How hard is it to run a Shot Clock tournament?

We speak to John Scanlon who ran the recent 888poker Live event to find out how easy it would be for Shot Clocks to become the norm in live poker.

John Scanlon poker
John Scanlon

You’ve just directed a Shot Clock tournament at the 888Live Festival in London, how did the clocks work?

John Scanlon: 888poker actually got their development team to custom design the app for the festival, which was the key thing for making it work. We got 10 inch tablets and the app had a start button which was also a reset button which would restart the clock every time it was tapped, so the dealer could follow the action without having to look at the tablet. It also had a sound sensor which would beep with five seconds remaining, and an additional button for if you wanted to use additional time.

Was it much more work for the dealers?

John Scanlon: The dealers were actually more engaged in the game because they had to pay attention to something new. It helped their attention in the late stages of the tournament which can be very monotonous, it prevented them going onto autopilot, which can happen.

Did it have the same affect on the players?

John Scanlon: Take the Shot Clock out and the dealers have to be conductors of the game, but the player might not be paying attention to that, they might be tweeting on their phones. By putting them on the clock the player is aware the action is on them, they are folding in turn on time and not wasting any time. We timed it and we were getting approximately 30% more hands in, which is massive.

"Everyone knows their decisions instantly"

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The iPad App

Why do you think tanking is such a problem in the first place given faster play is so clearly better for almost everyone?

John Scanlon: Pretty much all players of all levels know what their decision is going to be after five seconds, the rest of the time is really second guessing. Players have to remember they are ambassadors for the sport, so when they Hollywood on TV, other players think that’s the norm. People have been condition by what they see on television and think that’s the normal way to play.

I spoke to Chris Moorman at the event who felt the clock should be longer on the Turn and River, what do you think is ideal clock and time bank configuration?

John Scanlon: You have two time banks at the start of the day. How many times realistically do you find yourself needing two time banks a day? A lot of players went through the entire tournament without using it. Just for simplicity the timer has to be the same speed for each street, you want the dealer to be focussed on the action, not the clock.

I’ve always felt that time, rather than money, is the biggest thing a recreational player thinks about when playing live, so Shot Clocks are perfect for that issue.

John Scanlon: If you win our weekend tournament the one thing we know is that you’ll be hear till 6 in the morning, if we put the Shot Clock in the tournament the latest you would finish is 3AM. You haven’t just written off your Saturday playing a £50 tournament. You are basically spending a whole day of your life just to play poker, for new players that’s a big commitment, so this does solve that problem. It is a time pressure, but if you do it for every game, it becomes normal for them.

"More hands, less labour costs"

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"Everyone benefits"

The benefits seem so obvious, why are Shot Clocks not more popular in live poker?

John Scanlon: Perception is everything, whenever you do something new in a card room people think you are doing in for your benefit, not theirs. In this circumstance it benefits everyone. We make more rake in the cash games, but they get to play more hands. Somebody with only 2-3 hours to play in a casino it’s the perfect product. In tournaments it’s good for the players because they get more hands in, it’s good for the casino because the labour costs will go down.

Do you think Shot Clocks should be the standard in all events, whether low stakes, High Roller, or Main Event?

John Scanlon: We can’t say something should always be one way because that’s how it’s always been. Just for the fact people will be paying attention more we should have Shot Clocks. Years ago I worked for PokerStars on the EPTs and we had a massive discussion when electronic devices were becoming popular on tables, and we considered barring headphones because poker is supposed to be sociable. Social media has put a new spin on that, we want people tweeting at the table to promote the event. With Shot Clocks you can have the devices on the table but you also have a deterrent to stop people getting distracted by them when the action is on them. It gives you the best of both worlds.

John Scanlon is the Poker Manager for Aspers in Stratford, London. If you are in the area they have a number of Shot Clock events, Shot Clock cash games and will soon be launching Shot Clock Jackpot SNGs.

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