Need for Speed

There's a new breed of poker in town but you gotta be quick to catch it

Some people like a good thinkup in poker. Our very own Mark ‘Shafty’ Stuart has even earned the nickname ‘The Thinker’ because of his propensity to enter a seemingly catatonic state when pondering his cards. And some poker players take it even further, deliberately sitting on muck they know they’re going to discard just to unsettle the other players round the table. Three questions: Do you really need to take 10 minutes to decide you’re not going to play 7-2 offsuit against two all-in bets before you? Does it elevate the game as a spectator sport? And does it make the live game an attractive proposition to the legion of Internet players used to 60 hands an hour, snappy decisions and time pressures?

Quick thinking

Which is where Speed Poker races in. The brainchild of Aussie entrepreneur Keith ‘Bendigo’ Sloan (named after an Australian city where he lived), Speed Poker will make another appearance at this year’s Aussie Millions before being rolled out across TV screens in 2006.

The concept’s simple. It’s Texas Hold’em as you know it, but with six players, two dealers (to ensure a steady supply of hands), and 15 seconds to make a decision. Just like online, if you don’t make the time limit you’ll be checked if there’s been no action before you, or folded if there’s been a bet. The time limit means you’re going to see even more hands played an hour than the 60 or so you get online, and it also means that it can be shown live on TV. The only other difference is that pre-flop the game’s played pot-limit, but once the flop’s down it reverts back to no-limit.

Sky’s the limit

Actually that’s not the only difference. Speed Poker is all about fun. About being a spectator sport and bringing a bit of pizzazz into the game. So, if you’re not on a TV table where lights count down to show you how much time you’ve got left, clock girls are on hand to deliver your fate. And pumping music means that it’s about as far removed from the cardroom at Binion’s as Benny could ever have envisaged.

But while traditionalists bleat about it removing the skill from the game, Bendigo disagrees. ‘I say the opposite. Is Michael Schumacher less skilful because he has to make decisions more quickly than the average driver? Speed Poker condenses the pressure of poker and lets the players who can think quickest and act most smoothly to rise above those that flounder under pressure.’ He’s got a point. ‘Being potlimit pre-flop and no-limit post-flop ensures more flops are seen and allows the players to make moves that otherwise would not be available to them in a no-limit game.’

All trousers?

It sounds like a hell of a lot of fun but what good is speculation? None whatsoever, so we flew our best man over to Melbourne to take part in the Speed Poker Championship. Unfortunately our best man wasn’t available so we sent Woods instead. Check back in the next couple of weeks to find out how he got on. Every silver lining…

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