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I've seen and read about stalling in online poker, seems a bit rampant to me. What about stalling in real life tournaments? Is there a clock a player can repeatably timeout on in real life tournaments? Do they have to sneak away to avoid enraged players after the tournament?

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2 Answers 2

This is an excellent question. Seriously. One of the top on this site.

You can use this technique, especially in multi-table tournaments and heads'up situations. But you have to be very aware of its consequences.

Some reasons why you could do this:

1). piss other players off. This works both online and live. If you constantly take 2 - 3 or more minutes to decide what to do, the other players will feel frustrated and you can throw them off their game. It's how I won a couple of heads'up situations. In fact, I believe it's more effective heads'up, since most players are tired at that point and want to just end it.

2). If the tournament is getting closer to the bubble and your stack is below average, you could stall in order to increase the chance of other short stacks at the other tables busting out. Generally, in this situation, I don't recommend such a strategy, since it's a losing one. What you should do instead is put pressure at the other players. They tend to tighten up as the bubble approaches and they fold a lot of hands. Collecting blinds at this stage is very valuable. But, if you find yourself at a table with more skilled players than you, it can be a surviving strategy. By stalling, an orbit at your table could take 20 minutes. But at other tables, it takes 12 minutes. Which means the blinds at the other tables will eat at the stacks quicker, especially at the short stacks. This increases the chance that they'll bust before you, which might get you closer to the money. Yes, Hand-for-Hand play will kill this at some point, but remember that Hand-for-Hand doesn't come into play until the actual bubble.

3). It's not recommended to do this often (see below why), but by stalling, you could take some extra time to weigh your decision. Even if you reached a decison, taking an extra minute or two can't really hurt, since there's a more than reasonable chance that you'll remember another past hand or the cards your opponent showed 1 hour ago or figure out that you just saw one of his bluffing tells. These new facts can be proven to be very valuable and they might actually change your decision by 180 degrees.

Now, about why you shouldn't do nr. 3 too often: This can be easily identified as a tell. Doing it for the reason I mentioned above (to be more sure about your decision) can tell your opponent that you have something marginal: a hand with some value, but not very much. Not a bluff, but not the nuts either. Most likely a coin-flip situation. This can really narrow down your range, which is definitely what you don't want.

I know he's out of the picture these days, but does anyone remember Chris Ferguson ? (WSOP Player of the Year in 2000). One of the things that makes him good is that he doesn't have reaction time tells. This means that every decision takes X seconds, no matter what hand he has. If he's bluffing, it will take him X seconds to do it. If he has the absolute nuts: X seconds. If he' on a coin flip: X seconds.

Having such a tell is not something I would recommend. Unfortunately, most players have it. But hiding it like Ferguson does can really put your opponent(s) at a test when they want to put you on a hand.


Obviously, point nr. 1 is the most important and most useful reason to stall. Be careful, though. And learn the rules of the tournament / casino where you're playing. There's a chance they have something like this in their rule book.

As for existing oficial rules: I only know the ones at WSOP (long live TV :D ). At WSOP, you can take as long as you want to make a decision. Literally. I once saw someone thinking what to do on the flop for 15 minutes (!!) That's right: 15 minutes (I think it was Pius Heinz last year at the Main Event final table, but I'm not sure). If another player at the table calls the clock on you, you have 1 minute to make a decision or your hand will be folded.

FYI: in the late stages of tournaments at WSOP, you'll never see someone do that (call the clock). The reasons for this is beyond the scope of this answer.

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Yes it is, and no, people don't have to sneak after that. It is a part of the game (and some consider it as an interesting part of the game).

It may be even worse in real life as players may have up to 300s time limit.

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