Stalling on the Bubble Addressed by Tournament Directors Association

Written by:
Nagesh Rath
Published on:

The 2022 Tournament Directors Association has addressed one major issue in the world of live poker tournaments: Stalling at the bubble.


What is that?

Jon Safen of explains:

"One common strategy on the bubble or approaching massive pay-jumps in many tournaments, especially major events such as the WSOP Main Event, is to tank excessively and hope that players at other tables will bust. This most often occurs with short stacks and players who are just trying to ladder up. But it can frustrate some players who get annoyed with stallers slowing down the pace of play."

A member of the Cardschat posting forum expressed his frustration with stalling:

"I believe that stalling the clock while waiting out the bubble is such poor sportsmanship -- to me it is just a twinge above actually cheating . . . If you don't have the skill to survive the bubble without using gimmickry than perhaps you do not belong in that tournament."

Poker pro James Chen agrees:

"Stalling disrupts the pace of the game, and makes poker less enjoyable for professionals and amateurs alike, but it’s unfortunately becoming more common in tournaments. Not that long ago, the poker community shunned this behavior. But these days, you’d typically find multiple stallers at a table, stalling hand after hand near any bubble or pay jump. Stallers are being called out much less compared to a few years ago, and even many players who dislike stalling have resigned to accepting it as a symptom of tournaments that they just have to deal with. Honestly, I think we got to this point because a sizable amount of the community adopt plays they see made by other players without verifying whether they’re correct."

Another offered:

"The clock is there to be used as you see fit. I have no problem with anyone using it in a strategic way.  The only problem I have with it, is when you are playing hand for hand and someone runs the clock down because they are not aware or do not understand that the strategy they are implementing is not working the way they think.  ex. all this does is lessen number of hands you can see before the next BB increase, in this example timing out the clock does not help you just the Big Stacks that can push you around more easily."

Stalling is difficult to regulate without a shot clock, Safen notes.  They are not commonly used in tournaments.

The TDA can only make recommendations in this area:

"The house should clearly announce intention to reduce stalling so that players understand timely play is expected. It's recommended that each house establish creative methods for reducing stalling. Some methods successfully used by TDA member houses include: Random table breaks instead of table draws, using fixed # of hands per level, going orbit for orbit, soft hand for hand, and adding a shot clock," PR-19 states.

- Nagesh Rath,