Weekly Poker Roundup: October 2, 2015
Lots going on in the poker world this week, namely some huge happenings in New Jersey. Around the internet, poker rooms and networks are also gung-ho about finding ways to get rid of third-party software and making things more fun for recreational players.
New Jersey Finally Gives Amaya Approval to Launch PokerStars and Full Tilt
The biggest news item this week is also one of the most significant pieces of news this year: Amaya Gaming announced on Wednesday that it has received approval from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) to operate PokerStars and Full Tilt in New Jersey.
PokerStars had been trying to gain entry into the Garden State from the moment (even before) online gambling became legalized and regulated in the state in November 2013. One big hang-up was that company founder Isai Scheinberg still had yet to come to any sort of settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after the Black Friday indictments of April 2011, so New Jersey was likely hesitant to grant PokerStars a license. But when Amaya Gaming purchased Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt, for $4.9 billion in June 2014, it appeared that that stumbling block had been cleared. With new ownership that was in good standing in the state, the DGE took up PokerStars’ application once again.
And while it looked like PokerStars was going to receive a license in short order, its application was paused, delayed, and generally just put in limbo for over a year. Nobody knew why, really, though State Senator Ray Lesniak did blame Governor Chris Christie, saying Christie was just trying to remain in favor with billionaire Republican political donor and online poker’s public enemy number one, Sheldon Adelson.
But now PokerStars and Full Tilt have gotten the go ahead to setup shop in New Jersey and all is well with the world. When they do launch – and no timetable has been given – they will do so in partnership with Resorts Hotel Casino in Atlantic City.
partypoker Takes Steps to Curb Third-Party Software Use
Online poker room partypoker, ranked sixth in terms of cash game traffic according to PokerScout.com, announced significant changes to its software platform in an effort to make its site more hospitable to recreational players. In a blog post, the following changes were listed:
- Players will be able to view the last 12 months of their own hand histories within the Missions icon in the partypoker software, but hand histories will no longer be able to be downloaded and saved to their local devices
- Players wishing to wait for a cash game will join the room-wide waiting list and be randomly seated when a seat that matches their preference becomes available
- Players joining a cash game will see the names of their opponents only once their first hand is dealt
All meant to shield casual players from the most skilled pros, who often play the role of “sharks” and purposely track “fish” throughout the poker room lobby. All of the above initiatives will make it nearly impossible for a shark to deliberately track, target, and sit with a weaker player because there will be no way to identify such players before taking a seat at a cash game table. Once seated, it will also be difficult to have much in the way of records on any opponents, as hand histories will no longer be downloadable. This makes it harder for players and datamining sites to gather information on players in order to use it in Heads-Up Display (HUD) during games.
MPN to Amend Rake Structure
The Microgaming Poker Network, MPN, has announced changes to the rake structure for its cash tables that use the Euro. Right now, on tables with less than €0.05/€0.10 blinds, the rake is 10 percent of the pot with a cap of €0.10. Above those stakes, the rake rate is half that – 5 percent – with a cap of €1 in hands where just two players are dealt cards and €3 in all other hands.
The new rake structure will be more complicated, with variation based on the number of players and more tiers according to stakes. Here is the breakdown, according to a blog post by MPN’s Head of Poker Alex Scott:
5 or more players dealt in – cap is 3 big blinds or €3, whichever is lower:
|€0.01 / €0.02||€0.06|
|€0.02 / €0.04||€0.12|
|€0.05 / €0.10||€0.30|
|€0.10 / €0.20||€0.60|
|€0.25 / €0.50||€1.50|
|€0.50 / €1 and higher||€3|
3-4 players dealt in – cap is 2 big blinds or €3, whichever is lower:
|€0.01 / €0.02||€0.04|
|€0.02 / €0.04||€0.08|
|€0.05 / €0.10||€0.2|
|€0.10 / €0.20||€0.4|
|€0.25 / €0.50||€1|
|€0.50 / €1||€2|
|€1 / €2 and higher||€3|
2 players are dealt in – cap is 1 big blind or €2, whichever is lower:
|€0.01 / €0.02||€0.02|
|€0.02 / €0.04||€0.04|
|€0.05 / €0.10||€0.1|
|€0.10 / €0.20||€0.2|
|€0.25 / €0.50||€0.5|
|€0.50 / €1||€1|
|€1 / €2 and higher||€2|
In the blog, Scott commented, “Our expectation is that this will result in longer lifetimes and a better overall experience for players in most games, and some of these players will stay longer, or move up in stakes. This reduction will be financed in part by increasing rake slightly in other games.”
The rake changes are expected to be implemented in late October.
First Nail in the Coffin for Third-Party Software at PokerStars
Back to the topic of third-party software in online poker, PokerStars has also announced that its policies have been changed to limit the use of software meant to exploit weaker players. On Two Plus Two, PokerStars Sit & Go and Tournament Manager “Baard” detailed the changes, which are a bit more complicated than the one’s from partypoker, as they specifically have to do with policies towards third-party software, rather than changes in the PokerStars client itself:
- Reference material, such as starting hand charts, now have to be “basic in nature”. Anything considered to be sophisticated in nature can no longer be used whilst the client is open.
- HUDs are no longer permitted to display non-numerical data, categorize players or dynamically display statistics specific to a certain situation.
- Hand or Situation Analysers, such as programs that compute equities of various ranges of hands against one another, can no longer be used whilst the client is open.
- Game State Reporters can no longer automatically or semi-automatically retrieve information from an otherwise permitted reference material. For example, tools can no longer notify an end-user that their starting hand lies in Group 1 of a statically defined grouping of hands.
- Table Selection and Seating Scripts can no longer time a player’s registration into a global waiting list. They must register players into specific tables or tournaments.
In a nutshell, many of these policy changes are meant to move players away from receiving automated assistance and back towards actually having to think for themselves about what decisions to make. Baard also specifically addressed the final bullet, complementing with a portion of the updated Third Party Tools and Services Policy Reference Guide, which states, ““However, tools that are based on a prohibited data source or are targeted towards either playing against or avoiding specific players in game offerings whereby they are unable to select or register to a specific table are prohibited.”
Baard made it clear that this is meant to prohibit software like SpinWiz, which searches Spin & Go lobbies to find players tagged as “fish” by those who use the program. The software then works to try to get its users in a queue where they are more likely to end up sitting with those fish.
Other seating scripts have yet to be banned, but Baard implied that there is a high likelihood that they will be once the effectiveness of the current policy changes have been evaluated.
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