Although it may seem to be a simple game of cards and chips, poker is a constantly evolving game. The way it was played 40 years ago bears little resemblance to the way the players approach the game today. A player who used to be considered a “young gun” but is now a weathered veteran, Patrik Antonius, was recently asked his opinion of today’s game and his reply wasn’t favorable.
As the €111,111 High Roller for One Drop was taking place last week at the 2017 World Series of Poker Europe, Antonius was asked his opinion of today’s game by PokerNews writer Julia Lee. The staid Antonius was curt in his synopsis. “I’m personally not a fan of the way poker has evolved,” Antonius began. “How people slow the game down…it’s a bit less gambling and less fun nowadays. People take it a little too serious in my opinion.”
When asked by Lee how he would bring some of the fun back into the game, Antonius was at least prepared to offer some suggestions. “The shot clock is something that is going to be needed…because it’s really painful nowadays to play a tournament. One or two players start slowing down and suddenly everyone is doing the same on the table.” He then regaled Lee with a story of how that exact situation had occurred at his table during the One Drop tournament before finishing by saying, “It’s modern poker but I don’t think it’s good (poker).”
This is one of the big laments from players today. When ESPN began its thorough coverage of the WSOP in the early 2000s, the newcomers to the game were exposed to “characters” like Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow, Hevad Khan and others whose outlandish commentary and actions drew in the cameras. The newcomers began to learn that, if you did something outlandish, then the television cameras (and potential sponsorships, especially if you played well) would follow.
That changed in the late 2000s/early 2010s. The era of the ‘Brainiac’ was born, the player that contemplated every decision as if it were the Gordian Knot. These players, who would take minutes to make even the simple decision to lay down a hand pre-flop, became prevalent because of two reasons. Originally meant to show you were taking the same time to make a decision (and thus to not give a “tell”), it evolved into a way to save face, especially if caught making a move. It also became the new “Hollywood” (AKA the way to get on camera) when the different tours cracked down on overtly boisterous celebrations.
Antonius isn’t the only player who has noticed the “new” game today. High Roller regular Bill Perkins said over Twitter that he “pledged not to play any high roller tournaments that don’t have a shot clock.” Josh Arieh, the third-place finisher at the 2003 WSOP Championship Event, noted that “poker with no shot clock is painful to watch.” None other than Daniel Negreanu has also clamored for the institution of a shot clock in High Roller events.
The World Poker Tour seems to be taking note of this. Instituted for their Season XVI season, once the tournament reaches the last table before the money bubble, a 30-second “shot clock” is employed on the event. The players receive “time chips” to take an additional 30 seconds if required and the chips are replenished at the start of the next day’s action. The new implementation of what the WPT calls the “Action Clock” have been well-received by the players and by viewers on the live streams.
The PokerStars Championships have dabbled with the usage of the clock on their High Roller events (not their regular tournaments), but the WSOP has steadfastly refused to implement the device. Whether it is the tradition of the game or the belief that the players will police themselves (call the clock on chronic delayers), the WSOP hasn’t felt the need to even experiment with the clock. That may change if the players vote with the strongest method that they have available to them – their wallets.