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What does calling a clock mean?

Time gentlemen please!

When is it OK to call a clock on someone, and just what does calling a clock mean?

Jennifer TillyPatience may be a virtue but there comes a time when someone is just taking too damn long to make their play, and then it’s time to call a clock on the player. In chess you get those funny little clocks that each player has to punch after each move, designed to stop time-wasting or players who find themselves against the ropes getting a stay of execution. At the poker table there is no clock (and there are no clocks in casinos either, in case you hadn’t noticed) but if you’re caught at a table where some guy looks like he’s doing Chinese algebra at the table and the action has slowed to the pace of a sloth not chasing a snail, then don’t be ashamed to call a clock on him.

If you’re used to playing poker online, you’ll know that most poker sites will have an automated time bank of a minute or two.  After a reasonable amount of time has elapsed (without a play being made), the inactive player’s time bank starts ticking and when that bank is expired, the hand is pronounced dead. This stops time-wasters and neatly deals with those poker players asleep at the wheel or passed out at the mouse.  In the real poker world there is no time bank so the clock does the job.

First off what is “calling a clock”?  Put simply, it’s a way to force a player to make a decision.  Slow play is annoying in any poker game but in a tournament it can be a real problem: in poker tournaments blinds rise continually after a set time (rather than, say, a set number of hands).  A slow hand can therefore have a real impact on the other players if they’re trying to stay ahead of the blinds.  So, if there’s a guy at your table playing slow you shouldn’t feel any compunction about “calling a clock” on him, even if you’re already out of the hand.

Calling a clock is mentioned in the rules of poker, and you find it in the small print of any decent tournament. The basic mechanics of this poker bylaw are as follows:  First, only another player can call a clock – not the dealer, not the floor person, not the pit boss, not the player’s wife (even if she’s bored), and certainly not an onlooker.  Secondly, any poker player at the table is well within his/her right to call a clock; they’re involved with the game even if they’re not in on the hand.  To call a clock you inform the dealer that the player should make a decision (soon), the dealer then calls a floor person over who will announce that the player has a set time (usually one minute) to act on their hand, or automatically fold. The floor person won’t count down from sixty (and neither should you) but will inform the player (on the clock) when his time is nearly out.

Etiquette dictates that there’s nothing wrong with calling a clock and the gods of cards respect that poker should be played at a decent tempo, but if someone is debating whether to go all in on a big pot then have a bit of consideration – someday it might be you against the clock.

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