“Action Clock” Could Become the Norm at World Poker Tour Events


The World Poker Tour could be using the Protection Poker Action Clock regularly next season.(WPT photo)

Matt Savage thought Mike Sexton was crazy. Sexton, World Poker Tour commentator and Poker Hall of Famer, had been pushing Savage, Executive Tour Director of the WPT, to introduce a shot clock to WPT events to speed up the game and prevent players from tanking unnecessarily.

On Friday, the WPT debuted the Protection Poker Action Clock for the first time in the $15,000 buy-in Monster WPT Tournament of Champions. The Action Clock allows players 30 seconds to act on their hand. If time expires, the hand is dead. Players are also given four time buttons that can be used to give themselves another 30 seconds.

Each table has been outfitted with a tablet with the Action Clock app on it. Dealers push one of four buttons depending on what’s happening in the hand. Most players were pleased with the concept and Savage, once a skeptic, seems to have changed his mind.

“Seeing this in motion, seeing how easy it is for the dealers to use, how much more of a different dynamic it creates for the game, I’m excited and I think this is something we can probably use at other events in the future,” said Savage.

As the clock winds down during a hand, the app beeps when a player has ten seconds left to act and then a more distinct buzz when there are just three seconds remaining.

“I love it. Absolutely love it. For me, it’s not much of a hindrance because I don’t take more than 30 seconds,” said Season XIII WPT Championship winner Asher Conniff. “I have 3 of my 4 time banks left through eight levels. Some of the other guys, they need the time, and I appreciate the edge on some of these guys, they’re great players.”

Savage admits it is going to take some players some time to adjust to the concept, but as more and more players see the concept and play with it, they’ll learn to adapt.

“I think that we saw early on in the day people were timing out when they didn’t want to be. But I think as people get more and more used to it, it becomes easier and becomes second nature, people just play faster,” said Savage. “Jordan Cristos and Marvin Rettenmaier and Yevgeniy Timoshenko, they’re all dealing with it, they’re all adjusting.”

Each player is allotted four “time” chips at the start of each day. (WPT photo)

In 2014, the WPT polled players at the LA Poker Classic to gauge their feelings on the shot clock and 80% of those that responded were in favor of limiting players’ time to act on each hand.

Dan Smith thinks the clock brings some of the fun back to tournament poker just by getting rid of hands that take too long to play.

“I think in terms of quality of play it’s not quite as high, but maybe it’s like 90% as high,” said Smith. “From an enjoyment standpoint, not having to sit there for six minutes while somebody makes a decision – that’s just brutal.”

Smith also pointed out that it makes the game more exciting for those at the table with an added element of drama.

“There’s something exciting about it, it goes to the river and it’s like 5, 4, 3, 2, – it’s exciting,” said Smith.

Not all players were fans of the clock, though. A number of players continue to express concern over how it changes the game.

“I’m not a big fan, to be honest. I actually didn’t think it was going to go as well as it does. But I think 30 seconds is just not enough time. There are so many situations that come up,” said Marvin Rettenmaier. “I’ve definitely made some folds that I may have tended the other way if I had a minute or something.”

While the WPT TOC had a field of just 64 accomplished players, Rettenmaier worries about the way recreational players might react to the added pressure.

“I think it’s way worse for them than it is for us because we should kind of have a feel for what we’re going to do,” said Rettenmaier. “I think it’s actually not amateur-friendly at all even though people are saying that’s why they want to do it, but it really isn’t.”

Given the relative success of the first use of the Action Clock, it’s likely to find its way to another couple of tour events next season.

“We’ll definitely be using it for the (2017) Tournament of Champions,” said Savage. “I think that it’s going to take one of our casino partners to step up and say ‘Hey, we want to give this a try.’”


    • Bring it up to 60 seconds and I’m totally on board. At 30 seconds, it’s like you’re trying to be like online poker, which is much faster. Live poker has always been slower because it’s a completely different environment with more distractions.

    • 60 seconds. Still trying to get a read as well and 30 seconds not enough time.

      For those that would like more time, the clock was developed with a settings screen that allows the default time to be changed. WPT wanted 30 seconds but it could be set to 45, 50, 60, 70, 90 seconds etc.

      In addition to changing the time, what most have not seen is that there is a separate “All In” button that was also designed when a player is all in. The settings allow the “All In” button to be hidden which was also done for this event.

      For those that have seen the You Tube video or pictures of the clock you may notice the green “Start Time” button. Matt Savage mentioned that there is 4 buttons, but if the “All In” button is enabled, there would be five. It by default has 30 more seconds assigned to it but its default time is fully changeable as well.

      Protection Poker was very wise knowing that Casinos or companies like the WPT that end up using the Action Clock may want the option to have different time depending on the feedback from players. Or even ideas such as different default time at different tables are all possible.

      There was an article on Pokersoftware.com a few weeks ago that discussed the parties involved. Here is the article which goes into a bit more detail