Online poker has done great things for live poker, most notably when accountant, Chris Moneymaker, a recreational player from Atlanta, qualifed for just $39 on PokerStars.com and went on to win the WSOP main event and pocket $2.5m. Online poker operators also give us amazing live events in fantastic locations with huge prizepools such as the EPT, WPT and all the various country and regional tours that the various poker sites run. Numerous TV poker shows have been paid for or sponsored by the online poker operators, bringing poker to a mainstream audience and encouraging more people to try poker at their local casino.
I think most people now accept that the poker boom is definitely over and therefore the poker world needs online poker to make an extra effort to encourage new people to try this amazing game that you can play at any age and gives you the the opportunity meet so many new and interesting people. Live card rooms do not have the marketing reach or financial budgets of the big online operators - it will be these companies that shape the future of our game. There was an article written a few years ago by a universally respected poker player called Phil Galfond http://pokerdb.thehendonmob.com/player.php?a=r&n=56164, an american professional online player who has won millions both online and live, the blog was called ‘Let’s make some changes’, it’s about the state of online poker and his views, here is the link; http://www.philgalfond.com/lets-make-some-changes/.
I have never met or spoken to Phil, but I completely agree with everything he writes in this article, he talks about improvements that the online sites could make to help generate new poker players and improve the online experience for the recreational players - the majority of the poker playing population, therefore improving the ecology of poker in general for everyone, including the online pros. Phil gets the balance right between what's best for everyone - pros and recreational players. Reading Phil's writing reminds me of our own Neil Channing, who in his unique understated and modest way, just talks damn good common sense. Myself on the other hand, am bias towards doing what is best for grass roots recreational players, rather than the pros, I think that is clear to anyone who is familiar with the Dusk Till Dawn story. In this blog, I want to discuss this concept in relation to what I believe is actually happening now in the online poker world and I speak from my own personal experiences therefore I know it to be true - I guess you could call this 'my updated version of the Galfond article'. I hope this blog will also give our members, of whom the vast majority are recreational players, a greater understanding of the reasons behind the strict rules for Simon Trumper's “Online Club Cash Games" http://www.dusktilldawnpoker.com/online-club-cash-games.php, which is an 'online' extension of our own live club cash game area.
First of all, I don’t expect the launch of our own ‘club members only’ online cash games to make a lot of difference to the online poker landscape, we will simply provide a few NL and PLO cash games for our live club members to play against each other in a more ‘managed’ environment, where the use of online poker tracking software is prohibited, multi-tabling is restricted to 2 tables of NL and PLO and player behaviour and etiquette will be expected to be to the live club’s standards. We are a minnow and don’t have any delusions of grandeur to ever be anything more than a niche poker operator, focused on giving live players the best possible poker experience. However, we do speak to a wide cross section of poker players face to face and in my experience, recreational poker players are growing more and more sceptical about online poker. I believe that this is for 2 reasons; firstly online poker has had some negative PR over the last few years, and secondly, recreational players are losing their money quicker because the enviroment has become too biased towards multi-tabling professional online players. I hear so many players say "I used to enjoy playing online but not now because...'
I will address my post in the same way as Phil Galfond's article, as a sort of open letter to the online poker industry; I could actually not bother going into so much detail and just say ‘please don’t allow the pro’s a bigger edge over the recreational players than they already have by the nature of them being better poker players'’ AND 'please tackle any negative PR about online poker head on'.
1. RNG’s (Random Number Generators)
How many times have we heard players accuse online poker sites of being ‘rigged’, a player makes a withdrawal / loses and the RNG is no longer random – when he’s winning, the RNG is perfect!. We poker players don’t always think laterally after a bad beat, we know this is a billion dollar industry and common sense tells us the RNG is not going to be rigged against John Smith because he withdrew £200, but come out and tell us – show us the RNG stats on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, display them in your poker lobby, give us absolute confirmation that we were just unlucky! I know the auditors check the RNG’s for all of the online poker companies, but we don’t read the annual audit report. It would be a simple task to publish the last x million RNG hand results.
2. Poker Bots
How many times have you heard ‘you don’t know you’re playing a real person online’ – just look at this rubbish that comes up when you Google ‘poker bots’– this is hardly going to encourage new players to take up online poker, I don't even know if these bots win, but I do know players that swear by them in terms of generating rake and making money through rakeback and bonuses.
