PokerStars Kills Regular Heads-Up Cash Game Tables
If you login to PokerStars today to play at the heads-up cash game tables, you may notice something different. They aren’t there. That is because today, February 12th, all regular heads-up cash game tables have been removed from the PokerStars lobby, replaced with Zoom Poker tables.
An e-mail was sent to select players earlier this week to inform them of the change (no public announcement was made):
You are receiving this message because you have played Heads-Up cash games on PokerStars within the last 3 months.
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.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
The goal here is quite simple: to stop the age-old practice of bumhunting. Bumhunters are professional players (or very serious, strong, amateurs) who occupy seats at heads-up tables, waiting for just the right player to come by. That opponent is not another pro; the bumhunter would never want to play against another good player (or at least one he knows is good). The desired opponent is at the very least an unknown and at best someone who the bumhunter has records for and knows is weak. When the desired opponent sits down, the bumhunter plays and, if all goes to plan, wins a bunch of money. If an undesirable opponent comes along, the bumhunter stays in his seat, but never sits in, eventually resulting in the other player leaving.
The problem with this is two-fold. First, this, as PokerStars puts it, is considered “predatory.” The bumhunter just waits for unsuspecting targets and pounces when he finds his mark. That sort of activity tends to put a sour taste in the mouth of the targeted player – they often realize what happened – making it less likely that they will even return to the poker room. Second, bumhunters usually occupy dozens of tables at a time for hours at a time without playing. The poker room does not like tables that are not generating rake.
And thus PokerStars is moving the heads-up cash games to the Zoom Poker format. In Zoom games, players must enter a lobby before being seated, like in a tournament. Seating is not up to the player at all, aside from choosing the game type and stakes, as the poker software automatically places each player at a table. And then, even if a pro finds a fish to pick on, Zoom moves players to a new table after every hand, so the “predatory” behavior can’t happen anymore.
PokerStars has made a boatload of moves in recent months to try to make its poker room more appealing to recreational players; it will be interesting to see what it tries next.
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