Editors' preface: PokerNews welcomes the New Year by asking a number of industry experts to share their views on the past, present and – most importantly – the future of poker. Throughout this series, these experts' opinions serve to outline the shape of the modern poker world and provide an indication of what 2009 and beyond might hold. PokerNews also notes that these experts' opinions do not necessarily represent the views of PokerNews.
Contributing to today's question are: Matthew Parvis, Editor-in-Chief of Bluff Magazine; Nat Arem, the founder of the PokerDB; famed high-stakes cash and tournament player Barry Greenstein, a member of Team PokerStars Pro; and Pauly "Dr. Pauly" McGuire, the author of the Tao of Poker blog and columnist for Bluff Magazine.
Today's question: If there was one change that you would like to see specifically made to the online game or by major online sites in the coming year, what would it be?
Nat Arem: One thing that I'd really like to see happen would be the equivalent of a cheaters and scammers "information share" go on between a bunch of different sites. I really think that a lot of those people cause problems for online poker and I think it would be great if online poker sites were willing to share information the same way that Vegas casinos do. I'm surprised that it hasn't happened yet.
Dr. Pauly: Just a reliable method to deposit and withdraw money. "Reliable" meaning, with some of the sites, every few weeks it's changing. Some people have to wait three days and other people have to wait three weeks just to get a check or some sort of response for a cashout. At the same time, too, people come to me all the time asking for me to fund their online poker accounts. People want to play poker, it's just they don't have an easy way to do that. That's kind of more of a personal preference, but I think it's more of a basic, logistical thing they can change. That's kind of a loyalty system – as people know they can get money in and out of Full Tilt or PokerStars relatively easy, more people will play there.
Matthew Parvis: I would love to see the online poker sites -– maybe the top five online poker rooms in the world — create some sort of governing body within themselves. We've seen what happens when a company is allowed to just kind of "run itself wild" and I understand that there are regulating committees out there and international kinds of regulation; however, I think that it's too important for the industry in that the major sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt throw this serious network into that batch right now. I think they need to come together in a way, and yes, I understand they compete against each other for a player base. But at the same time, if they were to come together and put together some sort of ethics and regulatory constitution that each of the sites stuck with, [they would be] able to come down upon one another if there was some sort of devious attempt at cheating such as with the Absolute/UB scandal. If you're being governed by your peers, I think that would be a very, very strong way of doing things. These sites are going to continue to operate — at least the top five, I think, are going to continue to try to grab their piece of the market and piece of the pie — but if they were to form some sort of regulatory body, I think that would be an amazing thing that could really help transform and bring unity into the industry. I think that would be the one change that I would like to see happen.
Barry Greenstein: Well, I'm one of the fortunate people who gets to make the decisions... or gets very involved in them. That's one of the main reasons I joined PokerStars is because I am able to make suggestions about the software, and what I do is every few months, actually, I give them my current list of changes I'd like to see implemented. For instance, to give you an idea, the last two that got implemented were a graphical "last hand display" where we got a nice display, and they even have it with a replay where you can see the way the bets came in and all that. Before, we just had the last hand in text mode, chat stream or whatever you want to call that — and it just was too hard to follow. Even if you got a hand history, it was really hard to process while you were playing. Now the way it is, it's pretty neat and they did a great job, better than I had suggested. The programmers and designers did an excellent job.
Initially I gave them 30 changes I would like to see implemented and I had ten that were high priority, ten medium priority, and ten low priority. So now, what I do is always keep the number-one, high-priority issue on the burner. So after they got that one done, especially in LA since so many people play badugi — and even in Europe, we have a lot of people playing badugi — my one after that for the end of this year was badugi. A lot of these changes go slower than I would hope, but they finally promised me by November they'd get badugi and they delivered. In November they got badugi; now I'm hoping they will increase the stakes. My next number-one, high-priority item is going to come out in January.
(PokerNews): Is it a user feature?
Barry Greenstein: I'll get to that — it's remarkable. A lot of times I'll say, "Why can't we do this?" It seems to me it would take me only a day or two to program it myself, but they have to make sure that nothing changes in the stability of the build. They test it; every one of these sites does this. So it takes longer than I expect all the time and I'm always frustrated: why don't they have multiple groups of programmers doing all the things I want? You see with all the websites that they don't have everything; they don't have the new games. I think PokerStars is probably the leader there but the other ones – obviously, I'm sure they ask themselves, why doesn't every site have every game in every situation? It's harder than we all think because it's just a monstrous piece of software already. They have to make sure that everything works together. So getting to the suggestion that we'll see in January — that is, if it is [then] — let me just say that you will have some different types of games of no-limit hold'em. It will be a little different, but I think it will be very popular.