Level Up: Telling Time

Hello all,

This is the first, in what will be a semi-regular blog post on small tips and tricks designed to help you “level up” your judge skills. There are many resources dedicated to helping judges learn the rules, and understand policy, but smaller tips and tricks often don’t get the space they deserve.  The goal of this series is to provide tips that are relevant at all levels of judging, but occasionally I will do a post that is only relevant at your FLGS or at a GP.

Telling TimeWe are going to start with: Round Turnover.  Seems pretty boring right?  It is, but it’s often boring things that tend to be overlooked.  A few years ago, there was a survey on player experience at Grand Prixs.  Wizards was able to map player satisfaction at various GPs over a 18 month period, and they discovered correlation between player satisfaction and the time between rounds.  The highest ranked GPs were ones with short round turnover times, and the lowest ranked GPs were ones with the highest turnover time.

No one likes sitting around waiting, especially when they don’t know how long they will be waiting for. At events, this means unhappy players.  If rounds take too long to start, players may leave and not come back, or wander off to get food and not return at the start of the round.  The latter means your event will end later.  FNM type events are typically after a full work day, and people get tired as events carry into the night, and enthusiasm begins to drop.  Event end times are especially important for the TO.  Many TOs pay their employees by the hour, and if an event is a half hour longer, that’s an additionally half hour of labor and overhead.

So, what can you do to make sure your rounds start as soon as possible.

  1. Enforce a set start time.  This may require talking with the TO to get them on your side, but starting the event on time, goes a long way towards showing the players that you are consider their time valuable.
  2. Time WalkCheck the clock when you take a call. Knowing what time the call started means you don’t need to guess at what the extension should be. Calls under a minute don’t even need an extension!
  3. Become a deck checking machine!  Practice checking your Standard deck.  Find a technique that works for you.  Meanwhile at an event, If you find a check is taking too long, just stop, pack up, and return it to the players.  Your goal is a 8-10 minute extension after you add the 3 minutes for shuffling.  
  4. Be proactive entering match results.  Often you will have a minute or two of down time in the last 10 minutes of the round to get caught up. This also lets you identify any completed matches you might be missing results for.
  5. Collect Match Slips.  You want players to bring you match slips a lot more than they want to bring them to you.  Go get them.  You can prompt players to fill out a slip with a polite “Hey, I’ll take that up front if its ready” if they are chatting
  6. ClockspinningHave your round clock count up.  If players have extensions, start the clock on their extensions as soon as the round is over. Don’t let a 2 minute extension become 3 minutes because you were slow starting the timer. This is easiest to do if you use a clock that automatically counts up when time has elapsed.
  7. Don’t be afraid to concede/ask for a concession. If you are playing in the event, like an FNM, and you are on of the last matches, be realistic about your chances of winning.  If you have a commanding board presence, it’s not unrealistic to ask your opponent if they are willing to scoop.  But also be willing to scoop if you are in a losing position. I’m not saying you need to throw your match in order to help the event, but be pragmatic about your chances of winning.
  8. Wild PairPost Those Pairings. When that last slip comes in, you get the result entered, start the next round, and get those pairings up as soon as possible.  If you are also a store employee, this may mean asking a customer to wait the 2 minutes need to get the pairings up.
  9. Announce pairings are up outside.  Players outside the store (i.e. Smokers)  don’t see/hear what’s going on inside the store.  Getting them moving means you can start the round sooner.
  10. Start the round after players have had a reasonable amount time to get to their seat.  At FNMs and Regular REL GPTs, not everyone has to be in their seat due to the liberal tardiness policy.  Still be sure to give players time, but if you have players who are notoriously slow, don’t wait for them.  You will need to give an extension when they do show up, but they might not end up needing it. You can expedite this by announcing a reasonable amount of time until the next round starts when you post pairings. For example, “Pairings have been posted for round 4. Please find your seat, we’ll be starting the round in 2 minutes.”
  11. Tireless TrackerTrack your times.  Its very hard to improve what you don’t measure.  Counting calories will show you that you snack a bunch of food during the day.  Tracking your start/end times of rounds will show where you are a giving up minutes chatting with players or letting the smokers control your start times.  Keeping notepad and writing down your times will help you see what you are actually doing.

Alright, thats all for this issue.  Join me next time, when I talk about building your personal brand.