The WSOP ‘Calling The Clock’ rule change: A view from the rail

The WSOP ‘Calling The Clock’ rule change: a view from the rail

The World Series of Poker changes the rules for Calling The Clock, and Lee Davy reaches out to the best players in the business to seek opinion while also chiming in with one of his own.

I know we all want to be Eckhart Tolle, wandering slowly through nature noticing the hum that emanates off the flap of a butterfly wing, and that’s a good thing. But when it comes to poker the Eckhart Tolle way of viewing the world doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

We like our poker fast.

Bish, bash, bosh.

And for some reason, these past few years, the pace of the game has deteriorated to the point that tournament organisers have been forced to make changes in reaction to the inevitable outcry from the poker playing community.

The WSOP ‘Calling The Clock’ rule change: a view from the railThe Aussie Millions, World Poker Tour (WPT) and PokerStars Championship all use a Shot Clock. But they don’t use one in every event. Why? The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so why are the people who are trying to change snail-like play acting like snails?

Unsurprisingly, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are way behind on this one. I love the event and the people who run it, but they don’t half get the zimmer frame out when it comes to making changes.

In his recent blog post, Daniel Negreanu told us all that he has reduced his No-Limit Hold’em schedule because he doesn’t like playing games without a Shot Clock. He also shared his hope that the WSOP would introduce Shot Clocks in 2018.

Negreanu also said he was going to be very aggro when it came to his use of the ‘Calling The Clock’ rule at this year’s WSOP, and aims to take full advantage of a recent WSOP rule change in this area.

The WSOP Rule Change – Calling The Clock

The Old Rule

The old rule stipulated that someone could call the clock after a “reasonable amount of time.” This was two minutes {so why not call it two minutes?}

So two minutes are up, and a player calls the clock. The dealer has to call for the floor. The clock is ticking. The floor ambles over. Tick-tock. The floor asks the dealer if the player has had a “reasonable amount of time.” Tickety-tock. If the dealer affirms then, the floorperson gives the player a 50-second countdown with a verbal 10-second countdown like you hear in NASA when a rocket goes to the moon.

The New Rule

The WSOP has banished the two-minute rule. Now, players can call the clock whenever they feel like it. The same laborious process occurs between the dealer and floor person. The floor person can then give the player anywhere between 0 and 30 seconds to make a decision with a 10-second NASA-like countdown.


The floor person can initiate the clock when it suits him of her dependent on the game situation.

The floor person can initiate a clock without anyone calling the clock.

The WSOP is encouraging players to use the new rule if people are taking the piss.

My View

Have you ever heard of Lean Principles?

It is the name given to the process Toyota used to become the most efficient car manufacturer in the world under the guidance of Taiichi Ohno.

Ohno abhorred waste of any kind, especially a type of waste he referred to as non-value added waste. Ohno believed by taking a meat cleaver to waste, productivity would soar, and he was right. Lean Principles are prevalent throughout the world of industry.

When a player calls for the clock, and the dealer has to call for the floor, and the floor has to walk to the table and ask the dealer if the player has had enough time to make his or her decision – that is non-value added waste.

Remove it.

Kill it.

Take a meat cleaver to it and chop it up.

I don’t like the new rule. It’s a positive step, but it’s not sufficient for a world class organisation like the WSOP. We know through trial and error that poker players like the shot clock. It removes ambiguity. It’s simple.

When did anybody complain about stalling during an online poker tournament? When was the last time you heard anybody complaining that they didn’t have enough time to make a decision during an online poker tournament?

The clock works.

All the WSOP have done with the new ruling is pass the buck to the players and floor staff. They have created more ambiguity, subjectivity, and nepotism, and there will be more arguments at the table than ever before. Aren’t we trying to improve the quality of the game and interaction at the poker tables?

Where’s Kevin Hart?

Get him in here.

Didn’t he want to make poker fun again?

How are we going to do that with people calling the clock left, right and centre?

Put your hand in your pocket and install shot clocks at every table. Let the dealers manage the flow. The next time someone tells me that a dealer will have to be thoroughly trained, I will put my head into a beehive. My eight-month-old daughter can be trained to operate a shot clock FFS.

The View From the Rail

There’s my uneducated two pennies worth.

Here is the view from the rail.

Dave Lappin is an ambassador for Unibet and the co-host of The Chip Race podcast. Here is what Lappin has to say about the rule change:

“I can 30-table online, so I’m used to taking half a second for a decision. A recreational or new player hasn’t trained their brain in this way (just like I couldn’t do their job as quickly or efficiently as them) and so they need to be protected in live games.

 “For this reason, I have always hated the idea of a ‘shot clock’. I do, however, believe that unnecessary tanking is a problem these days. Coupled with the fact that many see it as bad manners to call the clock on somebody, situations arise that are totally egregious. Removing the stigma of clock-calling is a good compromise, and I think that this WSOP rule change takes a step in that direction.

 “There should be virtually no two-minute pre-flop decisions so removing the two-minute rule is sensible. The new rule will rely on tournament staff understanding the dynamics of the game better and using discretion.”

