The World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions kicked off in exciting fashion on Friday with 64 members of the WPT Champions Club taking to the felt to battle for the $381,600 first-place prize, plus a plethora of other goodies, including a 2016 Corvette, courtesy of Monster.
One of the features that stood out heading into the event was the addition of the Action Clock, created by Protection Poker. Under the rules of the Action Clock, each player's action was given a 30-second time limit. For longer decisions, players were given four 30-second time extensions they could use if needed. While this wasn't the first time a "shot clock" was used in a live poker tournament, for many of the players it was new. Through most of the chatter, the majority of the field liked the Action Clock.
"I love the Action Clock," said two-time WPT champion Antonio Esfandiari to the production team. He also added, "It makes poker more fun."
The goal of the Action Clock is pretty simple: speed up the play to create a more entertaining atmosphere for players and fans. After all, it wasn't too long ago that the poker audience was freaking out at the slow play exhibited at the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event final table.
"I like the Action Clock," said WPT Season 10 Rendez-Vous à Paris winner Matt Waxman. "I think as a player at this level, you gotta be responsible and know when it's running out and not complain about it if you get your hand killed. It definitely should not be implemented in tournaments filled with large amounts of recreational players, however, I think that for large buy-ins with the majority of the players being professionals, or wealthier players who know what they're getting into, it's nice. The speed of play is so much better, and we're probably getting in twice as many hands today. People are acting more urgent, they're more on edge. I definitely like the Action Clock. I've been a fan of the concept for years."
As mentioned, this wasn't the first time this sort of thing has been implemented on the live felt. What makes the Action Clock is different, and in this writer's opinion much better, is the seamless integration and efficient operation. The iPad Pros that the clock works on fit perfectly into the dealer's well, and just a couple of simple buttons do everything needed. The dealer pitches out the cards, taps the first button on the iPad Pro, and the first 30-second countdown begins. Then, as play moves around the table, the table acts accordingly and taps the reset button after each action is complete, awarding the next player a fresh 30 seconds.
"These shot clocks are absolutely amazing," WPT Season 14 Borgata Poker Open champion David Paredes tweeted. "I wish we could have them every WPT event."
"Love these clocks," Tyler Patterson, winner of WPT Season 14 best bet Jacksonville, echoed on social media. "I'm not sure how it affects the action yet, but the mechanics for the dealers looks real easy, big [numbers], good sound."
The sound Patterson referred to is the beeping that occurred from each clock when the timer hit three seconds. Although Patterson didn't same to take issue with the noise, many players did, and the decision was made to silence the clocks at some tables The option to turn the sound on or off pleased players, but sound or not it was generally up to the dealers to continue to make sure gameplay moved along accordingly as they normally would.
As for the dealers, the crew was asked to show up a couple of hours early before start time today for a final run through of how the clocks worked and get one more practice round with operating them. From what we saw, none of the dealers had any serious issues with operating the clock. In fact, it looked second nature to them already.
But of course, not everyone enjoyed the implementation of the Action Clock to the fullest. From what we gathered, the general sense of the feedback was positive, but some players did offer up some suggestions. One of those was two-time WPT winner Mohsin Charania.
"I like the actual concept of a shot clock, but I don’t like the execution, which is what I tweeted," Charania said on one of the breaks on Day 1. "When I have my 30 seconds, I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing in the hand and I don't want to have to constantly be looking at the screen to see how much time I have left. And sometimes if a dealer says 'you have 10 seconds left' and I have my headphones on, I don't hear them. What they do at Aria or what they do on PokerStars is when you run out of time, they automatically add the 30 seconds and they take a time chip from you, which is what I think they should do. I think that losing one of your four time chips is better than having your hand mucked or called dead."
Like Charania, a handful of payers agreed automatically taking a time extension chip and adding 30 seconds would be a welcomed change to the procedure, but for now that wasn't the case.
One of the biggest takeaways from many was the speed the tournament was being played, and the additional hands the field was getting in. We all know poker players love action, and the more hands you are dealt, the more chances you have to get involved. By speeding up the play, the Action Clock allows more hands to be dealt per hour, per level, or per tournament, however you want to measure the rate.
"I love it, to be honest," German Dietrich Fast said after he busted out. He added that he felt even though he views himself as a slower player than most, the Action Clock allowed him to play faster, which was better overall, as it enabled the table to see more hands.
With such a positive first run of the Action Clock, it is likely we will begin to see the product implemented elsewhere. One of the places we'll likely be seeing more of the Action Clock is at future WPT events. Check out what the WPT's Matt Savage had to say about its first run in the video below from the WPT:
*Photo courtesy of the WPT.