The World Poker Tour has announced two significant changes to Championship Events that will go into effect in Season XVI. We will see the introduction of a tournament shot clock and a switch to eight-handed tables.
With the rebranding and increased global ambitions of PokerStars Championship and Festival events, and partypoker’s expansion of live events, the world of tournament poker is growing increasingly competitive.
The WPT is the longest running poker tour in existence, and somewhat remarkably, there haven’t been too many significant changes over its 15+ year run… until now.
Last week the WPT announced the new changes that are in the works for Season XVI of the World Poker Tour.
— Matt Savage (@SavagePoker) July 30, 2017
The first big change is the adoption of a shot clock for all WPT Main Events.
The WPT has experimented with a shot clock during its Tournament of Champions, and at select WPT500 tournaments over the past couple years. It will now expand its use of the Action Clock by Protection Poker to all WPT Championship Main Events.
“The World Poker Tour is proud to be the first to implement the Action Clock across all of its Main Tour events,” said Matt Savage, WPT Executive Tour Director. “Many players, both recreational and professional, have expressed concerns that unnecessary tanking has taken a lot of the fun out of poker. Poker should always be fun, and it was a no-brainer decision to bring the Action Clock to all WPT Main Tour events following its success in the WPT Tournament of Champions and WPT500™ Los Angeles. With the Action Clock, more action equals more fun, and who doesn’t want more fun in poker?”
However, the Action Clock won’t be used throughout, it will only be deployed when the tournament approaches the money bubble.
The decision to not use it from the opening bell has caused some minor grumblings within the community.
I actually agree it's absurd to have clocks once in the money but people r free to waste as much time as they want 20 from the money
— ???? (@slaymerica_) July 28, 2017
It could be not having enough tables equipped with Action Clocks, or enough trained staff to use them. If that’s the case, we could see the Action Clock used for an entire tournament before the season ends.
Shot clock is not without its critics
The move towards shot clocks in tournament poker has mostly led to cheers.
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) July 31, 2017
I like new @SavagePoker WPT shot clock. At a time when we're most thinking so deeply through each street it's kind of refreshing…
— Shannon Shorr (@ShannonShorr) July 28, 2017
— Noah Schwartz (@noahjschwartz) April 22, 2016
But there is a subset of players who are jeering the decision.
Chief among them is Jordan Christos, one of the most deliberate players in poker. Christos’ slow play has turned him into the poster child for shot clocks.
— Matt Savage (@SavagePoker) July 28, 2017
To his credit, Cristos isn’t pretending to be concerned about amateur players not having enough time to work through a decision. No, he’s approaching the topic from a point of self-interest. Cristos argues complex decisions cannot be made in such a short period of time.
deciphering 20 variable equations for hundreds of k's in less than 30 seconds is not the way poker should be played @SavagePoker
— Jordan Cristos (@jcinblue) July 28, 2017
Cristos and other shot-clock deniers are missing an important concept in this whole debate: having to make these decisions with more alacrity is a skill in and of itself.
Furthermore, a shot-clock is used in almost every competitive environment, from basketball to chess to test-taking, and in some cases are an integral part of the process – such as timed exams and speed chess.
A poker tournament with a shot clock is still skillful, it just requires a slightly different skill set. I think shot clocks are going to continue to proliferate across the poker tournament world.
Another significant change is once they reach 10 tables, WPT Main Events will be played eight-handed.
At the same time it announced the Action Clock, the WPT said it would be moving towards eight-handed tables. The change was made for future events, but it would be venue-dependent. However, a Twitter and Facebook poll conducted by Savage was pretty conclusive and seems to have sped up the process.
Poker players narrowly prefer eight-handed tables over nine-handed tables, but both of which overwhelmingly beat 10-handed tables.
Based on Savage’s follow-up tweet below, it sounds like all Main Events will be eight-handed.
Twitter poll results with 6,408 votes
5% prefer 10 Handed
42% 9 Handed
53% 8 Handed@WPT Main Tour stops will be 8 handed at 10 tables
— Matt Savage (@SavagePoker) July 30, 2017
Unlike many of the other changes occurring in poker, eight-handed tables are a major concession for players. If it decides to switch to eight-handed tables for the entirity of events it will likely lead to longer alternate lists and more difficult logistics for venues. However, with so much competition, poker tours need to make player-friendly changes, and nothing is more player-friendly than more space.
*lead image courtesy of the World Poker Tour Flickr