 WSOP bracelet winner, Ryan Laplante, had this to say:

 I’m happy about the rule change and think it will be good for the game as long as the floor staff manage it properly. I’m confident the WSOP will make sure the floor staff are all aware of what constitutes a reasonable amount of time and have this rule implemented properly. It will be a terrible change if the floor staff aren’t properly trained for it though.

 “An easy to use shot clock at every table with dealers having ability to kill hand = optimal. But that would require very well trained dealers, and would be very tough to implement at a large venue like the WSOP.”

The reigning Irish Open Champion, Griffin Benger, was the victim of the Will Kassouf tank during his run towards a seventh place finish in last year’s WSOP Main Event. Here is the opinion of Flush_Entity.

 “I’m in favour of any rule designed to reasonably speed up play and prevent 10-minute hands from taking place.”

 With over $3.2m in live tournament earnings on his resume, Max Silver has enough experience to have his say, here it is:

I think it’s a step in the right direction, I think as long as the floor is smart with a reasonable amount of time depending on the situation and the stakes being played for.”

 The former United Kingdom & Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) champion, Fintan Gavin agrees:

 “I love it. This is a game changer. Soon players will have zero hesitation when putting the clock on an opponent. Proper order.”

Paul Jackson has been in this game longer than I have had wisdom teeth. Here is what Action Jackson had to say about the move:

 “I think it’s a great rule change that will help reduce the time wasted by players who often waste a ridiculous amount of time trying to act in the same fashion every hand. And when it’s their turn to act suddenly go through a designed routine of deliberate, repetitive behaviour even asking to see opponents stacks (which at the time will be mostly irrelevant) and then folding the hand as they intended to the second it was their turn.

 “They seem not to grasp that, once it is your turn to act, taking 15 seconds, so you repeat a behaviour to avoid tells, etc. does not apply when you are folding anyway when not facing a raise or bet and continue to waste time for no reason when it is folded round to them

“Regarding the reduced thinking time after the clock has been initiated, I like that too. If us old boys can make quick decisions, then the younger players ought to be able to get it done at least as quick (same as sex I think).”

Former PKR pro, Dan O’Callaghan, doesn’t have anywhere to play poker these days, so he had plenty of time to offer an opinion:

 “I mean. it’s an ante-Kassouf rule, isn’t it? (which makes sense since everyone will try to do what he did this year). 30 seconds feels harsh, but I think the term ‘reasonable’ is so subjective, that it won’t change things too much. Most people know what they’re doing when the clock’s called anyway, they just take the whole minute in protest at having the clock called. Anything that quickens the game is great, but I worry the term ‘reasonable’ might be significantly shorter when things get a little personal with the floor guys. I would hope that the event, the stage and the size of decision differs what is considered reasonable too.”

The Global Poker Index (GPI) Player of the Year, David Peters, has had a lot of experience playing in games where the Shot Clock is used. Here is his experienced view:

 “I like it if it’s used correctly, which can be difficult and can vary depending on the floor and players. If someone is acting relatively quickly most of the time and then is facing a big, very tough river decision, I hope they are given the right amount of time to think and not rushed because one person is agitated at how long the hand is taking. So hopefully things go smoothly, but I can see it being a problem.”

Stephen Chidwick is another regular at the high stakes level, and he foresees a particular problem with the new rule.

“I don’t have any strong feelings…I like what they’re trying to do, but I think the discretional part will perpetuate the favouritism towards big name players that is already an issue at the WSOP.”

And what does the Chainsaw think about the rule change? Here is the view of Allen Kessler:

 “I like cutting the time before the floor is called. Two minutes was too long. I dislike 0-40 seconds based on the floor call. It doesn’t seem like enough time. I prefer one-minute runoff, with the option to go lower for repeat offenders.”

 Dutch Boyd is a three-time WSOP bracelet winner, here is his view:

“Calling the clock on a player has somehow become the cool thing to do. I think thanks mostly to Negreanu. It used to be seen as rude. Call me old fashioned, but I think most of the time it still is. We are playing for millions of dollars against the best players in the world. Every hand is important, and if the majority of your poker decisions are ‘straightforward’, then you’re playing it wrong.

“I’m all for a shot clock. It’s 2017… Integrate something into the tables that are objective and consistent. Clock management is an important part of every sport, and it should be in poker as well. Imagine if the NBA came up with a rule against “stalling” when a team was trying to protect a lead by running down the clock. It’s ludicrous.

“I think the new rule is going to create a lot of unnecessary animosity and hostility between players, not to mention against tournament staff. It’s interesting that they added a clause where calling the clock unnecessarily can incur a penalty. Want to set a line on how many of those penalties get handed out this summer? I’ll take the under.”


Reading through the thoughts on the rail it’s obvious that something needs to be done to effectively manage repeat offenders who slow the game down.

The feedback was heavily weighted towards the positive aspects of the rule change, but the greater emphasis was placed on the effectiveness of the floor staff to manage what now becomes a very subjective and ambiguous rule.

I believe there will be anarchy at this year’s WSOP, with players at each other’s throats over these new changes, and to what end? Someone – and my money is on PokerStars – will invest in a shot clock at every table and once that happens, and it will happen, everyone will be forced to follow, making the new rule change a total and utter waste of non-value added time.