, before making a decision. He computes all this information and then decides on a play, which he communicates to the quarterback. All this takes about 15 seconds. And remember, we’re talking about football coaches here. For the most part, these aren’t the guys who chose a career in football over neurosurgery or rocket science.
Poker players basically have three options when making a decision; call, raise or fold. It should not take that long to decide. Most players have lots of online experience, and online sites typically give players 30 seconds to make a call with some time bank added. There is no reason that live tournaments cannot follow a similar format.
If I were the Poker Commissioner, I would equip each dealer with a digital countdown clock (you can get good ones for less than $15) that could be easily reset. I would program the clock to one minute and reset the clock each time action moves to another player (for the preflop betting, I would instruct the dealer not to start the clock unless a player is slow to decide because the preflop betting usually moves pretty quickly).
I would then give each player a ‘time’ chip that he could use once per hour to request an additional minute. If the timer expires before he makes a decision, the hand is considered dead or, if he is first to act in a betting round or if nobody has bet beforehand, it is considered a check and action moves to the next player.
When a tournament reaches the final table, I would give players two-time chips per hour, which would give them an extra two minutes. They could use a chip in two different hands, or use both chips for the same decision.
The purpose would be to speed up play by curtailing some of the ridiculous tanking that can occur.
Caption: A clock would curtail some of the needless tanking that often occurs in poker. Online poker players are used to making decisions quickly, and there is no reason that live players can’t as well.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Show
In 2014, I was playing a live tournament at the Harrah’s in New Orleans. One guy in particular, kept asking the other players at the table if they would show their cards if he folded. Sometimes players would say yes, but most times they would say no or just not respond.
I soon realized it was a tell on this guy. I had seen him do it like 5 or 6 times and he folded every time, but once when he had a pair with an ace kicker (he lost to 2 pair). I knew it meant he didn’t have a particularly strong hand.
So the next time he got into a hand with me, I made sure to bet the turn. After he tanked awhile, out came the inevitable question: Will you show if I fold? Without hesitating, I said “Yes, sure.”
He tanked a little while longer and then folded. I proceeded to throw my cards into the muck. He got upset, said I promised to show my cards and actually reached into the muck to fish them out but the dealer stopped him. I just looked at him and said, ‘I lied.’
Several players at the table chuckled softly. He didn’t ask me to show my cards again, but I could tell he was upset. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it, but I just find that habit annoying. If people want to show their cards, they will. Asking them to show is just rude in my opinion. If I were poker commissioner, I would make that question illegal.
Just Shut Up Already
Honestly, if I were Poker Commissioner, I would address the issue of table talk in a larger sense. I love how Daniel Negreanu is so comfortable that he can engage in almost non-stop banter when he is playing and that he genuinely feels a responsibility to try to make sure everybody at the table is having fun. I think he truly looks at himself as a poker ambassador and wants you to walk away feeling good about your play while he is stacking your chips.
But enough is enough. I would make a rule that says players in a hand cannot talk to each other (that would eliminate the “Will you show if I fold” question above), and players who are not in the hand cannot talk with players who are in a hand. I know that the social interaction is an important part of making the entire experience enjoyable, but the slow nature of the game allows for plenty of time for players to engage in friendly banter between hands and not while a hand is going on.
The final rule I would implement would be to eliminate pocket Jacks. I hate them. Any player who gets pocket jacks would be required to fold, no questions asked. Really, it’s for your own good.