How to make poker less fun - stalling

Time is just as important as money for recreational players, so don't waste theirs.

William Kassouf
Will Kassouf was fun, but the stalling was unacceptible

Maybe the biggest cardinal sin for me personally, and one which I think almost the entire industry is managing to tackle really well, is when poker is unnecessarily slow. It’s frustrating for anybody, but in particular for recreational poker players.

I have long argued that maybe even more than the financial pain of losing, feeling like we have wasted our time is the most off putting experience we can have.

Maybe the most annoyed I have ever been as a player was nearing the end of Day 1 of a live event and I had less than ten big blinds, and probably 20 minutes to go. I really did not want to travel all the way to the venue the next day without a decent stack, so was looking for any semi reasonable spot to gamble for a double up. Unfortunately a player at my table was stalling on every single decision, then always folding. We only played a few hands, and I was left having to return the next day with next to no chips.

The era of fast poker

Beat Clock Poker

Fortunately there have been so many recent innovations to address these concerns in live and online poker. From online Day 1s for live events, turbo day 1s for live events on the same day as day 2, fast fold poker, Spin & Go, Beat The Clock and structures that get players to the money faster. They all contribute to doing away with either time wasted between hands, or having to commit a lot of time without anything to show for it.

The next step is to get the players to speed the game up among themselves. I loved William Kassouf for his speech play shenanigans last year at the WSOP, I think he made poker seem a lot more fun. But the stalling he insisted on was unacceptable. Live poker is slow enough, knowing that somebody is literally trying to reduce your number of opportunities to have fun per hour is very off putting. Not many people do it as cynically as Will Kassouf, but there is plenty of tanking not to lose face, not to mention the game being slowed down by smartphones, sunglasses and headphones.

Thankfully we are seeing steps in the right direct in this regard too. The culture is changing to take the stigma off calling the clock, and I have witnessed this a lot more recently, without much pushback. A number of tours are bringing in shot clocks like the WPT and 888poker Live, which I suspect will not only make the game flow better, it will also add a fun little extra quirk to the proceedings.

Put the devices away, speed up the game

Jason Mercier on the phone
Speed up the game, put the phone away

It’s funny we even have to argue the point, because everybody knows what it’s like to be annoyed when the action is too slow. Yet we still have to bring in format changes to address it and slap the wrists of people who are frequent offenders.

I wrote previously about smartphones and headphones send out a message to recreational players that their company is not being enjoyed, another bonus reason to maybe not use them at the table is to make the game faster.

You make the most money from recreational players and in most cases they have a regular job and their time off is precious to them. Respect their time by letting them get as many hands as possible in while they are at the table (and surely the more hands they play, the better it is for you?), don’t give them a reason to choose to use their time and money on Netflix or the cinema instead.

Do you make an effort to help speed the game up? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (5)

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  • Agiz19


    tanking and stalling is killing the game hand by hand....
  • k0kki3


    If somebody is stalling a lot, you can ask him to stop doing that.
  • Driftwood21


    I feel that yes slow playing is very off-putting and boring to many players, but looking at some games such as staying alive to receive a placing in certain games in the poker platform, where slow playing, once in the top ten can be rewarding, if slow playing is rewarded in these platforms then why would a player accustomed to this way of playing change their way. These platforms are dictating the way the game is played.
  • tmannie


    I find the best thing to do with such players is to do the same thing back to them every time they delay they soon get the message, often I have noticed they then get a mild form of tilt and often lose their stack soon thereafter. They are generally unable to handle their own medicine. I think they think some magic occurs when they delay and strengthens their hand . There are times however in tournies where taking all ones allotted time is appropriate.
  • sirilidion


    at least Will Kassouf is making tanking and stalling as fun as one can make it ^^.