Recreational players, BEWARE: the lie is out there! For the last several years, you have been mocked, fooled by the ‘honest’ online poker companies that are trying to allegedly protect you. For the last several years, the ‘honest’ online poker companies have launched a massive campaign that tries to discredit the so-called regulars marking all of them as bum-hunters. But all they are trying to do is cover up the biggest bum-hunter of them all.
The Beginning Of The End
It all started with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 that threw the US online poker market in the grey zone. PartyGaming announced its retreat from the US market immediately after that, suffering a dramatic stock drop of almost 60% in 24 hours. Other sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker continued to accept Americans at their own risk. Not for long though; five years later, the Black Friday delivered the final blow eliminating once and for all the US market from the online poker map.
As for the worldwide market, the blows kept coming. France, Spain, and Italy segregated their players’ pool while in other European countries, local authorities failed to regulate the online niche. Which left the poker companies crippled with the revenue shrinking month after month and searching for ways to bring back the golden age.
But they all knew that they couldn’t turn back the clock so instead they’ve come up with a different plan. They decided to turn their attention on the recreational players, and, at the same time, turn their backs on the professionals, or semi-professionals who were making a living out of online poker. And the massive campaign was on: new expressions like ‘predatory environment’, ‘unhealthy market’ came up from their mouths pointing to the ones to blame for the situation: the regulars.
The first attempts (like the anonymous tables for example) to ‘favor’ the recreational players were subtle. However, as the market was shrinking more and more, the companies’ moves were much more direct. PartyPoker acted first segregating its players’ pool based on their skills. The decision was questionable to say the least as some players managed to take advantage of the system’s flaws; because of that, Party was forced to return to the classic mode with no segregation involved.
PokerStars made the next move to restrict bum-hunting eliminating all the regular cash tables at high stakes ($25/$50 PLO, and $25/$50 – $50/$100 PLO and NLHE) leaving only the Zoom tables while Unibet launched a completely innovative product that doesn’t allow HUDs, nor table selection.
Editor’s Take: One Step Too Far
While I agree with some of the decisions, others however have gone way too far. Yes, I think that eliminating HUDs and other poker tracking software can be a good move as the edge of a good player is getting smaller by the day. By not allowing tracking software, the poker rooms can eliminate the massive multi-tablers nits and rakeback ‘whores’ who play solely for rewards, plus the professional shortstackers who play mostly hit-and-run. Without HUDs, players will be forced to concentrate on several tables while keeping a watchful eye on both the regulars and the recreational players alike. In this environment, only the best will thrive while the nits and shorstackers will become extinct.
Yes, I even welcome PartyPoker latest decision to launch the casual cash games available only for the players who want to single table. Also, the cash game sit-out feature is a great move by the network; this features allows multi-tablers to sit out at all tables if they decide to sit out at one. If the feature is turned off, the multi-tablers will be able to sit out one game at a time only for 15 seconds before being booted, eliminating the bum-hunt option. Unfortunately, there are many poker players who prefer to sit-out when the fish does the same, and play almost exclusively with the weaker competitors. This new feature can fight against this unethical and unfair behavior.
Nevertheless, other decisions have gone too far and have nothing to do with the game itself. The Party segregation experiment is a classic example that shows separating players based on skill can be dangerous and exploitative. Unibet’s alias changing possibility (up to three times a day) can also be regarded as questionable as a player doesn’t need to change its name if he has been caught bluffing too many times. The only thing he needs to do is changing his behavior, switching gears, and exploit his perceived image. As you cannot change your face during a live poker game (only your clothes), changing aliases shouldn’t be allowed in the online world.
Taxing The Poker Sharks
PokerHost and the Equity Poker Network (EPN) are the latest examples of how far things have gone in the poker world. There are several reports on 2+2 forums regarding players having their account suspended because basically they are too good. The message received from PokerHost is clear saying that the network came to this decision “after checking your table activity and have notice the aggressive play within the network” and also after “a serious of background checks.” In other words, if someone is a winner and is playing solid, he is not welcomed on EPN. There is also a rumor about a certain “shark tax” on the EPN poker rooms in order to encourage the businesses to attract recreational player, NOT the winning ones.
Overall, in this scarce environment, all these chess moves against the regulars confirm one single fact: the poker companies that are ‘trying to protect the recreational players’ are actually playing the isolation card. In poker, if a weaker player enters the pot with either a call or a raise, the good regular will try to isolate him with a raise or re-raise in order to play a pot only with him, without any other aggressive competitors. This is what the poker companies are doing right now.
The Big Hoax
NO, this is not about protecting anybody. In fact this is the big lie, the big hoax. The winners are constantly taking money out of the system with less and less poker cash being available out there. The recreational players however tend to keep their money in the cashier, winning and losing and shrinking their bankroll without even noticing, because of the room’s rake. Of course, there are others who cash in their winnings and lose them in the classic casino games.
As any other regular, the poker networks are trying to take your money, one chip at a time. In fact, as the poker rooms may get rid of all these bum-hunters, there is still one left, the biggest one who patiently awaits the recreational players to leak their money: THE HOUSE.
The house, the company that provides its users casino games, a more reliable and faster way to take the money out of the recreational players’ hands. The same house that rakes 1,500 big blinds at $0.01/$0.02 levels in just 20,000 hands (real case on the European networks). Because they know a regular will never try a casino game as a good regular is aware of the -EV play he could possibly make there. Because the network knows a winning player will move up stakes quickly enough reaching the higher levels (where the rake is smaller) faster than any recreational player.
There is no need for protection. There’s only need for money, and profit and who gets it first. And like always, the house has the edge in the race, bending the rules, and throwing dust in its clients’ eyes.
There is no protection whatsoever. The only thing you, the recreational player can do is to protect from yourself. If you still don’t believe the case, next time you play roulette think about this: why doesn’t anybody tell me when I play a casino game ‘You know, there is a much better player at this table that will eventually take all your money; his name is THE HOUSE’?
How protected do you feel now?