The poker world found out about a month ago, but PokerStars officially announced on Wednesday that it is restricting the use of third party software tools starting Monday, March 4th.
In a blog post, Severin Rasset started out by explaining the high-level reasoning for the policy changes:
We all sit down at the table as equals. So, when a player takes the time out of their day to play in our poker room, we want them to know they’ve arrived in a safe and fair environment where the only thing to think about is the action. Also, that they’re not being targeted for their experience, and they have a clear and unambiguous picture of the additional resources available to them.
“For PokerStars,” he added, “my vision is to limit as much as possible the use of tools that artificially enhance the process of sitting down to play, and play itself. Tools that can give players an edge over others and which detract from the journey of developing the skills necessary to become a better poker player.”
There are two primary categories of third party tools upon which PokerStars is focusing: seating scripts and starting hands charts and reference material.
We have talked about these before on this site, but to recap, a seating script automatically seats its user at tables where players who are determined to be weaker are located. The software determines how good the players are based on data the user has collected during previous sessions (or purchased). The purpose of seating scripts is to specifically hunt down weak players and drain their money. It pulls money from the poker ecosystem and causes casual players to not enjoy themselves.
The new rule is as follows:
Any tool or service that sorts available games or (semi-) automates the process of joining games based on the game-play statistics or notes of other players will be prohibited. A tool that solely (or semi-) automates adding players to a set number of tables, without any reliance on information about other players, is permitted.
Starting Hands Charts and Reference Material
Think of these like you would a blackjack strategy table. Oftentimes casinos will let you bring a card to the table that tells you when to hit, when to stand, when to double, when to split. PokerStars will allow this, too, up to a point. Software will be permitted to display a starting hand chart and provide advice on basic decision either pre-flop or in an unopened pot. The player still has to make all decisions and take all actions manually. Anything automated or semi-automated is prohibited.
Rasset furthers his explanation of the decision to make these changes:
Why are we making these changes now? As I have discussed in the past, we are constantly looking for ways to better provide a safe and fair environment and to improve the overall experience when a customer chooses to play with us. However, we also need to be able to ensure that we create enforceable and sustainable policies, making sure that players who do follow the rules are not at a disadvantage. The changes we are announcing today follow an extensive period of development to ensure that we can achieve these goals.
PokerStars has also posted a PowerPoint slide show to provide guidance for software developers on the new policies.