PokerStars Eliminates Regular Heads-Up Cash Game Tables

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The PokerStars makeover continues. This week, many players on the world’s largest online poker site have received e-mails telling them that their regular heads-up cash game tables will disappear on Friday, replaced with Zoom Poker tables.

The e-mail was brief:

We are writing to inform you that as of Friday 12th February No Limit Hold’em, Fixed Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha Heads-Up regular tables will be removed and will be replaced with Zoom pools.

Heads-Up Zoom is already in place at most stakes and will be added at $50/$100. We will also be adding Zoom No Limit Hold’em Cap games at stakes up to $25/$50.

This change is part of our commitment to reducing predatory behaviour and improving the recreational player experience.

The “predatory behaviour” referenced (and I’ll keep the Euro-spelling) is “bumhunting.” The crude term refers to when seasoned poker pros sit by themselves at a heads-up table, waiting for a recreational player or otherwise known poor player to sit down. If another pro or solid player sits, the bumhunter never allows the game to start. The “predator” is literally lying in wait for an unsuspecting mark. Poker rooms generally dislike this sort of practice, as getting abused is not something players like and when recreational players realize they were targeted, they often leave the poker room for good. Hell, even if they don’t realize it, it is not a good feeling to lose money quickly. You want happy players, not sad ones!

In addition, bumhunters clog up tables and inactive tables mean no money for PokerStars.

So, starting Friday – and you are all welcome for the advance notice – heads-up cash game players will have to settle for Zoom Poker. In Zoom Poker, bumhunting is impossible, as all players enter a Zoom lobby at the outset and are seated automatically by the system. There is no way to sit out and wait for lesser players; once you commit to the lobby, you play. Well, it may be theoretically possible to wait for recreational players, but that would require leaving the table and re-entering the lobby constantly and even then, you would only get one hand at a time against your preferred opponent. Good luck with that.

And that is the other benefit of Zoom Poker in combating predatory behavior: players get moved to a new table after every hand, so even if a pro identifies a casual player, the prey is gone in one hand.

This is not the first time the PokerStars family of sites got rid of regular heads-up cash game tables. In July 2015, Full Tilt announced, amongst other changes, that it was doing away with heads-up cash games entirely, citing bum hunters like PokerStars. On Two Plus Two, Shyam Markus, Full Tilt’s Poker Room Manager, said that in looking at cash game data, the more someone plays at the heads-up tables during their first month on the site, the less likely they are to return for a second month.

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