If you play online poker or have at least been keeping up with poker news, you know that over the last few years, online poker rooms and networks have made a concerted effort to make their games more appealing to recreational players by implementing features that strip away advantages from professionals (aside from actual poker skill). PokerStars announced last week that it is continuing that trend by introducing “Seat Me,” a drastic change to its ring game lobby that will eliminate some of the pros’ and heavy grinders’ more predatory practices.
“With so many customers who trust our products, we have to be particularly vigilant against tools or strategies used to gain an unfair advantage,” wrote PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations Severin Rasset in a blog post. “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.”
As such, what PokerStars is doing, starting soon with a test run on PokerStars.es (Spain), is removing the ability of players to hand-pick their tables. Instead, when looking to sit down and play a ring game, players will simply select their stakes, game type, and maximum number of players and the client software will seat them automatically. It essentially mimics the experience of going into a live poker room and having a host show you to a seat, as Rasset puts it.
The goal of Seat Me is to eliminate “bumhunting,” one of the poker community’s most reviled seating practices. Bumhunters are very experienced players, usually pros or serious amateurs, who specifically look to sit down and play against players they know are weak. They will use datamined hand histories to pull up statistics on players at the tables and usually feed those into “seating script” software that finds the players and automatically seats the user with them. The user doesn’t have to do a thing – the software does it all.
At heads-up tables, bumhunters will often sit at multiple tables, waiting for their prey. If someone who isn’t weak sits down, the bumhunter won’t join the game, which only serves to clog up tables.
This predatory behavior is seen as bad for business, as these skilled players often drain lesser opponents of money quickly. Several poker rooms have found that the quicker a new player loses their money, the less likely they are to return. The poker rooms need these lower skilled players because they lose money in the long run and end up re-depositing – as long as they are enjoying themselves – fueling the poker economy. Players who feel like they are being targeted, though, won’t have fun and won’t come back.
Seat Me should serve to eliminate seating scripts, as players won’t be able to choose their seats in cash games. Naturally, this also gets rid of bumhunting. In order to prevent players from joining a table and then not playing if they don’t see any weaker players, Seat Me will also institute time penalties for players who jump from table to table looking for targets or who routinely refuse to play certain opponents.
As mentioned, Seat Me will first be tested on PokerStars’ Spain site, PokerStars.es and if the test is successful, it will be rolled out to the rest of the PokerStars sites.