The Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) is preparing to make changes to both the content and storing of hand histories in order to protect casual players. The changes, discussed in a blog post by Head of Product (Network Games) at Microgaming Alex Scott earlier this month, will go into effect in April.
Scott is among the rare breed of online poker managers/executives who is actually a player, as well, and approaches problem solving from a fair perspective, balancing the needs of the company with the needs of the player. In the blog post, he talks about how while hand tracking software like PokerTracker has been a great tool for players, it also provides sharks the ability to prey on fish without really having to observe and study their opponents’ play.
We have a difficult relationship with tracking software. Personally, I think it’s really important for players to be able to track and analyse their own gameplay, and tracking software is an excellent way to improve if used properly. It’s also a great way to be a responsible gambler, because you can’t hide from your results.
But I also think tracking software has changed the game in a way that makes it less fun. It allows you to gather huge amounts of data on your opponents, without requiring any significant attention or observation on your part. It allows you to exploit the weakest opponents exclusively, if you wish.
That last point, about “exploit[ing] the weakest opponents exclusively, likely has to do with the use of software like seating scripts, which search the active tables, see who is playing, look up the players’ stats in the hand tracking software, and then seat the software’s user with players who are known to be weak.
Hand tracking software uses hand histories to compile player data.
Thus, MPN will implement two changes to hand histories. In cash games, a full, detailed hand history will only be saved to a player’s computer if that player contributed money to the pot. In other hands, only basic information like the player’s balance and hole cards will be saved. With this, players will not be able to just sit back and gather truckloads of data on other players without putting forth the effort of playing poker themselves.
Additionally, there will no longer be any hand histories at all for anonymous tables. The whole point of anonymous tables is to shield players from being tracked, so eliminating hand histories will make hand tracking software useless at those tables. MPN will still be on the lookout, though, for people who try to get around the rules and use such software.
As Alex Scott summarizes it, “The net effect of this is that you can still use tracking software to track your own gameplay, and you can still use a HUD at the tables. However your tracking software will gather much less information about your opponents in general.”
This should still make hand tracking software useful for analyzing one’s own play, as players will still have records of what hole cards they themselves had each hand. In any hand in which a user didn’t contribute to the pot, they will still know what cards they had, that they folded, and what their balance was. There really isn’t much more data necessary for self-analysis in those situations. Sure, it would probably be nice to know what sort of betting happened or didn’t happen to make me fold certain cards, but it’s probably not a big deal.