Please get these sites closed down and get rid of any affiliates who are linking your company name to them! And please don’t allow a new account to play at any table until you have received verified ID, driving licence or passport, make us poker players feel safe that we are always playing against a real person who does go on tilt like us! Everyone knows that it’s almost physically impossible for alias ‘xxxx’ to have been playing for 48 hours non stop, be still sitting at 16 tables and playing like a Phil Ivey!
3. Cheating & Collusion
How many times have you heard this 'they are all cheating together online - it's impossible to win'. Another PR hot potato, very hard to police and ultimateley prevent. I think we all understand what a difficult job this is and where money is involved, in all walks of life, there will always be those that see opportunities to cheat. All the big online companies do invest millions to detect collusion and cheating, they have whole departments of people dedicated to the cause, I know this (because I am in the industry) but your average recreational player does not know this. So tell us when you catch someone, don't just freeze their online account, prosecute them if possible, let the average guy feel secure and know the good work you are doing. Forget the fact that some people will say 'there are cheats on xxxx poker site com' - just think of the thousands of recreational players you can attract because you are excellent at detecting collusion and cheating. I know players that have been caught colluding and cheating by poker sites - banged to rights, guilty as sin, but it is hushed up. Just blow the whistle on these opportunists and show us all the good work you are doing to protect us and our money!
4. Poker Tracking Software
Please ban it, all of it, Poker Tracker, Hold’em Manager, Table Ninja, HUD’s – the lot. Good poker players will win, bad poker players will lose, give us back the game we love, make online poker more like it was when Moneymaker won the WSOP - don’t magnify the pro’s edge to kill off the recreational players at an even faster rate, just look at this stuff available - don't tell us it's fair cause anyone can buy-it and learn to use it, we have full time jobs and families, some of us are just about young enough to work out how turn the the computer on and download the software never mind use this state of the art tracking software!
The technology is just getting better and better as pro’s look to maintain their edge as games get tougher, it’s like something out The Matrix!
I know groups of players who combine their tracking databases to get more information on players that they have never even played on the same table with, one very respected pro believes that his shared data is so precise, it can even work on anonymous tables after the player has played x hands (really!? he assured me but even I can’t believe that!). Either way, recreational players don’t want to play against people using this stuff, and recreational players do know it's out there – it's not a secret that only pro’s know about anymore. Would you risk your money and play against players using this level of technology if you were a new or recreational player?
And while you are banning Online Poker Tracking software, please get rid of these databases aswell, where hand histories are mined and pro players pay subscriptions to watch how we play and find the losing players - I would like to keep my cash game results private thank you! I heard that PokerStars and 888.com have recently clamped down on this – great news! Here are 2 of these tracking sites that I have heard mentioned by various pros;
Let's stop storing hand histrories locally, change the hand replayers to scrambled images rather than text so they cannot be data mined or read by software, and use detention software to locate any IP address attempting to mine hand histories or using trackers and HUD's. The option to display on the table whether a specific player is currently using tracker software/HUD is not dealing with the source of the problem, recreational players will not flock to the tables just because there is an icon showing that player x is using some type of tracking software. Where is the line between tracking software and bots drawn? Would we allow the equivalent of this software in our live card rooms?
Yes, more tables = more rake, but with your poker software continually getting more 'multi-table' friendly and the tracking software doing more of the work, pro’s are able to play even more tables. When you put more good players on more tables using state of the art tracking software, the recreational players will go broke quicker. Please get rid of 'Find my Buddy / Friend' because this is just used for bum hunting weak players. Just look at this video, it’s ridiculous, do you think any new or recreational player wants to play against players who can or are allowed to do this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc2A7886Xrg - this player is 16 tabling at $10 buy-in NL stakes and commentating on individual hands at the same time! Please restrict the number of tables that any player can play to 2-4, protect the recreational players against these human computer programs! What chance does any new or recreational players have if this is going on even at $10 buy-in cash game stakes?
