In a development that could have far-reaching implications for the online poker industry, it appears that Full Tilt Poker is moving aggressively – and successfully – to cut off the ability of some datamining operations to access the site.
The story has been building since late December of 2010, when subscribers to popular tracking service PokerTableRatings began voicing complaints regarding PTR’s coverage of Full Tilt Poker games.
For the unfamiliar, PTR collects and repackages data regarding the play and results of real-money cash games on a variety of online poker sites. That data is then sold to PTR members via a variety of channels, including charts, graphs and raw hand histories, to name a few.
Obviously the value of such data is in no small part reliant on the comprehensiveness of the data. PTR didn’t have much of a problem there, offering members access to a staggering amount of the total hands played on Full Tilt, until recently.
The true scope of the issue for PTR, along with exactly what Full Tilt may or may not have done to cause the problem for PTR, isn’t clear at this point – right now, all of the evidence is strictly anecdotal. Judging from the temperature of the discussions on various forums, however, PTR’s coverage rate of hands played on Full Tilt seems to have dipped significantly.
It’s tough to say at this point whether Full Tilt is acting specifically against PTR, or if this move is simply the first in a wider battle against sites that rely on data from Full Tilt to operate
Full Tilt hasn’t made an official statement on the issue, but a FTP rep on the Two Plus Two forums did suggest, albeit indirectly, that the company had put measures in place to prohibit PTR from accessing the data. PTR has acknowledged the issue in their forums, but has not provided an official statement or a timeline for when they expect to resume full coverage of play on Full Tilt Poker.
This news comes on the heels of Bodog’s far more public declaration of war on datamining and scraping sites, and raises some interesting questions about the direction of the online poker industry.
For years, most poker sites – major and minor – have turned what appears to many to be a blind eye toward datamining sites. The sites and services are massively popular with many regular players, as they provide you with a significant edge – at least in theory – over your opponents. There’s also the inherent appeal of the 3rd party score keeping that sites such as Sharkscope and PTR provide – everyone likes to claim they’re a winner, but everyone who actually is a winner likes to be able to point to proof of the claim even more.
The sites are also a critical part of many peripheral services in the online poker industry such as coaching and staking.
Despite the semi-entrenched nature and popularity of the services, there is a substantial part of the online poker industry and community that are forcefully opposed to the basic premise of datamining. Opponents generally argue that datamining sites foster a skill and information gap between hardcore players and casual players, a gap that threatens the long-term sustainability of an industry that relies largely on casual players to grow.
Will PokerStars follow FTP’s lead on this issue? Is this a position Full Tilt will be able to maintain for any real length of time? Do confrontations such as this point to the inherent unsustainability of the status quo in the online poker industry? We’ll likely see the answers to those questions present themselves (at least in part) as this particular story continues to develop.