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Why You Shouldn't Call a Clock

Why You Shouldn't Call a Clock
by Chad Holloway of

In a previous article entitled, Calling a Clock, I described an option open to all poker players where they can force another player, who is taking too long to act, to make a decision. I also described when and how a clock should be called; however, in this article I will discuss why a clock should rarely, if ever, be called on another player. Although calling a clock is a legal option in poker, it is often frowned upon. Poker professional Bill Edler gives his opinion:

"I do have some general feelings about calling for a clock. Generally, unless a player is stalling (in which case, rather than calling for a clock, the Tournament Director should be notified), I believe that he or she should be allowed great latitude. I believe that any player genuinely thinking about a decision should be given all necessary time to make that decision. I admit that, theoretically, a point could come at which the delay becomes unconscionable. However, I have never seen a decision reach that point."

Most players share Edler's feelings and rarely call a clock. This is because they want to extend other players enough time to make a sound decision in case they themselves need to take extra time at some point. This is not to say that a clock should never be called.

If a player is habitually taking too much time, calling a clock can be useful. If the player is taking too much time inadvertently, calling a clock is a pleasant way of informing him that he should hurry things up. On the flip side, if a player is intentionally stalling, calling a clock is a great way to keep the game on track. If you are unsure whether or not to call a clock, it's probably better to err on the side of caution and allow the player some extra time. Phil Laak, also known as the Unabomber, takes a light approach to calling the clock:

"I have yet to call a clock. There were a few times where I was tempted, but I just never did. Occasionally I will be in a game and one of the players will apologize for taking a bit of time while making a tough decision. This is what I have said in the past and will probably say again: 'No one here is planning on calling a clock on you until the four-hour mark - that is, after four hours we expect you to have a decision.' Of course, I know that if it were to come to that, people are for sure calling a clock way before the four-hour mark. I think I am a favorite to die without ever having called the clock on someone, at least not until four solid hours have passed."

Although quite comical, Laak's stance is one many poker players take. Daniel Negreanu is one such player, and he sums up the general rule regarding calling a clock when he says: "It's only okay against repeat offenders that are routinely taking too much time. Even then, a clock shouldn't be called unless a reasonable amount of time has passed. The bigger the pot, the more time that should be allowed."


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