In poker, time has been increasingly integral to the way in which the game is played. The modern professional players that seek out every tiny edge they can, will often take a relatively long while to fold a hand even though they immediately know they are going to fold. The idea behind this is that information can be given away if you are taking different lengths of time to think over different types of decision. This is understandable on some levels, but it brings with it a problem. The lifeblood of poker is in the recreational players who may not play brilliantly, but who enjoy playing the game anyway. When numerous players are slowing the game down to a crawl because they are desperate not to give anything away, they deter recreational players from sitting down to play. Anyone with any sense can see that making the game painfully slow and boring for weak players, is far more costly than acting more swiftly could ever be.
The answer to the time issue is perhaps to borrow an idea from chess, and give each player a clock. Upon acting, each player presses a button to stop their own clock and start the clock of the next player to act. After a certain number of blind levels, time can be topped up. This works well in the online world but could be difficult to implement in live play.
Time issues in live play are currently resolved in an unusual way which occupies a grey area in the game. Basically, if a player has been thinking for a short while, any other player can ‘call a clock’ on the player whose turn it is. This gives them 60 seconds to act otherwise their hand is dead. Etiquette generally leads to players being generous in allowing opponents time to think, and some players have taken as much as 20 minutes over a decision. Another player on a different table might have had a clock called on them after 3 minutes, and so it seems an unfair system.
If poker wishes to be accepted as a serious game or mind sport, it needs to address any inconsistencies in terms of how its rules are applied. The issue of time is the most obvious of these, and although it is difficult to arrange, players need clocks which start the moment the action is on them.