There has been plenty of drama in the online poker industry in the past year, but unfortunately most of it occurred away from the tables. One of the biggest controversies, however, was actually poker-related, as Bodog (also known as Bovada.lv) made the interesting decision to make its tables anonymous, replacing players’ screen names with poker room-assigned numbers that change every time a player sits down.
When the announcement was made in December, it was met with mixed reactions. Many players applauded Bodog’s decision, as it made it impossible for strong, regular players to track and hunt down casual players and eliminated the ability of data mining sites such as PokerTableRatings.com and SharkScope.com to collect information on Bodog’s players. The change made Bodog a much more friendly site for the casual player.
“We believe that introducing these features makes the Bodog Recreational Poker Model a pioneer in the online poker world and offers all players of all abilities the fairest place to play,” said Bodog Poker Network Vice President Jonas Odman in a press release at the time. “We have shown before that we are not afraid of controversy by changing the way rakeback was viewed and starting to block data mining sites earlier this year and these new features now give players a less biased ‘pure poker’ experience. To my mind, the software and Bodog’s Recreational Poker Model is a genuine game changer.”
Others, however, groaned at the move to anonymous tables, immediately seeing them as an invitation to cheaters. Many feared that it would be much easier for friends to collude, as it appeared to be simple for two buddies to sit down in the same game, tell each other their “screen numbers,” and proceed to share hole card information and plot moves against their opponents. Botters, chip-dumpers, and super-users could also go undetected, as players would not have screen names with which to track suspicious activity. The super-users at Absolute Poker and UB were discovered by players who were able to analyze the hands offline; without screen names, there would have been no way to investigate any suspicions of funny play.
This weekend, Bodog announced what it sees as a solution to this potential problem, offering hand histories, complete with the hole cards of every player, to whoever requests them. The hand histories will be available after a 24-hour waiting period so that players won’t be able to know their opponents’ hole cards while still at the table. Jonas Odman said of the decision, “The fact that we can now offer players this information is another advantage of our anonymous tables and something nobody else can offer. Collusion is a natural concern for any poker room but this new additional feature puts the player in full control. This makes the Bodog Poker Network the fairest place to play poker online in the world.”
Still, the hand histories will not have screen names, so it’s not like fishy play can be tracked in the long-term. Suspicious moves during a single session, though, can be studied by players and reported to Bodog if necessary. Bodog will still have information about every player and will supposedly continue to fight cheating on its end.
The strongest criticism of hand histories with hole cards is that it will give bot makers a tremendous resource with which to improve their cheating programs, as they can use the complete hand histories to create better decision models.