The recent debates regarding data mining in online poker has brought about a strong contingency of players who feel strongly about both sides of the issue. Adding some fuel to the fire is the Cake Poker Policy which allows players to change screen names every seven days. We've broken down both sides on whether or not this is a good for online poker, and we'll let you decide for yourselves.
Michael Friedman Believes that Knowing Who You Are Playing is a Big Part of the Game
Knowing who your opponents are and how they play is a key element in poker, and Cake Poker's decision to allow players to switch names makes it impossible to know who you are playing against. Without knowing your opponent, you are at a disadvantage because you can't make judgments based on previous performances in various situations.
Although some people may say that profiling an opponent online is not a big deal when it comes to table strategy, tell that to the higher-stakes players who make their livings finding the leaks in weaker player's games.
Knowing who you are playing and how he or she performs is crucial to making the right decisions, so taking away a player's ability to do this changes the potential outcome of every hand.
The ability to change names adds a security risk for all players because you'll never know who you are playing. If players can change names every seven days, stronger players can take advantage of weaker ones by switching profiles regularly and dropping to lower levels of the "pokersphere."
This masquerade is unfair to weaker players because they have no idea that the sharks have dropped down to pick off the easy money. In essence, weaker players, often young and new at the game, have no protection against being taken advantage of, and they have no way to recognize that they are in over their heads.
It was the long-term play of cheater Russ Hamilton that ended up getting him caught. If there had been no data because he was able to change screen names regularly, there would have been much less of a chance of him being caught.
Because it is difficult to prove that people are colluding or cheating individually, one has to wonder how the removal of this layer of security benefits players. Hamilton got caught primarily because players were allowed to track his performance and find the irregularities. I shudder to think of how difficult it would have been to prove his guilt if had he been able to change his screen name every week.
Nicole Gordon believes that players should have the option to change their screen name regularly.
Cake Poker has a policy in place that I believe could revolutionize online poker. The site gives its players the opportunity to change screen names every seven days.
In an age of the online game when a player’s edge over his opponents is increasingly being determined by how much data he or she can collect on them, giving players the choice to return to anonymity could go a long way toward leveling the playing field again. Imagine if the larger U.S.-facing sites like Full Tilt and PokerStars allowed their players this choice. Tracking sites might go out of business, but the game itself would return to a purer time.
Sit down in any no-limit hold’em cash game or sit-n-go on Full Tilt or Poker Stars and it’s a strong probability that you’ll be playing against several regulars who have already pulled your stats off a site like PokerTableRatings or SharkScope. They know how much you’ve won. They know how much you've lost. They know how many hands you’ve played and when you played them. In the case of PokerTableRatings, they can look at an instant “report card” on your play and know whether you’re a tight-aggressive beast or a virtual ATM. Anonymity at the online tables is a thing of the past.
With mounds and mounds of data available at anyone’s fingertips, much of the soul has been sucked out of the online game. So much of the skill element in poker is about reading players, detecting betting patterns, anticipating our opponents’ moves and reacting appropriately. However, when a database is already telling you that in over 85,000 hands "JoeBlow420" raises only his top 15% of hands preflop but gets a C- for his play on the turn, your decisions can become robotic.
But what of the Ultimate Bet scandal? Didn’t all that chicanery go undetected for years because the superusers were constantly changing their screen names? Yes, but Russ Hamilton & Co. were also changing accounts. On Cake Poker your account is your account and your IP address is your IP address. It’s only the name that is visible to your opponents that can change.
Even with the option to change their screen names, many players would still choose not to do so. Online stars like “OMGClayAiken,” “gboro780” and “stevesbets” have built huge reputations surrounding those screen names and may still want them to invoke the fear of God in their opponents. But for your average low or middle-stakes cash game player, the ability to pull a virtual baseball cap over one’s eyes could transform their games and their results.
Dying to change your screen name? Sign up for Cake Poker and you can have a new one every week.