PokerStars has some changes upcoming to its cash game tables, one just officially announced, the other leaked via e-mails to some poker media outlets.
The official change, which was announced on the PokerStars blog this past week and will go into effect on February 5th, is a fairly dramatic reduction to the time players have to act in cash games, including Zoom Poker. PokerStars had previously tested the changes and has now decided to put them into effect permanently.
“During our tests, we found that players would often take a lot of time to act in simple situations, mainly unopened pots pre-flop, because they were engaged in making decisions at other tables,” wrote Severin Rasset. “Understandably, this was frustrating opponents on every table. You could liken it to the live tables when a player is engrossed in their phone and needs to be reminded every time the action is on them.”
We’ve all been there. It’s annoying.
With the new Time to Act settings, players who are not facing a raise pre-flop will have 10 seconds to act, down from 18 seconds. Pre-flop facing a raise and post-flop the new time is 15 seconds, down from 25 seconds. As I said, that’s a fairly dramatic decrease.
The Time Bank still exists, a way for players to build up extra time for those important decisions, but that, too has been cut. Right now, the Time Bank starts at 30 seconds and increases with lack of use up to a maximum of 600 seconds. With the change, it will start at 15 seconds, up to a maximum of just 30 seconds pre-flop and 60 seconds post flop.
The other change PokerStars is making will reportedly go into effect on March 1st, though the company has not announced anything officially yet. Poker Industry PRO has reported that PokerStars will ban seating scripts as a way to protect recreational players from sharks who use third-party software to stalk their prey through the cash game lobby.
Such software uses data a player collects on their opponents (hopefully through honest play, though oftentimes, those who use seating scripts purchase player data from other sites) to comb through the cash game lobby to find weak players. How those weak players are defined is up to the software user. All of this is automatically done, so a software user can just login, run the seating script, find targeted players, and then be seated with them automatically if there are open chairs.
This has resulted in recreational players having less fun with poker over the years, as they do not enjoy being followed by stronger players and consequently seeing their chip stacks demolished time and time again. The less fun a player has, the less likely they are to return to the tables, which is bad for business. Hence, the reason why PokerStars wants to ban seating scripts.
PokerStars did implement the “Seat Me” system on a couple regional sites, but has not rolled it out internationally. With Seat Me, a player can’t chose specific tables and specific seats. Instead, they select a game type, stakes, and table size, and Stars software find a seat and whisks them to the table automatically. This prevents people from hunting for players, the exact behavior PokerStars is trying to stop with the banning of seating scripts.
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