Stalling on the bubble has become one of the most talked about issues in live poker.
Canadian pro and $25k EPT Malta Super High Roller winner Mike "Timex" McDonald has a couple of suggestions to deal with it.
McDonald is one of the most successful live players of the last decade with 74 cashes and $12.5m in tournament earnings in international events.
The only reasons he’s not leading the all-time Canadian money list are called Jonathan Duhamel and Daniel Negreanu.
And who better to talk to about stalling in poker than a guy who takes his online screen name from a timepiece?
PokerListings: Do you see stalling as a growing problem in live poker?
Problem lies in payouts.
Mike McDonald: The problem lies in how payouts in live tournaments are designed. If you play poker you want to make the decisions that make you the most money.
If you get into a peculiar situation next to the money bubble, you have to decide between either doing something that’s ethically questionable or setting money on fire.
As time goes on and poker gets tougher, more and more people go for the ethically questionable thing.
PL: How would they have to change the payout system to solve the issue?
MM: One thing that could be done is to give only an estimate of the payouts but not tell the players how much they actually get, and also not tell them where the pay jumps are.
The other thing that could be done – maybe not in main events but in events with mostly professionals and regulars – is to have a min-cash that’s lower than the buy-in.
I don’t think you need the min-cash to guarantee that you’re making a profit. You could easily start with paying out 40% of the buy-in and then maybe 70% of the buy-in.
As a professional I’d say if I play a $5,000 tournament and I get $2,000 back, that’s still good. That’s still $2,000.
It’s not profitable but it eliminates this massive bubble dynamic that happens. At the moment, the min-cash for a $5k event is eight or nine thousand, in the $5k hyper turbo here even 14,000 Euro.
If the difference is three buy-ins or nothing, the strategically right thing is to not play many hands and risk chips. You might as well just stall and play no hands at all.
PL: Is it realistic to not disclose the payouts? Imagine the WSOP Main Event with no information on how much the winner gets.
Surprising love for shot clock.
MM: It would probably be more doable with professional-heavy tournaments. You could also trial it online first.
I suggest that instead of having a pay jump, say, every 10 hands, you could randomly select a number between one and 10 after each jump to determine how many busted players would be in the next payout level.
It might be difficult to do this live but you could certainly do it online.
PL: What do you think about implementing a shot clock to speed up the game?
MM: I personally love shot-clock tournaments despite the fact that I’m a slow player. I think they’re great.
As much as I benefit from live reads and other things I think I benefit more from playing more hands per hour.
PL: Do we need more or new rules to deal with the stalling problem?
MM: I mean the current rules don’t really deal with it.
PL: What do you do if you have someone stalling all the time at your table?
MM: Is that person me or someone else?
Clock ain't enough.
PL: It’s not you.
MM: If it’s not me I clock them.
PL: So we have a rule in place that you can use.
MM: Clocking someone just isn’t aggressive enough. Today we had a situation in the main event when a player had a decision he could have taken in one second.
I called the clock on him after 10 seconds but the staff said they can’t clock him before two minutes. So that person can use 180 seconds instead of 10 seconds when he only needed one second.
The rules don’t prevent this. One thing that wouldn’t eliminate this but limit it is if you have to pay to use more time.
Let’s say you keep the small denomination chips in play and for every five seconds you need you have to pay a quarter of an ante or something like that.
You’d need to add money to the pot to use more time. Just make every single person pay and benefit fast players.
I’m sure something along those lines would work.