6. Short Handed Tables
And while you are restricting the number of tables a player can sit at, we all know the shorter handed the game – the bigger edge that the pro’s have, bin the heads-up bum hunting tables where regs sit and refuse to play each other, bin the 4 max (what is that? who made that up?) and stop pushing the 6 max cash tables - let the recreational players get their bearings on good old fashioned 8 – 10 handed tables. How many live 6 handed or less cash game tables do you see in live cardrooms in the world? – Simon was telling me he hasn’t ever seen one in 20 years of playing poker, so come on, hands are 2.5 times faster online, recreational player won't get bored 8-10 handed, but they will be under less pressure to play marginal hands and get into marginal situations, lets make online poker more comfortable. Live players who start at their local casino and are not enjoying venturing online just to get slaughtered by sharks playing short handed against 3-bet, 4-bet and carefully constructed river shoves! Some pro’s tell me with a wry smile that '6 max 100BB NL is now solved’, well maybe its not quite there yet, but let’s not help make life too easy for the sharks, recreational players don’t have the time to study all this stuff http://www.gamblingsystem.biz/books/2p2NL6max.pdf and we are used to playing 8-10 handed cash games, not in shark infested short handed games where we are out of our comfort zone
7. Minimum Max Buy-ins
Please make the min buy-in 50BB on all tables and stop the various short stack systems out there from playing optimally http://www.shortsystem.com/shortstack-poker.htm. These players, sometimes teams of them backed by a private individual/s, are just playing off a crib sheet, clicking buttons, winning off recreational players who like to see flops and taking valuable marketing revenues off the sites with their ridiculous rake back deals. I know 2 of the biggest backers of this short stack system and they reliably inform me it doesn’t work at 50BB, so please change the min buy-ins! I mean...is the shortstack system cribsheet below given out by backers to their players really the type of poker that recreational players want to play against in their spare chill out time?
As I mentioned earlier, if you have the time to study them, as full time online players do, there are many instructional guides on how to play 100BB poker, many believe the game is solved at this buy-in, so let's mix it up and make the max 200BB, then the online pro has to think twice about 3 betting with junk and barrelling off 3 streets at a cost of 200 BB’s!
8. Player Etiquette and Behaviour
I was actually playing on a mainstream site and hit a flush on a well known reg on that site, I didn’t have the odds to call all-in on the flop but hey, I gambled and hit and it was against an online grinder so I’m in effect giving him +EV by calling, he wasn’t happy and proceeded to tell me he hoped my mother got cancer and his chat got even worse. A chat ban is not enough! That player would have been evicted from a live casino poker room, possibly barred for life if he was a repeat offender, instead he was allowed to continue multi-tabling away and insulting anyone who beat him in a pot that he had 0.1% equity over. I know the big sites have thousands of tables to monitor and manage, but there are computer programs that can easily pick up these things. It's often the reg grinders that hurl the abuse because they have nearly always got it in good – no matter how many tables they play and how much rake they generate – please can you manage the etiquette and behaviour as close to a live game as possible. Phil Galford goes into a lot of detail how the sites could improve player etiquette, especially the ‘bumhunting’ element, come on guys, you can program amazing functionality into your software – can we not have some of the changes that Phil has recommended? I feel sick to my stomach when I see a player go bust and then the other 5 players just sit out until he reloads, how long is this player going to keep coming back? I'm not sure what is worse, that or the ridiculous waiting lists that you see when a weaker player has a decent stack in front of him at the cash game table. Why are players allowed to wait at selected tables but not forced to play at others that have empty seats - you could not do this at The Bellagio, you put your name for a 5-10 and that's what you get, they dont have seperate lists of tables with a certain weak player on!
I could go on, but I think I have made enough points. I understand if one of the big poker sites implemented all of these changes at once, their liquidity could go through the floor in the short term, but is it not possible for online poker to move in a direction to encourage new players to start playing the game that we all love and also bring back those players that have lost faith in online poker or poker in general? I do hope this blog doesn’t come across as a bashing for the big online poker sites, I am trying to be constructive in my own words, all of the big poker rooms have done so many amazing things for poker over the years, I just really feel passionately about this subject and people who know me will know that I have been campaigning/whinging for change in this area for some time. We have official bodies for live poker, such as the TDA, FIDPA, etc could we not have an official body for online poker, is it so different just because people are playing for money online?
P.S: Dear Mr Galfond, if this blog every finds it's way over to you in cyberspace, thank you for writing that article, it was inspiring to read
Posted by Rob Yong on 3 months ago