PokerStars Championship Macau: Shot clocks – a waste of time, or couldn’t come quicker?

April 08, 2017

The shot-clocks sitting on the tables of the High-roller events in Macau have been a hit among the players.

They’ve been used twice this week – once in the HKD $400,000 PokerStars Championship Super High Roller and again for the HKD $103,000 High Roller. Following the introduction of the tank-busting contraptions for Panama’s High Rollers, clocks sit on each table next to the dealers who control them with a series of discreetly hidden buttons.

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Time to make a decision

After a few seconds, the clock counts down from 30 before action moves onto the next player. Players are also given three time-bank chips to extend their decision for an additional 30 seconds. These can be used at any point, but aren’t renewed. It means that players are forced to use them sparingly and only (one would assume) for big decisions.

If there’s one thing clear about the clocks, it’s that they’ve certainly sped up play here. It’s perhaps one solution to the challenge of players over-extending the amount of time they use to make decisions in tournament poker. Various pros have been outspoken about the issue over recent years, including Daniel Negreanu who can be seen debating regularly over social media.

Just this week both Jack Salter and Dan Smith have tweeted their praises of the tank-reducing contraptions, Smith saying that the clocks make for “A fun and challenging format” and Salter encouraging other poker-rooms to implement the same. And the two aren’t alone.

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Salter’s a fan

According to Tournament Director Rex Cheong, the feedback he’s received from the players this week has been almost universally positive, “It’s been fantastic. Players have been raving about it, and it’s something we’ll be looking to carry forward.”

“We also made some additional changes in Panama which make it easier for the dealers to use and operate the actual clocks themselves.” he continues. “It’s a win-win for everyone”.

PokerStars Team Pro Felipe Ramos agrees. “I like it a lot of certain events. It works really well for tournaments where the blinds come around faster, and in this High Roller format it works great.”

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Ramos, in today’s High Roller

But he warns that there are challenges with the clocks too. “Although I like them, I don’t think they should be enforced for all events. Having less time makes it even harder for recreational players who have less of an edge against the pros.”

His idea? “Implement it for tournaments where blind levels are shorter and where buy-ins are high, but for events like the Main Event where there are more recreational players in the mix, don’t use them.”

Seasoned veteran John Juanda echoed similar views. “I love the format, it really speeds up the game.”

He also shared a few interesting ideas for how the format could be made even better. “I think something that could improve it even more is giving players the option to buy more time-bank chips at the beginning. Personally three is enough for me, but for recreational players having the option of buying-more time would benefit them a lot”.

For now, it looks like the clocks are here to stay – for the high rollers at least. What are your thoughts? Do shot-clocks have a place in live tournament poker, and should they be here to stay? Tweet us over at @PokerStarsBlog to share your views.


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