Hourglass Poker

hourglassI don’t mind slow. I’ve had James training. James is the slowest player in the universe and I used to play no-limit with him often, years back. A slow poker game is good for me because if I become impatient because of the slowness, I remind myself that the problem is not the slowness, the problem is my impatience, and then I am in position to go to work to fix the real problem on the spot, rather than grumble inside about a perceived problem that is really an illusion. So like I said, I don’t mind slow.

Last week I played $5-10 no-limit hold’em for five days at the WSOP at the Rio in Vegas. Roundabout day three, I had a conversation with a friend during which he complained harshly about the exceptionally slow pace of $5-10 games. Many players did lots of long delays, much longer than is necessary to make betting decisions. It seemed to feed on itself. Because so many players were taking so long, others would do it do, when they otherwise wouldn’t have if the pace had been more in keeping with the time actually needed to decide what to do.

The next day, while playing poker, and calmly appreciating my existence while a player waited several minutes before folding, I had an idea.

Hourglass Poker

The details and mechanics can be worked on and improved over time. The basic drift is like this:

After a player makes his betting action, the next player has a set amount of time to act. If he does not act during that time, then that is a fold. His hand is dead. This concept will be familiar to online players. All I’m suggesting here is that we explore ways to go live with it.

Imagine a small hourglass that only takes about a minute for all the sand to go through. When it’s my turn, the hourglass is restarted and put in front of me. When I make my betting action, I turn the hourglass over and sit it in front of the next player. If the pot is headsup, I just pass it to my opponent.

This would obviously be way too much hour-glass passing, say, before the flop, when the action whips around the table so quickly. A practical deployment of the hourglass would involve some evolved protocols, and the dealer. For example, the hourglass could stay in the dealer tray, and the only time it would be used is after someone thinks for 5 seconds or so. That way, the typical in-tempo actions of folding and checking would not have their rhythm broken by hourglass activity.

If this idea were to catch on, it would probably be done with a digital clock that all can see. Either way, using electricity or gravity, Hourglass Poker would speed up the games, make the house more money, and give the players more of what they came for.

11 Comments

  • Andrew Hillman Posted June 12, 2011 11:55 am

    I’ve seen poker played against the clock on tv in the UK. “speed poker”. It was no fun to watch and I can’t say the though of playing ,appealed anymore.

    When I sit down at the table, I don’t do so in order to play the most hands or make the most decisions. (I have done this online in pursuit of bonuses but found I ended up losing more than the bonus was worth).

    In any event, games where players are taking their sweet time are just an opportunity for reciprocality to make me some money.

  • brother paul Posted June 12, 2011 3:00 pm

    resetting an actual hourglass will require, well, patience. How about an adapted chess clock? Chess clock poker!

  • Jim Posted June 12, 2011 3:45 pm

    Not practical but neat: keep track of the accumulated time each player spends thinking each hour, and every hour, pay a dollar per minute that you spent in place of the time collection.

  • Jerry Posted June 12, 2011 3:49 pm

    I saw something very similar on TV at the Aussie Millions. They had a 30 sec. timer that was enacted kind of like you said, “after normal action” and everyone was given a time chip they could use once, for an additional 30 secs. Several pros were playing in the event, and it seemed to be very smooth and efficient. I would love to see this brought into live cash games & tourneys.

  • Tommy Angelo Posted June 12, 2011 4:51 pm

    “I saw something very similar on TV at the Aussie Millions. They had a 30 sec. timer that was enacted kind of like you said, “after normal action” and everyone was given a time chip they could use once, for an additional 30 secs. Several pros were playing in the event, and it seemed to be very smooth and efficient.”

    Well there you go then!

  • Tommy Angelo Posted June 12, 2011 4:53 pm

    “How about an adapted chess clock? Chess clock poker!”

    Fine in theory. The problem is that no clock mechanism would be able to withstand the rage-filled pounding.

  • Damien Posted June 13, 2011 2:19 pm

    I have seen this in a live poker room. The dealers all have a minute-glass that they use to time any player who takes more than a few seconds. I believe after the minute is up they would call the floorman for a clock.

    The dealers don’t mind the extra work, because more hands means more tips for them. I wish I remembered what room it was. I am pretty sure it was in California.

    I thought it was rude at the time, but now I’m starting to like the idea.

  • Jesse Posted June 24, 2011 2:17 pm

    A clock that acts as a stopwatch with a single button on top to restart the counter would work well for this.

  • Jack Posted March 13, 2012 8:20 am

    Hi, Tommy.

    Have you found the solution yet?
    I am dying to find something like what you’ve described.
    I think it’s very good idea and I’d love to implement that in my home games. I think It will vastly improve the hands per hour ratio.

    So far no luck. 🙁

  • Tommy Angelo Posted March 13, 2012 9:36 am

    “Have you found the solution yet?”

    Not yet.

    “I think it’s very good idea and I’d love to implement that in my home games. I think It will vastly improve the hands per hour ratio. So far no luck. :(”

    Yeah, I imagine that’s a very tough sell.

  • Jesus Posted December 14, 2015 12:24 pm

    Thanks Dax for this lovely remdiner again! You’re right it’s never too late to reach for your stars/dreams and this is very IMPORTANT!! The prices that I’m paying for my dreams are for my kick ass healthy strong BODY is to remain 100% ED compliant until I reach my goal and make healthy clean whole foods my own personal lifestyle of eating afterwards, exercise regularly and get my necessary R&R; for my ever active intelligent MIND/BRAIN I have finally taken the leap and enrolled to go back to school and finish getting my necessary degrees specializing in forensic sciences, more specifically criminal profiling; for my RELATIONSHIPS with family, friends and loved ones I’m giving more hugs and kisses, showing more affection and appreciation towards them, for a life partner I’ve finally stopped hiding in a loveless, sexless, controlling relationship out of fear of being hurt and some misplaced sense of guilt, etc. just so I can feel “safe”and am taking time to be comfortable with myself again and leaving myself open to a more wonderful and loving relationship that I deserve; for my FINANCES I’m paying more attention to where my money is flowing to and making smarter investments in myself and savings to eventually start my own business. How’s that for clarity and honesty!! LOL

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