Please, just stop tanking at the poker table

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One of the most frustrating parts of poker for me is tanking. Most of the time, taking a while on a decision is an attempt to get someone to stop betting as often, because you want them to think you almost called this time. Should professional players tank? Being a professional is trying to find all of the edges to increase your return on investment. 

When is it correct to tank? Tanking is bad for the game and it turns away novice players. However, there’s one instance where tanking is clearly to your advantage and I can’t really blame anyone for doing it. 

In a large tournament, where they don’t go hand-for-hand for very long, tanking on every decision you make when you have a small stack is a good way to get to the money faster. This doesn’t really give you much of an edge in a local tournament that pays 20 spots, but in a $1K WSOP event, it’s a viable strategy. 

Taking a full minute or two on every decision on every street will snowball into a cash. I don’t do this; I hate it. I wish tournament directors would find ways to solve the problem, but I acknowledge it’s beneficial. 

What about when (insert stupid reason here)? No. Tanking for the sake of tanking is bad. Unless you’re a losing player, in which case it’s good for you to play fewer hands in an hour because you will lose less money. 

The first thing that happens when people at a table start tanking, is other people at that table tank, too. It’s contagious and it really slows down the game and ruins the experience. It’s often much more demoralizing for an opponent to raise me and see me instantly muck my hand when they were hoping for a call. They don’t expect it and it will make them have an internal conversation with themselves about how they shouldn’t have raised me yet. 

Less tanking is good for poker: When there is no tanking, it makes it more fun to watch, it makes it more fun to play and it eliminates the need to call the clock. In a perfect world, no one would have to call the clock. Hopefully, more tournament directors find a way to implement a shot clock on all tables. Tablets have never been cheaper and the program is extremely simple to run. 

— Brent Philbin is a pro you can reach at BrentPhilbin@gmail.com.