Why tanking is bad for live poker

Barry Carter uses live cardroom Dusk Till Dawn to support Daniel Negreanu's claims that tanking is bad for the game.

Daniel Negreanu
Daniel Negreanu

This month Daniel Negreanu started a big debate about tanking in live tournaments, and how he thought the practice was killing the game. He said that tanking:

"Not only would it destroy the structures where you get 10-15 hands an hour, it makes the game boring for amateurs, which also eats into a pro's profit."

He also confirmed his long standing belief that calling the clock on people was out of respect to everyone at his table, rather than being disrespectful to the player tanking.

While I don’t think the problem is as severe as Negreanu might be claiming, I am inclined to agree with him that, in live poker in particular, a fast tournament is better for everyone.

The rise of shot clocks in poker

Shot clock
Does poker need a shot clock?

We are starting to see this being confirmed by the fact that more and more events include shot clocks to hurry up decisions. Nobody ever wants to call the clock on another player, but when it becomes part of the format of the game it takes the social pressure out of it.

Last year I wrote a piece along with mental game coach Jared Tendler about why, in most cases, complex poker decisions can be made quickly so there is no need to tank, so I wont go over old ground with that particular argument today.

The biggest reason why I think decision-making should be hurried in live tournaments is simply because I am of the belief that a fast tournament is logistically more appealing to recreational players (And more recreational players is obviously good news for professional players).

I wrote earlier this year that the biggest constraint for recreational players in live events is not money, it’s time. An event is much more appealing if it means they don’t have to take a day off work to play it.

Pioneering poker room Dusk Till Dawn understand this better than most. Most of their big festivals have day 1A start the weekend before and also offer a ‘turbo day 1’ which starts on the morning of the day 2, for players who want to get day 1 and 2 in on the same day. Both these tactics are appealing because it means recreational players with 9-5 jobs don’t have to take vacation days off to play tournaments which normally last three days at least.

Time is the biggest constraint

Dusk Till Dawn
Dusk Till Dawn have been speeding up their events

Dusk Till Dawn have also been trialling shot clock style events which I believe is just another part of this equation of being able to get more table time in a day.

Then there is the simple fact that recreational players want to have fun and play a lot of hands, and the longer we make them wait to do that, the less fun they will have.

For a long time as an industry we have had this belief that recreational players want deeper structures and longer events, so they can get as much poker as possible for the cost of the buy-in. I believe that is true, but I also believe that they want to do this in as time efficient a manner as possible.

Shot clock style tournaments, as well as turbo day 1s, are a great way to do both things at once. You can still give casual players a similar number of hands as they would in a traditional deep stack event, while at the same time allowing them to keep their hobby as just a weekend/and or evening indulgence.

Does tanking harm live poker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Barry Carter

Barry Carter

is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2.

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Comments (6)

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  • nathanrenard


    Shot clock could be seen also in that Shark Cage TV show from PokerStars, it's easy to see people getting a little bit off their A game because of it.
  • wedgeporter


    No problem with someone tanking to make a big decision but when every decision takes a full min, a penalty is in order. Even some rec players I play with take long, probably emulating what they have seen on tv.
  • MJPerry


    Decent article but it's no Matt Perry http://www.pokerstrategy.com/news/world-of-poker/64740/
  • Andreas


    Loved the video from that article, good sir! ;)
  • ajeto79


    Tanking is only good at a oil station like shell[f] ...or iwith a tiger tank lol
  • mirth


    if it's in a tournament i see it differently than in a cash game, and obviously that is why all tables now freeze until all hands are done when it is close to the money bubble.