World Series of Poker Europe

No Data For You

No Data for You

Player A: “Ugh nice hand fish.”
Player B: “Fish??? Who are you calling a fish? LOL”
Player A: “You’re down $2,000 on this site. You’re a fish.”
Player B: “How did you know that???”

Minus the absence of curse words — and the correct use of the word “you’re” — how many times have you seen a conversation similar to this take place in the chat box of an online poker room? A dozen times? A hundred times?

Often it’s hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes, especially if you’re a well-informed, successful poker player, but try and imagine that you’re Player B in this scenario. You’re a high school teacher, and every month or so you deposit $200 on your favorite online poker site to play a few sit-n-go’s. Once in a while, if you’re feeling daring, you try and satellite into the major tournaments that take place on Sunday. Once, you actually won a seat, but during the second level, someone cracked your aces with {7-Clubs}{6-Clubs}.

There may or may not have been a {4-}, a {5-}, and an {8-} on the flop.

When Player A says this to you, you’re generally taken aback. How does this guy know how much money I’ve lost? Is it really that much? What else can that guy figure out about my account? I could’ve bought a new TV or booked a vacation with my girlfriend. Maybe I should stop playing so much.

First, I advise any poker player who is trying to take the game seriously to not tap the glass. If you’re playing for fun, or playing with friends, then do whatever you want. Have a blast. But if you’re trying to win, and you’re trying to find every spot possible, then don’t help your opponents in any way shape or form. Believe it or not, informing someone that they’re bad, telling someone that they’ve played a hand wrong, and actually showing someone their poor statistics can be helpful. In our example, Player B would never have second-guessed his playing habits had Player A just moved on from the hand.

We all take bad beats. It happens. Move on.

The bigger issue at hand isn’t tapping the glass, however; it’s data mining. Earlier this week, PokerStars sent a “cease and desist letter” to Poker Table Ratings (PTR), claiming that it is breaching the terms and conditions of the site. Lee Jones, Head of Home Games at PokerStars, spoke with PokerNews’ Brett Collson on Wednesday, telling him that, “We believe that a poker player shouldn’t have information and data about his opponents except from the hands he’s actually played.”


Jones added: “We’ve been at this for two or three years — this is not a new effort…We will make it extremely difficult for them to do business.”

PTR has decided to comply — they will no longer provide data from PokerStars, avoiding a legal confrontation. A blog was posted on PTR Wednesday evening, and one particular line stood out: “We will fully adhere to the cease and desist notice by Stars, though we do not believe that we are a disservice to the online poker community.”

"Locke", the author of the blog, smartly chose the words “poker community.” It’s true that fans and media members use PTR and other data mining sites to look up the Isildur1s and Tom Dwans of the world, and it was a good resource to see who’s winning/losing at specific stakes, but it’s not about the community’s amusement. It’s about the players.

When losing players get ahold of their terrible win rate, then they quit, and that negatively affects the player pool. Likewise, winning players don’t get as much action because their opponents can see how much they’ve won, despite never having played with them. Nobody benefits from that except for bad players — what kind of backwards thinking is that?

In a perfect world, there would be no data mining at all — that means no heads-up displays (HUDs) for all of you 24-tabling monsters. Is this feasible? No, poker players are generally too smart, and they would find a way to beat the system. Even if you’re just mining the tables you’re playing at, I think you’re gaining an unfair advantage. I’ve logged thousands of hands with my high school buddies, and I’d like to think I know their tendencies quite well, but there’s no way in hell that I can accurately give you each of their “fold to three-bet” percentages. That would take intense concentration at the table, which is something that separates me from winning poker players.

Players shouldn’t be rewarded for having a program; they should be forced to observe trends and tendencies with their eyes. Obviously, HUDs can’t turn bad players into good players, but they’re a crutch, and they provide an unfair advantage.

Let’s go back to or original scenario. If Player B saw someone using a HUD, he would think the person was operating some kind of God Mode. How does he know all of my statistics? Is he cheating? Does that come with this poker site?

All I want is a level playing field. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. If nine people are sitting at the same ring table online, I want them all to be looking at the same exact thing — unless some of them prefer two-color decks to four. If we want HUDs, then an online poker site should step forward and provide HUDs for all players. That would be fair.

There is little room for third-party data mining sites, however. If you’re not at a table, what gives you the right to find out who won or lost and how much they won or lost? Don’t give bad players an advantage, and don’t limit the player pool. Say no to third-party data mining sites, and let’s level the playing field as much as possible.

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